Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Of Pride and Prejudice

There are some advantages to living in this brave new digital world. For instance, it is no longer such a safe world for thugs. David Samuel White, Adam David Huber and Robert William Rodgers learned this lesson the hard way when on July 3rd they were caught on digital camera assaulting Jay Philips while hurling racist taunts at him.

Jay Philips, whose mother is white and father was black, is familiar with being singled out for discrimination. But his father also taught him to stand up to bullies and that is exactly what he did despite being outnumbered three to one.

The three young hooligans eventually sped off in a truck and later that same evening attacked a young Caucasian man showing that their hatred and need for violence knows no racial bounds.

The video of their attack on Jay Philips, which was posted on YouTube, was certainly an eye opener for Courtenay BC’s predominantly white community.

The community responded admirably and residents organized a rally in support of Jay Philips and to speak out against hatred and violence.

A thousand people attended the July 9th event and speakers included Mayor Greg Phelps, Comox Pastor Maggie Enright, Wendledi Speck of the Native Friendship Centre as well as Jay Philips.

Jay Philips father, who passed away in December of 2008, had taught his son to not be racist, stand up for himself and “not to take shit from anyone.”

That is a lesson we as parents should instill in all our children. I certainly have in both my son and my daughter.

As a government relations consultants I have worked with quite a number of First Nations and Indian Bands. In 2000, I did some work with then Okanagan Indian Band Chief Dan Wilson.

I remember being horrified as he told me of how as a young man his father had been beaten to death on the streets of Vernon. It seems some of the local white lads had taken an exception to the fact that Dan’s father was a gifted athlete and had routinely bettered them in local baseball tournaments.

The one witness to the attack was a mildly retarded man whose testimony was dismissed by the judge. This was small town BC in the 1960s.

We’ve certainly come a long way since then but of course racism and discrimination still exist in many forms within Canada. I remember meeting a couple who had moved to Canada from Bulgaria. They had lived for a couple of years in Vancouver and then relocated to Victoria when the wife landed a job with the BC government.

They had invited me over for a beer and I asked them how they liked Victoria compared to Vancouver. I was expecting an answer along the lines of, it rains less here, or life is more slowly paced than Vancouver. Instead the jaw dropping comment the husband made was, “it’s really nice there’s a lot less Asians living here than in Vancouver.”

So even as we welcome people from around the world to live in Canada, the challenge will be for both long term residents and newcomers to learn to live in peaceful co-existence with one another.

Nowhere is that going to be more challenging than with regards to religion. At the school my son attends a couple of his friends were starting to fight over religion. One kid had parents who are devout Christians and the other devout Muslims. My son deftly solved the problem by explaining to both of them that all organized religion is equally ridiculous and full of arbitrary rules and mythology and the only thing more ridiculous was getting into a fight about it.

Thus my son was able to get the two of them to stop fighting and be friends again. Perhaps this is also an area where Canada has something to offer the world; by demonstrating that a healthy dose of skepticism towards all religious zealotry allows for much greater tolerance and peaceful co-existence amongst those of disparate faiths.