Ingo Schmidt was relieved to see that none of the online detractors of an anti-racism walk he helped organize showed up in person June 20.
He had heard some ominous words online, that some who opposed the anti-racism gatherings in Hope would show up at the walk. Instead the event was made up of supporters, who walked from Hope’s recreation centre to Memorial Park where speakers shared on the topic of racism.
The walk happened a few weeks after a first rally in front of district hall, opposing racism in all forms, held June 6. The events were, as many protests in the United States and globally, responding to the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the wider issues of systemic racism.
Some shared with Schmidt that they didn’t feel comfortable coming out to the walk, let alone speak, because they feared the possible backlash they might face, being in a small town. Other people of colour the walkers met along their route seemed pleased, he said, to see the event taking place.
In terms of next steps, Schmidt said a forum bringing together people of diverging and, possibly, opposing viewpoints would be an idea. However, some might feel there is a barrier to attending these if they are unaccustomed to such gatherings and it can be a hurdle to get people who are not already on board to attend.
“Talking to…our new non-white friends, who are saying it’s good to have pale faced allies. I guess the next step is to stick our brains together and see what we could (do),” he said.
Schmidt hopes the local movement stays “as grassroots as possible” and while institutions may weigh in on the issue of racism locally, that’s not where his mind goes to first.
Where some action can be taken is at the level of the schools, Schmidt said, including teaching about racism through local history. “There’s a whole pile of issues that are local to the community, with the First Nations it should be obvious, being 10 per cent of the population,” Schmidt said. “But there are other non-white groups who did face racism in the past and do so currently.”
“You can talk about the railway, looking at racism, thinking of the Chinese workers who did the most dangerous jobs at the lowest pay. And were the ones dying more often from occupational issues than anybody else,” he said. Teaching the history of the internment of Japanese-Canadian during World War II is another important piece of local history, he added.
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