Well meaning and useless
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
As a black opinion writer, I think I am in a unique position to answer that question. No, you are not a racist if you don’t ‘see color.’
I know I missed this because COVID had me squirreled away in my house. I saw while walking up Commercial drive a billboard that first shocked then invited scorn from me. It was so simple and yet so strange; black background, four words written in white: “Am I a Racist?” I was shocked to see that someone had had the audacity to ask everyone who could read that question; it drew scorn from me when I realized that this was a serious effort from our government.
A CBC article describes it as a “public awareness campaign launched this month [November] by BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (BCOHRC).” The campaign was started November 16 using bus stops and billboards to ask these supposedly reflective questions.
The problem with these types of efforts (at least as I see it) is that they change a legitimate fight and good effort into some foolish slogan with a song and dance. I’m glad to say that most people are not racist. I would go so far as to say that though you (just like I) have some stereotypes and negative views we need to work on, neither of us are racists, nor would such a billboard cause an epiphany for those who actually are. All this does is transfer the goodwill of people towards a temporary guilt trip while twisting the best parts of progressivism into a lifestyle brand. This is not a slogan to be made t-shirt ready and plastered about as if it has no meaning, it’s a word that carries a long and serious history that has shaped our world and built barriers to literally keep a few people from succeeding. We should have better ways to address the real prejudice that exists.
There is no forthcoming introspection when the people who really need to be changed see this; people like Daryl Davis who make it their job to reach out and convert actual white supremacists are not aided by these types of ads. The racial justice of the ‘60s was not the result of a few bus stop signs and the last time I checked the majority of people knew instinctively that what happened to George Floyd was terrible. We don’t need this.
But then I had to ask myself, who was this for? I realised almost immediately that it wasn’t really for the minorities; this isn’t meant to show solidarity to the roughly half of Vancouver’s population that isn’t white. No, this was meant to assuage the bleeding-heart progressive elites that sees phantoms of oppression everywhere but as Jay-Z once said: “wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.” All groups virtue signal, progressives just do it the loudest. In the aforementioned article, BCOHRC Kasari Govender mentions that this was in part a response to the uptick in anti-Asian racism that occurred as COVID rolled threw Canada. Certainly we need to be concerned about that, but does anyone really believe that this will be the push that tips people into accepting others for who they are? Is this really the first step towards a better world?
Assuming that a better world really is the end goal, we must ask if this gets us any closer. One of the questions asked in this campaign is: “If I don’t see skin color, am I a racist?” As a black opinion writer, I think I am in a unique position to answer that question. No, you are not a racist if you don’t “see color.” In a perfect world, I can and would forget that I am black because it is unimportant in most situations.
The fact that my skin color must be at the forefront of all interactions brings unnecessary racial dynamic to every situation. For some reason, the young liberal today thinks that the best world we can live in is one where the dynamics of race, self-description, and ability is the only one talked about and at the forefront of all interactions. I must be coddled in every conversation; I must need a billboard questioning everyone as to whether or not they are racist just so I can feel safe. But as James Baldwin once said: “A liberal [is] someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do.” Don’t get me started on conservatives though.