Racism at Home Contributes to a Future of Racism — Will You Honour Inclusion?
By Khairoon Abbas
Photo © aitlinrheaphotos/Twenty20
Jun 2, 2020
In the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has uprooted our lives, this has been the toughest time for me as a parent, a person of colour, a visible minority and as someone who considers all lives equal.
Injustices and conflicts exist in all corners of the world and when we see instances of blatant racism and disregard for human life, I don’t think staying silent is an option, particularly — but not exclusively — because I am responsible for helping raising the next generation.
We Are All Owed Equality
I was born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa, and I am extremely proud of my mixed African heritage. I moved to Canada almost two decades ago as an international student.
It was during this time that I grew closer to my African heritage — it was the first time in my life where I was treated differently because of my accent, my ethnic-sounding name and the colour of my skin. I started wearing a hijab (head scarf), adding another layer to my already complicated identity as an immigrant, person of colour, visible minority and member of a religious minority.
"After all, despite our background and heritage and looking and sounding different, we are all equal."
I promised myself to use this as an opportunity to educate others about the diverse world we live in. After all, despite our background and heritage and looking and sounding different, we are all equal.
Many of us Canadian parents may feel like we are far removed from what we’ve been hearing and seeing in the news lately. The arrest of George Floyd, a son, brother, father and partner, was caught on video where Floyd pleaded for mercy, because he was in pain and couldn’t breathe. He died soon after. I’ve also seen another video of a woman calling the police on a black man, saying he is threatening her life, which we can see is untrue.
I don't think we're far removed at all.
The stark reality is that racism is alive and well in our country where many Canadians are foreign-born. Most of us foreign-born Canadians have lived in the country for many years and this is our home, just like it is home for everyone else.
I strive to put the values that unite our country — openness, compassion, equality and inclusion — into practice daily. As a parent, I remind my children regularly that our country is full of people from all parts of the world that may look, sound and act different, but ultimately we are all the same. No one is better than anyone else. After all, people of different backgrounds, origins, cultures and faith continue to come together to make Canada the great country it is today.
"I strive to put the values that unite our country — openness, compassion, equality and inclusion — into practice daily."
The Constitution of Canada states that every individual is equal before and under the law and that everyone has the freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief. The Ontario Human Rights Code provides for equal rights and opportunities, and freedom from discrimination, recognizing the dignity and worth of every person in Ontario. But there are still many instances of discrimination in various areas of employment, housing and others.
Instances of racism and xenophobia are not foreign to Canada.
Most recently, when COVID-19 first entered Canada, the Asian community was targeted — people wouldn’t eat at or get delivery from Chinese restaurants; vandalism occurred; and colloquial phrases like “China virus” spread.
Combatting racism and intolerance begins at home
I raise two visible minority boys, and I remind my children regularly that while our country is founded on principles of multiculturalism, tolerance and equality, those of us that sound and look different often encounter unpleasant experiences that make us question our worth. These experiences include blatant racism, intolerance and inequality in different areas of our lives.
I am not exempt from the conversation of inclusion because I look and sound different, which is why I teach my children to honour inclusion by not being the source of racism, intolerance and inequality. I remind them daily to accept others and look beyond the colour of their skin or accent and to not treat others as "lesser than" or "other."
"... I have the responsibility to teach them to advocate for all human rights, for equality and to fight against racism."
I recognize that we cannot protect our children from all painful encounters they may experience in their lives. But I have the responsibility to teach them to advocate for all human rights, for equality and to fight against racism.
As a mom and a human who just felt the weight of a week — and it’s by no means the first week — of racism, I am asking this: please teach your children to honour inclusion.
Here are some reasons why this dad believes all white parents should talk to their kids about racism — read it here.
Teach them about our multicultural country whose strength lies in its diversity; help them understand concepts of inclusion, acceptance, tolerance. Don't let your children grow up thinking they are better than others because of how they look or sound. I truly believe we are all equal and that our country’s principles agree.
Remember, our children see and absorb our perceptions and actions. Choosing to exhibit racism and prejudice is an opportunity for a child to soak that in and do the same and express these attributes in the classroom, the cafeteria, online and in the workplace when they’re older.
I’m committed to raising the next generation of Canadians who value and advocate for equality, tolerance and acceptance in all realms of life.