I sit and I wonder why the need for prejudice and I do not understand. I understand better what it is now, but not the need. I used to think that prejudice was a black and white thing and then I realized that black and white were small prejudices in comparison to some others. Language, religion, culture even the difference in how we choose to dress can spark prejudice. I remember riding in a full elevator and an older lady say about sixty with a heavy British accent asked me, “Where are you from?” I said to her, “I am from Montreal.” The lady looked at me and said, “I mean what Island are you from?” Just a little annoyed I answered,”I am from the Island of Montreal.” Undaunted the lady pressed on,” What Island do your parents come from?” Now I am thinking to myself this women who sounds like she just arrived from England is asking me where I come from and assuming that it could not be from here because I am black and it was starting to get to me. Some of the people were standing there smiling as I continued to answer the woman with the respect that was due someone her age. Some looked clearly embarrassed with her line of questioning and kept their eyes from meeting mine. Then were those who just shook their heads in disapproval and disbelief at her line of questioning and looked sympathetically as she continued. Again I was forced to tell the truth and tell her that my mother was also from the Island of Montreal as were all her brothers and sisters. It was then that this well dressed, well spoken lady said, “And your grandparents?” They are from the Islands of St. Kitty and Nevis I said. The lady beamed a big smile and said, “I knew it the moment I laid eyes on you that you were from the West Indies. My husband I and visited there quite often when we were younger. The door mercifully opened and she got out without even so much as a have a good day she was gone. What was it about me and not the others in the elevator that made her think I was from the West Indies? Why had the fact that we were already had 2 generations born in Canada not made us truly Canadians to her?
I had grown up fighting the catholic kids and the French kids and they simply because they went to a different school and church and they fought with us for the same reason. No one quite knew why it started just that it was a time-honored tradition. Imagine being prejudice and the open practice of bigotry being a time-honored practice. I remember being 12 and going to look for summer jobs and people saying you work so hard not like most of your people. No offense, but everyone knows that black people are slow and kind of on the lazy side. This would be funny except that there are still some people who feel this way even in this day and age.
I remember as a teenager meeting four little white girls who live in the Lake of Two Mountain’s. They invited us to their house, but I guess they never expected us to call. We called and we went. It was winter and we took the bus to Two Mountains and were met by them in the bus depot. It was too cold to hang around outside and one of the girls got the bright idea to bring us home. Mom said hello and hurried us into the basement and gave us some hot chocolate. The mother was whispering to the girls and by what we could make of it she was telling them to hurry up and get us out of their house by the time their father got home from work. We were just finishing up our hot chocolate when Daddy walked through the door. There were some muffled pleading and then came the angry out burst. The father was yelling to all who could hear. You had no right to bring those coons here. I moved you out here so you would not have to get involved with those niggers. Now you get those niggers out of here now, or I will go down there and niggers toss them out of this goddamned house. The little girls came down to tell us we had to go and how sorry they were for what their father had said. We said we understood and got that all the time. We left by a side door and found our way to the bus. We had been humiliated again and the sad part was that it happened so often that we were starting to accept it like it was right.
My last story is when I was a man working in moving on the road. It illustrates how people in general on all sides see prejudice and what defines prejudice to them.
I drank with people, slept at their houses, ate at their tables and never knew they were prejudice. The funny thing though is that when acts of bigotry are complained about. The people with the power to do something and put things right often accused the victims of the prejudice of making a big deal out of nothing. They give the impression that although what the bigot was saying was a point in fact and therefore true, that it was also impolite to say it in front of us and also against the law.
I remember crossing Toronto on the 401 with a driver and hearing a trucker asking for directions on the c b radio and no one answered him. This went on for a while and I said to the driver, I thought you said that all truckers helped a fellow trucker in distress?” He told me how he hated East Indians and how he wouldn’t piss in one’s mouth if he was dying of thirst. I asked him why and he answered, “Because they are what they are.” I told him I had never realized that he was prejudice. I am not prejudice he screamed at me, I like black people.
The sad part is that he believes that he has the right to hate a race of people just because they exist and are in the same space as he is in. The graffiti on the bathroom walls in just about every truck stop from Northern Ontario up to and including Calgary says that he is not alone in his beliefs.
It is not good enough to say that we are not prejudice; we must live that way. It is not good enough to say that some one should not use the race card; we must make sure there is no reason to use it. It is not enough to say we do not agree with prejudice acts; we must all join together and do something about it.
These were just a few of my personal experiences with prejudices and I am sure that each and every Canadian has experienced prejudice in one form or another. I will say it first, “I am as guilty of prejudice as any other person and have committed acts of bigotry against other human beings. I also realize that if the hating is to stop we all must put it down and the first step is to admit our own fault. To all I have hurt through my acts of bigotry I ask forgiveness and to all that have committed acts of bigotry against me I forgive. May we be able to go forth in a new way of tolerance and understanding, excepting that it is God’s will that we share this space and time together. If God did not want it so we would not all be here. These are words that I try to live by and I challenge you to do the same. ”