I remember my mother talking about not being racist.
She is a charming woman who suffers from dementia. Her world is still rooted in the 1950s and 60s when she taught school. I owe her and my late father everything. Her grasp of language and mathematics is amazing.
Her intention is not to be racist towards indigenous people but her words and memories are, at times, clearly racist. She taught in rural Manitoba near a First Nations community. One encounter where she felt threatened as a young teacher tainted her for life. I understand it, I listen to it and I disagree with her. But I love her. She’s my mom.
We all have similar stories. One generation not understanding the next and we promise to be better than that and we hope our children are better than us. Based on the math, you would think it would no longer be an issue.
We still judge people based on experiences – positive and negative. An encounter with a group of beer-toting men wandering downtown… classic. I have had too many conversations based on our perceptions of those who panhandle or wander our streets. I have encountered too many Winnipeggers who reach conclusions based on a handful of people.
And on it goes.
When Maclean’s wrote about Winnipeg, my first reaction was to dismiss the story as another marketing trick to get people to buy the magazine. I found it was based on perception and didn’t drill down on the Winnipeg I know. There will always be those who base their views on the few but those folks are slowly losing the day. Or are they just not talking out loud for fear of retribution?
As I listen to the voices of our young aboriginal leaders, I continue to learn about a generation still marginalized. Chad Anderson, a young comedian who was an intern with us at 680 CJOB talked about the looks he would get in stores and at school and how it still hurts.
There are others.
I think of Nadia Kidwai, a leader in the Winnipeg Muslim community who is a fantastic communicator. I also remember a passing comment from another woman who didn’t understand why “such a beautiful woman wore long sleeves and a scarf over her head”.
I also think about a story we did exposing a landlord in south Winnipeg who advertised on Kijiji for “Asians only” in homes he owned.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is using this moment to have a conversation with Winnipeggers, to point out that we still have to grow as a city. To understand each other and not be so quick to judge. We all have work to do but it starts with listening.
I pledge in 2016 to listen more closely.