Syrian refugees hold Canadian flags as they take part in a welcome service in 2015 at a church in Toronto. CNS photo/Mark Blinch, Reuters

Robert Brehl: Racist rant is not typically Canadian

  • May 28, 2018

If you’re reading this, you are likely racist.

How do I know? Simple.

You’re likely Canadian — unless you’re reading it online from somewhere other than Canada — and the Toronto Star boldly says racism is part of every Canadian’s character. Therefore, we’re all racists, according to the Star.

 It’s all a load of codswallop.

And painting all Canadians with the same racist brush is not much different than the disturbing and rather disgusting episode of a B.C. woman’s racist rant in an Alberta restaurant that went viral on social media and became a major news story across Canada last week.

But there you have it. The Star found a way to condemn me, you and all your friends and relatives in Canada as racist.

Here’s what the Star headline said: “Woman yelling at group of men in Alberta Denny’s shows racism is part of Canada’s character.”

Shree Paradkar, the Star’s Race & Gender Columnist, goes even further in the body of the column.

“Whatever else we may say after watching the video, please let’s not say, ‘This is not Canada.’ Or, ‘this isn’t the real Canada.’ Or, worse, that she’s mentally ill.

“This is Canada. Racism isn’t the whole of who we are, but it is definitely part of our character both systemically and individually. It’s past time to be surprised by it. And mental illness does not make people racist,” Paradkar declares.

First, I will say it: That B.C. woman’s behaviour does not represent what every Canadian feels or believes. The reaction to her rant sickened everyone I spoke to about it. It’s been viewed more than one million times and shared 20,000 times likely for that very reason.

Sure, a few skinheads or neo-Nazis may have viewed and liked it, but the reason it became such a big news story is because most Canadians were appalled by the woman’s rant.

The woman, who admitted later to being intoxicated during the rant, which is no excuse, was fired from her job. There has been no groundswell of support that she was mistreated by her employer. Indeed, social media and mainstream media back the employer.

Second, one of the men she verbally attacked says the vast majority of Canadians are welcoming to immigrants and that woman most certainly does not represent Canada as far as he’s witnessed during the 13 years he’s been here from his native Afghanistan.

“It’s beautiful support; it’s amazing,” Monir Omerzai told CBC News, adding he’s been overwhelmed by the kindness he has received since the video rant he recorded on his smart phone went viral. (It can be easily found be entering words like Lethbridge, Denny’s and racism into a search engine like Google.)

“It’s amazing how there are so many good people out there. I am just thankful I am in Canada. There are still good people out there and I believe in that, big time,” said Omerzai, a Canadian citizen.

In case you missed the story, on April 21 Omerzai and several friends were talking in their native language in a Denny’s restaurant. In the booth next to them, a woman interpreted their laughter as an insult towards her and off she went.

“Speak English or don’t speak at all,” she vents and warns them they aren’t dealing with “one of your Syrian bitches right now.”

“You’re dealing with a Canadian woman right now and I will leap across this table and punch you in the - - - mouth,” she says. 

She goes on to accuse them of not paying taxes and taking advantage of Canadians.

“Go back to your own country. We don’t need you here,” she spits out. “You’re not Canadian.”

How the Star makes the leap that this disgusting woman’s behaviour is an example of racism residing in all of us is, quite frankly, appalling.

In her racist rant, this woman spews hate based on false assumptions she holds. Isn’t the Star also holding false assumptions that racism is part of everyone’s character?

I pointed out the Star’s accusation that racism is in all of us to a volunteer at an organization that provides food and clothing to immigrant families every week in Mississauga. Her response was immediate.

“That woman at Denny’s is ignorant, entitled and selfish,” the volunteer said. “And she doesn’t represent me or anyone I choose to know. Sometimes the Star just goes too far.”

Amen to that. Racism most certainly does exist in the hearts and minds of too many — as that woman in Denny’s proves — but to say it resides in all of us is ridiculous.

(Brehl is a writer and author of several books.) 

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