Racism video reveals a very big problem
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.