Frankly I just don’t get it. Maybe because I’m Canadian, and that isn’t to say racism doesn’t exist in Canada it most certainly does, it exists everywhere, but in my personal experience it has never been an issue. In my entire life I can honestly say I have never known or even met ( to my knowledge ) a person who hates another person based upon race alone ( in Canada ). In fact, I think overall Canadians are proud of our past in dealing with racism, and our efforts to help those who were the victims of racism.
The Underground railroad began ( or rather was popularized ) as a result of a landmark court case involving a runaway slave who the US tried to extradite on murder charges. Slaves had been escaping to Canada for more than 100 years before this case but this put slavery and rescue in the forefront of the public view. Story goes a slave killed his owner who was pursuing him and managed to escape to Canada, the US immediately filed for his extradition, even threatened war if he was not returned, he was arrested and given his day in court, and the court declared that he had committed no crime against Canadian law, that he was well within his rights to defend himself, and the court refused the US request. In fact Sir. John A. MacDonald Canada’s First Prime Minister used public funds to assist him in his legal defense, and continued to help him even after the case.
Another slave who escaped to Canada ( I don’t remember his name ) became a Minister and went around the World raising funds for escaped slaves. He wrote in his memoirs that racism did in fact exist in Canada, but it was a more subtle type of racism, that he had never been to a Church in Canada where there were black pews and white pews that all races sat together in the same pews, and that he had never seen or heard of any court case in Canada that a black man was not given the same due as a white man, that our justice system was truly blind to race.
Even Sitting Bull at one time sought sanctuary in Canada. And spent 4 years in Canada to avoid persecution by the US authorities. Eventually being lured back to the US with promises that were not kept. Now having said that, natives in Canada were not treated any better, they were lied to, and had land stolen from them, but most of the persecution came from the Church trying to convert them more so than physical abuse from authorities.
Overall Canada has a very different history when it comes to race relations than the US. When I was a kid there was a saying ‘ where do people go to be free, they go to America…..where do Americans go to be free, they come to Canada ‘. And our history bears that out whether you are speaking about slaves, or natives, or war dissenters, Americans have flocked to Canada to be free from US persecution.
So culturally we see race and racism very differently. That, again, is not to say there is no racism in Canada, there most certainly is, and we are not talking about people who just moved here and grew up in a very different culture, but for Canadians, we are not, for the most part, raised to think of race as an obstacle, it’s just not culturally or historically ingrained in us. Unlike the US that was built upon a pedestal of racism.
The US will likely never be free from racism because it’s ingrained in the very fabric of their culture, their history, their economics, and their politics. The Country itself was built on the foundation of racism. To eradicate racism would mean a complete overhaul of the very fabric of it’s being. Not to say the US hasn’t made great strides in that direction, it has, but it’s a long process, to expect the US to change immediately or even any time soon is ludicrous. The US is decades behind other Nations in this regard, and may take Centuries to catch up.
This is not meant to be a slight on Americans themselves, not all Americans are racist, not all, or even most, participated in slavery or the degradation of others who were not white. In fact Americans were an essential part of the Underground Railway and the liberation of slaves. The Underground Railway wouldn’t even have existed if not for brave Americans helping south of the Border. No, this is a statement regarding the institution of racism that exists in America that has infected the culture, the politics, the history, and the economics, of one of the Greatest Nations the Earth has ever witnessed.
( image courtesy of popsci.com )