What exactly is considered racist, or hate talk in Canada and is there really anyway to stop it? Is it politically motivated and driven? Can, or is our government doing enough to eradicate it? I ask these questions because I do not think that I have met a truly unprejudiced person, at any time in my life, anywhere. Most of the people that I have talked to see prejudice as a race issue and so when they claim they are not prejudice they feel that because they do not hate any race of people, that they can be exempted from being called a racist, prejudiced, or a bigot. For instance when a person states that the Holocaust did not happen is this person really committing a hate crime, or is this person an idiot and ill-informed?
Once we have determined what is prejudice and what constitutes an act of bigotry so bad that it is considered hateful, what then are we supposed to do about it? I agree that racists should not be murdered in their offices and in the streets, but was giving the magazine one of the highest awards in France the way to go? No country would be willing to send everyone committing such an act to jail, but is it right for governments like Canada to publicly call those racist cartoons freedom of expression and speech, emboldening Charlie Hebdo and others like them to continue with their racist behavior? Lately there has been a disturbing amount of bigotry and racial slurs coming from all levels of the Canadian government and from just about every political party and it makes me wonder why there are not specific laws to cover this and specific punishments that are automatically imposed when an officer of the government commits one of these acts of racist behavior. Why is this government supporting the deliberate mocking of a religion by Charlie Hebdo, when even Pope Francis says that Charlie Hebdo went too far with their religious satirical cartoons to be considered as legitimate fighters for freedom of speech and expression?
What of the rights and freedoms of those who are being hurt by this, are their rights and freedoms just talk? Are the rules allowing for the rights of freedom of speech and expression no longer predicated on the fact that no individual can use the rights to freedom of speech and expression to intentionally or non intentionally inspire hatred, or violence against another religion, race, language and now in Canada, “nation?” I ask because when cartoons are offensive in the newspapers and a certain group is being made fun of complains of racism, or bigotry or, hatefulness the papers shoot back with they have the right to freedom of speech and expression and as a rule suffer little by way of sanctions, fines or even governmental slaps on the wrist. In Quebec certain members of Quebec’s French-speaking population are claiming that the right to perform in Blackface, is part of their ancestral heritage and calling any attempt to stop such performances as an attack on the freedom of expression and speech. I am not surprised by this, because this is the same province whose government came up with Bill 60, the Quebec Charter of Values. Bill 60 was a bill that encouraged intolerance, would have divided the population and sought to make visible and religious minorities into second class citizens in their own home, if passed. Did you know that Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada, sitting with a majority federal government did absolutely nothing, choosing rather to adopt a wait and see approach? I know Blackface is still okay as far as the Australian government is concerned and that there was a performance there just a short time ago. The USA still allows for it and even had an annual parade in honor of it.
The only race, or religion to have laws that uphold their right to not have even the slightest amount of bigotry, hateful expression directed at their race, religion, or nation, are the Jews. The Jews even have a name for the prejudice and it is called, “Anti-Semitism.” In Canada Anti-Semitic behavior is the only voiced, or written hatred that could find you in front of a judge and perhaps in jail. A First Nations Chief found that out when he let his views and thoughts be known about his feelings on the validity of the Holocaust? Yet these types cartoons will get you awards in France and called champions of freedom of speech and considered martyrs in Canada, especially in Quebec. I think that if you are found to be guilty of a non-violent race related crime you should be made to volunteer in the community to which you have insulted like doing community service and be forced to learn about those you hate. I think that the non-violent racist offender should be to forced to take counseling at the same time as they are doing that community service so that they could find out the real reason that they hate a certain race, or religion so bad that they would want to do them harm. I think that in Canada most cases of racism be they non violently, or violently acted out, are driven by peer pressure and government fear mongering for political gain. I think that people are afraid of what they do not know and that education usually stops the fear and when there is nothing to fear the hackles go down.
It is said that what we find funny or what makes us laugh defines who we are as a person, a people, or a nation. It is in humor that we find release from the stresses of our everyday life. It is in humor that we poke fun at ourselves through jokes, skits, art and so on. Our sense of humor is not supposed to intentionally hurt someone else, because decent caring healthy people have no need to intentionally hurt another human being and once someone’s humor does begin to offend and hurt others I think that it crosses the line and becomes something else. Racists can those who find comic relief in racial, ethnic, or religious humor and every race, religion and country is guilty of using it. We use racial motivated satire to bring forth our racist tendencies in a way that is socially acceptable to all, except the person, or part of the population getting made fun of. It is in this need to diminish, or humiliate another’s race, or religion that I feel must stop being considered as good humor and acceptable examples of freedom of expression and speech. This is bad humor and unacceptable for society to be laughing at, protecting and encouraging. Does someone else’s tragedy ever really become funny? Does something that causes pain to someone else whether it be how they look, sad events in their lives, their mental state, how they pray, their size, you name it; should hateful hurtful things be considered acceptable comic relief and tolerated by any society? If we find ourselves as a person, a people, or as a nation laughing at, telling, or defending this type of comedy, I think that we need help, because we are sick mentally and spiritually and are a danger to ourselves as well as all those around us. That we simply did not mourn the deaths of those who were murdered in France, but instead decided to make them martyrs in the fight for freedom of speech and expression, I think says that we have become desensitized to the pain and suffering of others and that we no longer are capable of feeling the shame and the hurt and the feelings of hopelessness that is often found in everyday life.
In Canada and the United States and most of the world there are laws against instigating hatred, sedition, but they are often overlooked and claimed to be just a joke, or a necessary evil. The offending party is usual scolded in private and the person that got offended is usually told to toughen up, or stop playing the race card, or to go back where they came from, all wrong answers. The hurt must stop and the zero tolerance laws already in place must be enforced for every nationality and every religion; no matter how rich, how educated, or what language a person speaks. We must stop pretending that we do not know when we have crossed the line. We must stop redefining what is meant by prejudice, bigotry and hateful to fit our need to feel less guilty; to hide the stench of our bigotry. We must stop using comedy to make us look more important or superior to our neighbor. We must stop using humor to insult and make fun of people who are different then us, or believes differently than we do. We must stop laughing at racial, or prejudice jokes and stop finding racist, or prejudice cartoons and skits funny and we must really stop referring to this racist trash as the right to freedom of expression and free speech!
I believe that only through making friends out of enemies can we wipe out prejudice. If you put someone in jail for non-violent hate related issues like words, or art work, they only get angrier. I believe exposing and making public the actions of these type of offenders goes a long way to helping the problem. I think all levels of government must make it clear what will, or won’t be tolerated in this grey area and the penalties for non-compliance meted out swiftly and equally across the board. I think also that the governments have to get out of the fear mongering game, they use for political gain. This type of game makes the average citizen feel that they have a patriotic right to make it as tough on some races as possible. The government must lead the fight against racism and not encourage it by its own actions and policies if we are to win this battle and the definition of what is racism must apply to all races the same. We cannot raise our children with prejudice and hateful thoughts, make these thoughts part of governmental strategy and policy and then seek to punish and imprison people for acting on what they have been taught since childhood. My mother once told me, “Son try to make a friend out of an enemy. If you do this your once enemy will forever be your friend. If you do him the same wrong, or worse he will forever be your enemy and the two of you will gain nothing.”