We must fight racism here too.
Like many of you, I have been profoundly disturbed by, well, everything this past week. We’ve been reminded of the reality of racism, here and everywhere. Divisions have been laid bare and there’s no clear way forward. I’m reminded of Langston Hughes’s famous poem, Harlem.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I’ve spent much of my life fighting for human rights. I’ve worked within the system, and even got elected to office. I’ve also organized and participated in many peaceful protests. I’ve tried to ease that heavy load. But I don’t have all the answers.
Here’s what I do know:
Minority communities, people of colour, and indigenous communities have been fighting racism for decade after decade. We’ve been organizing and marching and voting and serving. And yet, for so many, while so much has changed, it has not changed enough.
When we saw the pictures of George Floyd, when we heard him cry “I can’t breathe”, we were all horrified. How could any authority figure do that? But we also know that his murder is, sadly, part of a long pattern. It’s easy to say “well, that’s down there” and be smug in our comfort that we live up here.
I am such a proud Canadian. I’m so grateful that my parents chose this place. But we must fight racism here too.
When a federal minister spoke of his experience as a Black man in Canada this week, and his concerns for his children, he was derided, even called “an f**n loser.” Late last night, one of my Council colleagues seemed to casually tie criticism of powerful people with systemic racism. He didn’t mean it, but the ease with which it came out was shocking. When I raise issues of racism in the community myself, I’m often accused of playing the “race card”.
Trust me, the race card is very rarely part of a winning hand.
But I believe the vast majority of Canadians want to build a more just society, and now is the time that all of us need to do more.
It’s not enough to not be a racist in our own lives. We need to commit to being anti-racist and actively condemn racism wherever we see it.
Which brings me to the protests in Calgary. While we are still in a serious pandemic, and that many people gathering makes me very nervous for public health, I was very proud that Calgarians came together peacefully to speak for the rights of others.
And I was proud of my colleagues, the women and men of the Calgary Police Service. The service has been on a long and continuing journey to be better allies to all they serve, particularly those in marginalized communities, and today was another example of that.
And we all need to come together. To stand for what’s right. That’s the only way to make the world a better place. For everyone. Let’s not wait to see what happens to that deferred dream. Let’s make the dream come true for all of us.