“Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.”
— Pierre Berton
I’ve always wondered what it is that makes some people feel so threatened by other cultures, other religions, other forms of sexual expression. Is it insecurity? Fear of the unknown? A mistrust of anything unfamiliar?
Whatever it is, there’s plenty of it here.
Whenever The Telegram — or any media outlet, for that matter — runs an article on someone with a unfamiliar name who has run afoul of the law, members of a certain faction raise their bitter heads and start howling.
Latest case in point: last week, a Supreme Court judge decided that evidence collected in a major ecstasy bust in St. John’s in 2009 could not be considered because the charter rights of the person it implicated had been violated by the police.
The story got posted on our website and the vitriol soon started rolling in. Fortunately, The Telegram’s online comments are moderated, and the ones dripping with the most hate don’t get to see the light of day.
“Send him back to wherever he came from” is a familiar refrain.
It would matter not a whit, of course, if the subject of the judge’s decision — Hassan Kamel Al-Ameri — had been born and raised in Bay Bulls.
No sir, he’ll never be from here with a name like that.
Now, Al-Ameri could be as guilty as sin in this case, or he could be as innocent as a babe in a cradle. All I know is — at least, the last time I checked — his rights were the same as yours or mine; no less.
If the police busted into your house without a warrant, you’d be shouting to high heaven about your rights being violated, too, whether you were ultimately guilty of drug trafficking or not.
And rightly so.
When evidence is seized, there’s proper procedure that must be followed, and that’s not what happened here.
It’s as simple as that.
And it shouldn’t matter if your name is Hassan Kamel Al-Ameri or Ray Newman.
And speaking of Ray Newman, there was plenty of outrage about that outcome, too. Where do the folks who felt like justice had not been done in that case suggest he be sent back to, I wonder?
The fact is, for some people, an exotic-sounding last name or a darker shade of skin is all it takes to get them foaming at the mouth about foreigners bringing their filthy behaviours and customs to our pristine shores.
This is unfathomable to me in the 21st century. Surely we have evolved since the days when Rosa Parks was sent to the back of the bus.
Driving and walking around St. John’s, I’m happy to see people of other cultures and colours, and to hear them speaking different languages and dressing according to their custom.
The addition of people of other cultures makes this city more interesting, sophisticated and colourful and a heck of a lot less bland.
Just as ethnic dishes add spice to the fare at the farmer’s market, so too does cultural diversity add another layer of depth to our culture. We shouldn’t feel threatened by it.
And just because someone from another country or of another ethnicity commits a crime, doesn’t mean we should tar their whole country and all their countrymen and women with the same judgmental brush.
The existence of a Nigerian letter scam does not make every Nigerian a scam artist.
Likewise, being from a country other than this one does not mean you are more likely to commit a crime.
That’s called racial profiling.
Do people sometimes come here from other countries or provinces and commit crimes? Of course they do, just as we’ve exported the odd criminal or two to different places.
The truth is, criminals come in all colours, shapes and sizes.
But in this province? The vast majority of the people doing the perp walk are white, English-speaking and made right here.
So you can park your racism at the door.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.