Racism exists in Vancouver. How much, how bad and how widespread it is we can debate. That there are other places where the situation is much worse we can agree. But we still have room to improve here.
In case there’s any doubt, Fairchild TV has produced two videos documenting expressions of anti-Chinese racism. It has unfortunately become more common in Vancouver since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of us find this abhorrent, yet many people with Chinese or other Asian faces have become more cautious and more fearful. This fear curtails their freedom in our society. How can we reduce the fear and the racism?
There’s one rule we can apply here. I first heard it when I was a student preparing to take tests where the answers were either true or false. The rule was: If the question contains words like ‘all,’ ‘always’ or ‘never,’ it’s false.
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This is a rule we should not reserve for exams. We should apply it to all that we see, hear, read and even think. It’s over-generalizations that lead to discrimination. It’s very hard to act on prejudices when you say ‘some’ and not ‘all.’
If instead of saying all Chinese are rich (a false statement), you say some Chinese are rich (true), then you have to admit that there are middle-income and poor Chinese just like in other components of our population. This alone should lead to a change in both perception and behaviour.
This rule applies not only to racial discrimination but to other kinds of prejudice as well. The expression all cops are bad (ACOB) fits into the false category and shouldn’t be used. There’s no justification for de-policing as some proponents of that false statement would have it.
Old white males (OWM) are often a target on Twitter and elsewhere. Now there’s a prejudicial expression if ever there was one: ageism, racism and sexism in one neat phrase. We can certainly find some OWMs who fit the stereotype of being rich, power hungry and un-woke, but I know many more who are at the opposite ends of those spectrums and lots who are in between.
An acquaintance had an experience that demonstrated the dangers of keeping everyone tightly segregated in little boxes. Her politics were to the left because she thought that was where all the good and caring people were. Then she had the misfortune to become homeless for about eight months. No one from her left-wing circle of friends and acquaintances offered to help.
The people who came to her assistance were Fox News addicts and hard-core Donald Trump fans. They took her into their home, fed her, let her sleep on their couch and refused to take any money from her. Instead, they offered her some. She will be more careful now about what she says about ‘all’ Trump supporters.
Some false statements are hard to move away from. One I’m fearful to state is that all Black people are good. Most may be and we can always find explanations for those who aren’t. But some people wouldn’t have any of us ever note even the logical possibility that some Black people aren’t good.
This particular prejudiced view (and every statement with all, etc., in it reflects prejudice) generates fear of speaking openly and thus curtails our freedom.
Let us move away from all false statements and over-generalizations, and recognize everyone as an individual regardless of what groups or categories they may be in. Then racism and other forms of prejudice will eventually disappear.
Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.
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