March 2002
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"There's No Such Thing As Racism In Canada"
By Lesley Tse, Grade 12, Father Michael McGivney School, Markham, Ontario

She stands facing the crowd, trying hard to ignore the people hurling insults at her. "Go back to India where you belong!" a voice from a faceless figure dressed entirely in black shouts, as the girl stops. She faces us, the audience, and goes on with her story and tells us that it was then that she decided that she would pretend to be from another country, to have another identity, to avoid a repeat of racial slurs thrown at her. My friend sitting beside me during the school presentation in honor of Black History Month whispered, "This is a good play, but it's kinda dumb. We're in Canada. There's no such thing as racism here." I gave her a funny look before turning away to watch the rest of the scene unfold on stage.

While it can be reasonably argued that racism may have come a long way since the days of oppression and slavery in its simplest form, it cannot be said that racism no longer exists, even in a country that believes in equal rights, like Canada.

Albeit, though I am lucky enough to be attending a school that is very diverse in race, the stereotypes and judgements still exist. There was one incident just one or two years ago where a group of students from another school used paint spray to scribble in large, angry letters on our wall "All black people should live only in Africa." Then there are the less blatant judgements, like the time a teacher was shocked to learn that I hadn't received a particularly excellent grade in math, exclaiming, "How can you not be good at math? You're Chinese! Everyone knows that anyone that's Asian is great at doing math." Or when a student in the bleachers once shouted out during a game that, "The cheerleading squad should be made up of all blacks! White people can't dance!"

You may think that it's something that happens only within the school, but this actually occurs outside the school walls, too. For instance, there is a certain shopping mall that's known for importing goods from Hong Kong and serving mostly Asian communities. In my own experience, I've found that going there with all Asian friends, the sales clerks would just smile and show new items, whereas when seen with a racially mixed group, the clerks would smile but follow the group around as though something is about to be stolen. These aren't coincidences.

Racism isn't "America's (or any other certain country's)" problem or "so-and-so's race" problem. It's a human problem; an issue of tolerance, understanding, and compassion which should be recognized everywhere including Canada, where racism does exist.