The recent issue of Maclean’s magazine carried a six-page article which has revealed the ugly heads of racism in Winnipeg.
The front cover of the magazine would provoke a negative reaction, an outburst of emotions upon reading the bold, call-caps statement by Rosanna Deerchild, an Aboriginal writer and broadcaster, it reads: ‘They call me a stupid squaw, or tell me to go back to the Rez’. And at the bottom, highlighted by a yellow print, the statement reads: Canada has a bigger race problem than America. And it’s ugliest in Winnipeg!
I opened the page where I could read the article, and my eyes became bigger when the double spread title had smacked my face: WELCOME TO WINNIPEG where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst!
Holy cow! Winnipeg, my beautiful city, is under attack! A city where more than 50 ethnic groups live and thrive! A city where, the one and only Canadian Museum for Human Rights is built on the sacred ground at the Forks!
The writer, Nancy Macdonald, added a blurb:which caught my attention: “The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines.”
Man, I can’t believe this article. My City of Winnipeg is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Yes, Canada is a multicultual country and the City of Winnipeg is home of many ethnic groups, considered as a Little United Nation! And the city has more aboriginals as compared with other cities.
Emotionally, I planned to write the editor and asked for apology. And I started reading the article, and as I went along, my sensitivity was transformed into accepting the very issue of the article. It is a litany of events focusing on the plights and survival of the people of the First Nation. And that the native citizens encounter and suffer daily indignities, prejudices and strings of violence.
Mayor Brian Bowan was ahead to address the issue by convening a press conference. He called the city’s prominent indigenous leaders and some civic leaders to meet the problem head-on, to acknowledge that the ugly heads of racism have devastated the people of the First Nation and at the same time, to tackle the division along ethnic lines.In a news report by a local newspaper Mayor Bowman says: “We are here together to face this head-on as one community. To do so we have to shine a light on the problem we have in Winnipeg and the problem we share with communities across the nation.”
But what intrigues me is this precocious line: ‘The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines.’ Why Maclean’s article focuses only the aboriginals. Are other visible minorities not victims of racism? Why the Maclean’s article focuses on the First Nations people? How about the other minorities, are they not also victims of intolerance?
Few days after the Maclean’s article, one Canadian-African voiced his opinion that they are also victims of racism. And when I asked my friend, a black guy, he says: “Oh, yes, there is racism in Winnipeg!”
Even in every ethnic community racism thrives. When we arrived in 1974, racism was the daily dosage of comments: “How come you speak a straight English. It is interesting?” One time, a receptionist banged her door when the workers were punching their time cards. The sound cracked my eardrum and I confronted her, she said: “They are so noisy, like birds!” How about this: “You’re a boat people? Tell me your harrowing experience.” I said: I am not a Vietnamese, I am a Filipino. Most comments: “Go back to your own country!” or “You’re corrupt because your country is full of corrupt people.” One manager says: “Filipino do not eat salads, they thought it is grass.” “How come you’re good in English?” I said: “I learned it while traveling from Manila to Vancouver.” He counteracted: “Wow, I do not know that the Filipinos are fast learners.” And I answered back with stress:”Correction, we are faster learners on earth.”
Does racism thrive in the Filipino community? You’ll be the judge. “Bakit mo ibinoto iyan, pana pala iyan.” (Why did you vote for him, he is a native?) “I do not want to put the “for Rent” sign, I need only good tenants.” One time, two East Indian students were shopping at the supermarket and there were two Filipino women who were behind them, precociously waiting in a long line. One lady said: “Ang babaho naman ng mga ito.” (They are so smelly.) The lady Indian turned her back and without much ado she said: “Eh mabaho ka rin.” (You are also smelly.)
Unknowingly, the two students at the University of Manitoba were born and raised in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
I could not forget when I was introduced by the president of the company to the different sections in the manufacturing plant. Of course, I had to talk in English and the comments from the Filipino workers would make a good story for my collections of new immigrant’s experiences in Winnipeg: “I Swallowed My Pride and I Got Constipated” (coming soon.) Some terse comments from my kababayans: “Intsik pala ang bago nating manager, naku,hindi magtatagal iyan.” (That Chinese is our new manager? He will not last for sure. Take this: “Ponga pala ang magiging manager, hindi iyan magtatagal, uuwi agad iyan sa China.” (Chinaman is our manager? He won’t stay long, and for sure, he will be back to China.) I just smiled! Monday next, at the cafeteria, I greeted everybody in Filipino. “Naku, nakakahiya naman, Pinoy pala kayo, akala namin ay Intsik.”
That’s the problem of my confused face! I look like Chinese, Korean or Even Taiwanese. And that is the common problem of most Filipinos, misidentified!
I am so engrossed what Bill Gates writes: “Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minority to get a leg up.” But this quote of Ralph V. Sockman intrigues me: “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are the majority.” How true is what Maya Angelou says: “Prejudice is a burden that confronts the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.” But do you believe on this what Harold S. Geneen postulates: “The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success: concentration, DISCRIMINATION, organization,innovation and communication.” True or False?
But this is great learning curve: “You do not fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is solidarity.” writes Bobby Seale.
Here what Madonna says: “I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want? If that makes me a bitch, okey!”
And I will end with what Helen Keller wants people to know:”The highest result of education is tolerance.”
Let us make this City of Winnipeg, the most beautiful and most friendly City in Canada, if not in North America! As the Manitoba Council of Canadian Filipino Associaitons’(MaCCFA) tagline: ONE VOICE, ONE STRENGTH!