Racism video re­veals a very big prob­lem

Journal Pioneer - - EDITORIAL -

If you want to see the ugly face of racism in this coun­try up close and un­adorned, watch the on­line video of a woman telling a ta­ble of men at an Alberta restau­rant they’re “not Cana­dian” and “we don’t want you here.”

It is a sad, sick­en­ing tirade laced with an­gry ob­scen­i­ties, phys­i­cal threats and bla­tant big­otry, the kind of out­rage ev­ery­one says should not hap­pen in Canada but which, we must all ad­mit if we’re hon­est, oc­curs all too of­ten. And that’s why as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble need to watch this ven­omous out­burst of ha­tred, un­pleas­ant though it truly is.

It all hap­pened last month at a Denny’s restau­rant in Leth­bridge, when a woman from Cran­brook, B.C., Kelly Pocha, took of­fence at a neigh­bour­ing ta­ble of five men who were chat­ting in Dari, their na­tive lan­guage, which is com­monly spo­ken in Afghanistan. What makes this par­tic­u­lar vent­ing of some­one’s racist spleen par­tic­u­larly com­pelling - and es­pe­cially dis­turb­ing - is that it lasted for two min­utes and was ac­cu­rately recorded in a video clip that has cir­cu­lated to more than 100,000 view­ers on Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter. The video was taken by one of the men at the ta­ble, Monir Omerzai, who im­mi­grated to Canada from Afghanistan 13 years ago. As bar­room ar­gu­ments go, it’s fairly one-sided.

“I will leap across this ta­ble and punch you right in the (ex­ple­tive) mouth,” Pocha shouts to the men at one point, her eyes glar­ing. “Go back to your (ex­ple­tive) coun­try.” The con­cil­ia­tory re­sponse from one man that “it doesn’t mat­ter, we’re all Cana­dian” only makes Pocha more fu­ri­ous.

“No, you’re not Cana­dian,” she replies, her voice drip­ping with scorn. “Do you pay taxes here, my friend? Were you born and raised here?”

Then, when one of the men says he does pay taxes, Pocha re­sponds, “Not all of your (ex­ple­tive) friends pay taxes.”

Soon after the ex­change on video ended, restau­rant staff or­dered both ta­bles to leave.

It’s not clear if there was any rea­son to eject the men who had been ver­bally abused. Nor does the pub­lic know, at this point, what tran­spired be­fore the woman went bal­lis­tic.

What we can say is that ab­so­lutely noth­ing could jus­tify what Pocha said to those men. It was in­ex­cus­able.

The pain her words in­flicted on five peo­ple was sear­ing and deep. Her racist bar­rage also tears at the co­he­sion of a Cana­dian so­ci­ety that in­cludes mil­lions of new­com­ers from around the world. To see and hear what she did, rather than sim­ply read about it, makes you feel like you’ve been kicked in the stom­ach.

How­ever rare or iso­lated, this kind of racism ex­ists and can­not be de­nied. And whether there is more racism in Canada now than five or 10 years ago, we must agree we have a prob­lem. Un­less we do and work for change, we ac­qui­esce to the big­ots and leave the vic­tims de­fence­less.

In the af­ter­math of her out­burst, Pocha was fired from her job at a car deal­er­ship. That’s hard, though un­der­stand­able.

How much better it would be if peo­ple like her could reach out and meet peo­ple from different cul­tures and back­grounds. If only knowl­edge and ed­u­ca­tion could re­place ig­no­rance and xeno­pho­bia. Per­haps reach­ing out to oth­ers is what all Cana­di­ans need to do more of­ten.

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