My Father’s Racism Inspired Me to Take Action

Where do you find safety if others don't want you there in the first place?

Posted Aug 28, 2020

Life Matters/Pexels
Source: Life Matters/Pexels

In June I wrote a post titled: 5 Steps to Be a More Effective Non-Optical Ally. It was in response to the inexcusable and horrific death of George Floyd, the protests, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. 

In the post, I talked about the need to keep up support after demonstrations slow and news coverage fades. Racism and racial violence don’t end when the news segments stop. So neither should my support. And unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly the violence continues, as evidenced by the shooting (seven times) of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

The shooting of Mr. Blake and the BLM movement brought up memories of my father’s racist attitudes. His racism was directed mainly towards new immigrants. He struggled with unemployment much of his life. However incorrect, he believed newcomers to Canada were taking jobs away from him.

As he aged though, he changed, softened. I don’t know why, but he did. He was the first to speak up when he saw people new to our province being unfairly treated. He rooted for those who had little means and even less power. I remember when I was about 22, sitting on the living room floor of my childhood home watching the news with my dad. A local company refused to pay months of earnings to an immigrant worker. My dad was furious, shouting, and cursing (as he was prone to do) at the TV in a vote of support for this man he didn’t know and against this unethical and racist employer. 

I started to imagine what it might feel like to be a newcomer to British Columbia.  How do you find a sense of safety, let alone belonging, if others around you don’t want you there in the first place? To be a refugee, perhaps come from a war-torn country and face a new culture and country and the barriers that come with it. I started to imagine what experiences you might have currently if you’re a person of Asian descent during this pandemic? What kind of treatment and additional prejudice and violence are you facing?

I will never have to face these situations. But millions do every day around the world and certainly here in our country of Canada.

Because of my dad and the change in him that I witnessed, I was inspired to support MOSAIC, a local non-profit. It serves newcomers and individuals from diverse backgrounds, helping them succeed, find safety and belonging, and overcome racism and discrimination. They do this through a variety of programs. 

A client of their Multicultural Victim Services faced discrimination by police. MOSAIC staff explained that in this case,  they “provided practical support in filing a police complaint to the Office of Police Complaint Commissioner and provided emotional support regarding the trauma that came with the incident that occurred. Staff in this program work to listen, empower, and advocate for clients as well as providing information about rights, legal information, and referrals.”

A client of the Moving Ahead Program faced racism and discrimination as he searched for housing. He shares: 

“I called numerous building managers. Units were available and everything seemed to be ok over the phone, but when I came in person, they saw the color of my skin, most told me the unit had just been rented. Another building manager asked where I was from. I said ‘Africa’. He said he doesn’t rent to people from Africa because we are trouble. I told him I am a student and work full time, don’t have friends, don’t smoke, drink, do drugs, or party, but he hung up. ”

A case manager in the program then helped him find safe, affordable housing. 

I chose MOSAIC because they fight every day to help improve the lives of newcomers and people from diverse backgrounds, to empower them with tools and knowledge that help counter the inevitable prejudice and injustice they will face. 

I want each of you to find your own MOSAIC to support. And as we do, racism and discrimination will have fewer places to live. 

My dad passed away over 10 years ago. He would be shocked by the current state of affairs. But I think he would be happy knowing I’ve taken a step, albeit a small one, to say ‘no’ to social injustice and violence and ‘yes’ to equal rights for all.

© Victoria Maxwell