Alarming hateful and racist acts aren't only happening south of the border. Here's a look at some initiatives that are combatting discrimination here.
The normalization and mainstreaming of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups south of the border has made many Torontonians pause and reflect. Some of us have been questioning our own complicity in racism, while others have been gripped by grief and fear.
Two weeks ago, fascist posters appeared across Toronto, attempting to recruit white people to the so-called “alt-right,” a repackaged euphemism for neo-Nazi and white supremacist hate groups. Although these groups have been met with wholesale moral condemnation, their very presence is concerning.
Another alarming local incident? Last month, a Muslim teen was badly beaten in Hamilton. His family is questioning whether it was a hate crime.
As we reflect on the effects of the rise in hate crimes and hate propaganda, it is important to understand the link between fascist hate and everyday racism. Think of racism as a gas filling the room. Fascist hate is the lighter.
Prior to any form of genocide, the group being targeted for genocide is dehumanized, and racism is the main way that this dehumanization occurs. The only way we can prevent neo-Nazi and white supremacist hate groups from gaining further traction in Canada is to counter racism in all of its forms. But how do we do this?
Fortunately, Toronto has a robust movement of anti-racist activists, educators, and campaigns. Perhaps we as a city have taken these folks for granted. Perhaps we have seen anti-racism work as optional, rather than urgent. Now, as we stand in this crucial historical moment, we must look to the ongoing legacy anti-racism work in Toronto for direction.
It is high time we offer anti-racist activists our love, support, and dedication. After all, they have been engaged in challenging racism far before the rise of Trumpism, and their wisdom can lead us to meaningful collective action, right here in Toronto.
Here are three such campaigns happening in and around Toronto right now:
1. #StandWithGrassy and #FreeGrassy
In northern Ontario, toxic waste has been poisoning the Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek people of Grassy Narrows for decades. This is a form of environmental racism, with the worst effects of environmental degradation and toxicity forced upon racialized communities—in this case, an Indigenous community.
In the 1960s, over 9,000 kilograms of untreated mercury waste were dumped into the Wabigoon River system by a pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario—an action that showed complete disregard for the First Nations people living downriver. As a result, high levels of toxic mercury have been found in all aquatic life in Grassy Narrows. Residents of Grassy Narrows have elevated levels of mercury in their blood and bodies. Chronic exposure to mercury can lead to neurotoxic effects, and mercury poisoning has been linked to developmental problems.
It is possible to clean up Grassy Narrows’ Wabigoon River, but so far no political entity has taken this on—as is unacceptably the case with numerous First Nations across Canada facing environmental crises. These types of issues have long been ignored by governments.
The #StandWithGrassy campaign aims to push federal and provincial governments to clean up the river.
The City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) have partnered to create a campaign to challenge everyday and systemic anti-Black racism in Toronto. The campaign addresses the reality of racial profiling in many aspects of daily life for Black Torontonians.
In Toronto, Black people are overrepresented among those living in poverty. Because of systemic anti-Black racism in schools, Black youth continue to drop out from the educational system at higher rates than their white classmates. And racial profiling continues to be a reality in the criminal justice system, as the number of Black youth is alarmingly and disproportionately high in youth detention facilities and jails. The #BlackinTO campaign challenges Torontonians to challenge their biases and unlearn anti-Black racism.
“Black people continue to face marginalization, discrimination and racism when it comes to employment, housing, access to services, and in many other areas of daily life,” said Debbie Douglas, OCASI’s executive director, in a news release. “It’s essential for us to create a Toronto For All that dispels any form of discrimination and racism and provides equal opportunities for all our residents.”
To participate in the #BlackinTO campaign, visit Toronto For All.
3. Shut It Uncle Bob! A Workshop on Addressing Racism from Family, Friends and Loved Ones.
Artist and consultant Rania El Mugammar and the Centre for Social Innovation have partnered to hold equity and anti-oppression workshops that are open to the public, with conversation based on the lived experiences of Torontonians facing multiple forms of oppression. Past workshops include Islam and Blackness, How to Be an Ally: Islamophobia at the Intersections, and Intersectional Feminism.
Coming up next, on Dec. 11, is a workshop on how to address racism among the people in your life. In this workshop, you will learn techniques and strategies for dealing with defensiveness, how to hold people accountable without throwing them away, tap into a capacity for empathy, and unpack how people misunderstand “political correctness.” To learn more about the Shut it Uncle Bob! Workshop and El Mugammar’s work, visit her website.