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Advocate says Canadians often turn a blind eye to local acts of racial discrimination

Last Updated May 30, 2020 at 11:07 am PDT

An illustration of George Floyd is affixed to the window of a vacant building Tuesday, May 26, 2020, near where he was detained by police officers in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. A video taken by a bystander shows a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on the neck of a man in custody who later died. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Member of Federation of Black Canadians says the death of George Floyd is a tragedy involving many factors

She says Canadians often turn a blind eye to incidents of discrimination

She adds racism will not be defeated by people of colour alone

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A member of the Federation of Black Canadians says the tragic death of George Floyd is a painful reminder of the overt racist behaviours that continue to impact black and Indigenous people in Canada.

Stephanie Allen, who sits on the board of the Hogan’s Alley Society and the Federation of Black Canadians, points to examples like the over-representation of racialized people in Canadian prisons and lower-skilled jobs.

“We have to come to terms with the fact that racism is systemic. It is not just interpersonal, and it is not just occasional acts of violence. It is a system. It is the way our society has been ordered,” she said.

“It’s not a mistake that there is an over-representation of people who are racialized in the criminal justice system, in lower-skilled jobs, in poverty, in homelessness. It’s not accidental that our histories are not taught with the full dignity that they should be afforded and that we’re marginalized within our society. These things have been ordered since the founding of the nations.”

Allen says black and Indigenous people in Canada are primarily the ones impacted by racism and experience violence.

She adds these communities continue to witness deaths and murders of members in their own communities “over and over again.”

When Canadians become uncomfortable with the ongoing violence that impacts black and Indigenous communities, Allen says this is when we can start to address these incidents.

“Countries that have founding principles of enslavement, of land theft, of pushing people aside in order to seize and secure economic superiority and seize resources. We have this as our foundation, and so we have to start seeing these things as interconnected,” she explained.

Allen says Canadians need to recognize their privilege, which deprives and comes at the cost of others.

“Racism cannot be defeated by people of colour alone,” she added.

“It really is going to take white society to come to terms with and be actively engaged with anti-racism. It means more than multiculturalism, it means more than just repeating that we value diversity.

“It means actually interrogating what we do. How we teach, how we run our healthcare system, how we police, how we speak to our kids about our neighbours. It’s going to really take an active stand, and I think I would offer that invitation to listeners who are in this position, who do feel hopeless and do want to see a change that it really does start with taking those steps in our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our political structures, and connecting some of these bigger dots so that we can actually overturn this.”

This week, a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. The unarmed 46-year-old black man died in custody.

Protests throughout the U.S. have since broken out over the police killings of African Americans.

– With files from Kareem Gouda