BC VIEWS: Racial prejudice in modern B.C.

A racist tirade caught on video illustrates a stubborn streak of ignorance, where many people don't know what 'Indian' actually means

It has long been my belief that B.C. schools should step up their efforts to teach that Pakistan and India are separate countries. They are in fact hostile to one another, and everyone should be concerned about that, since both have nuclear weapons.

Their bitter history of conflict makes it logistically difficult for “Pakis” to “go back to India,” as was famously suggested last week by a man emerging from a double-parked monster truck in Abbotsford.

This fellow’s racist tirade quickly became B.C.’s viral cellphone video of the year, watched around the world. It was recorded by a local lawyer who took a picture of the truck, only to have the guy get in his face.

Viewers saw this muscular man, with a particular T-shirt-and-track-pants style, riding shotgun in the most jacked-up pickup it is legal to drive on B.C. roads.

In appearance and mannerisms, he typifies a gangster look that is depressingly popular among white males these days. It contrasts with the more urban clothing and vehicle styles favoured by aggressive deplorables of other ethnic communities. But these fashion leaders all seem to share one thing: they have more money than morals.

This sort of white immigration critic is common, not just in the Fraser Valley, but in Kelowna, Prince George, Nanaimo and other B.C. communities. I’ve heard these kinds of comments many times since my adolescence in 1970s Dawson Creek.

Abbotsford Police reported that they are well acquainted with this individual. His last known address is in Hope.

The lawyer who captured the video is of Indian ethnic origin, which means his family came from India. It seems redundant to explain this, considering Indians, particularly of the Sikh religion, were among the pioneers who immigrated to join aboriginal people here, along with Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians and others, beginning two centuries ago.

But in our American-dominated culture, many people still don’t get this.

Case in point: Four men went to a recent Toronto Blue Jays playoff game carrying a sign that said “Real Indians cheer 4 the Blue Jays.” The Jays were, of course, playing the Cleveland Indians, who continue to use this inaccurate name and an offensive red-faced “Chief Wahoo” logo.

These men are indeed “real Indians” and looked friendly enough. Yet Rogers Centre security took their sign away, because its accuracy was deemed “too offensive.” I’m not making this up.

This kind of ignorance remains pervasive, so it’s understandable that it is mirrored among non-European ethnic communities, including aboriginal people.

One of many responses I received to a recent column on the sinking of a tugboat on the Central Coast was from a young woman who identifies as aboriginal.

“As a Caucasian, cisgender, male, settler Canadian, you need to check your privilege,” she wrote. “At most your family has been in what is now called B.C. for less than 200 years. In those 200 years your people have successfully collapsed almost every fish stock on this coast and clear-cut old growth forests to the brink of annihilation.”

She wasn’t done: “You have lost all connection to the land and sea. Your culture knows nothing but greed.”

I wrote back to say she had made quite a sweeping series of assumptions and questionable claims based on my picture. A quick search determined that this woman has been studying to be a teacher, having received a scholarship to the aboriginal education program at UBC.

Her attitude towards me isn’t surprising. But do we as a society want racial prejudice of any kind taught in schools?

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

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