Letters: Systemic racism still exists


So why is E. W. Bopp’s letter, disputing the existence of “systemic racism” in Canada allowed in print?

This person is a serial letter writer, who has been espousing his ultra-Conservative, anti-Liberal agenda, across the Canadian media landscape for years (Ottawa Citizen; Calgary Herald; Burnaby Now, etc.). In 2017, E. W. Bopp wrote a letter to The Delta Optimist, entitled “Multiculturalism efforts have left Canada without a true identity”; and in 2011, he wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald entitled “Divisive multiculturalism.” So his thoughts on the subjects of “race” and “multiculturalism” in Canada are certainly not new.

Whether he believes it or not, discrimination in the form of systemic racism has existed long before Canada became a country, and still continues here today. Like other prohibited grounds of discrimination, racism still exists, whether or not it affects you directly.

Age and sex discrimination, like racial discrimination, also still exist; despite the fact that Human Rights legislation has been in place for years. Older job applicants, particularly women, looking for employment in this labour market know this to be true, even if other retired people do not. But I digress.

While I believe that some people our society have been, and continue to be, more privileged that others, I don’t believe that all white people are more “privileged” than all non-Caucasian people.

In the case of white people who have lived in abject poverty all of their lives, and who have been called “white trash” by their wealthier neighbours, “white privilege” certainly does not apply to them. I also don’t ascribe to the definition of “white fragility” as promoted by Robin DiAngelo, in her book of the same name. I think that the idea that all white people are “fragile”, and are afraid to speak about race in public forums, is absolute garbage. This doesn’t make me a “white supremacist”, or prove that I am “colour blind” to the systemic racism that continues to exist in Canada.

I don’t believe that historical statues and monuments should be removed from Canadian institutions and public places, without public consultation, like that which occurred in Victoria, B.C. in 2018. (Mayor Helps apologized for the removal of the Sir John A. MacDonald statue later, but it still remains in storage, and out of public view.) To the contrary, I agree with the concept, currently being considered by academics in the US, where plaques are placed in front of specific pubic installations, explaining them in their appropriate historical contexts.

I don’t believe that public school names should be changed, from that of a white historical figure to that of a non-white historical figure, simply because the latter has been recently discussed in a history class. In Vancouver, a Change.org petition is asking for the name of a school to be changed from Lord Strathcona to Barbara Howard Elementary. (Strathcona was a white man associated with the CPR and Hudson’s Bay, while Howard was a female black athlete and educator.) Three school children have appeared in the media to promote this idea, without considering it in its wider context. To do this is to deny acknowledging our colonial past, and to deny the past of previous graduates and local residents.

As a society, we have to be very careful, not to venture too far into the arenas of historical revisionism or negationism. I don’t think that makes me a racist, but a critical thinker.

Of course, others may disagree with me.

I also don’t believe that books with alleged racist content should be removed from libraries or publication, any more than they should be burned in the public square; but instead should be presented in their appropriate historical context, within the public library system. Dr. Seuss books are an example of this recent phenomenon. (I am awaiting one of his books in the mail, as I write this.) Everyone in Canada, regardless of race, should acknowledge that systemic racism still exists. Because it does. Putting your head in the sand, and ignoring or denying it, does not make it go away. Kind of like denying climate change, which E. W. Bopp has also done in the past (Let Kyoto stay buried, Burnaby Now, 2011). Denying all of the things that you cannot see, through your own “personal lens”, will do nothing to move our society forward.