My heart is heavy as I sit down and write this entry. As an educator, I normally try to keep my political ideologies to myself, but this is different. This isn’t about speaking against any political party. This is about speaking up against hatred.
As I hear the news of the American travel ban against seven of the poorest Muslim nations of the world, I feel just sick. These bans affect immigrants some of whom are refugees who have feared for their lives and spent years and years in camps subsisting on very little as they were vetted and waited approval to finally have the chance to restart their lives. Now their hopes are crushed.
I think of our good friends Calvin and José who literally fled by foot from Congo hiding in the jungle until they reached safety in Uganda. It took seven years of returning religiously to the temporary Canadian immigration office at the refugee camp before their papers were finally stamped with approval. They and their two infant boys could rebuild their lives. Can you imagine the devastation they would have felt if that would have been revoked?
You fear extremism. Well this is exactly how extremism gains power. It gains power and support through desperation. And by turning away the very people who need our help the most, we are reaffirming the propaganda of terrorists.
I say “we” because when you live in a Muslim country and you look and sound like an American you are lumped in with these ideas. In Malaysia, Shaun and I have have been treated with the utmost kindness and respect by people. And we, as guests in their country, continue to be greeted with warmth and smiles. However, I can’t help but wonder if there is underlying suspicion now too. Strangers I encounter in the day to day must have moments in which they wonder if we could share these racist sentiments. For this I feel shame.
I also say “we” because it’s not enough to expect saying “I’m Canadian” will absolve us of this guilt. We cannot be satisfied in simply knowing we don’t appear as racist as our neighbours to the south and then sit back feeling proud. I recently read a Maclean’s magazine article that really got to the heart of Canada’s racism problem. Just because it’s not being tweeted doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
So I choose to speak out in my small way. I choose to teach the children of 70 different nations at our school that hatred and bigotry are not okay. And I challenge myself to be present with kindness in my daily interactions.
I know it’s not much, but it’s necessary.
And in the meantime, I just might start adopting a New Zealand accent.