I come from a Canadian middle-class family. One could argue that racism is not as prevalent in Canada as it is in other countries. That would, however, be wrong thinking. Racism exists in Canada as surely as it exists in every other part of the world. I would not have to go far to point it out either, because my mother, despite teaching me to respect others, was a racist. It wasn't the extreme white-sheet, cross-burning racism that we can easily identify, but the insidious kind: comments. When someone other than a caucasian, english-speaking person made the news in a less than favourable way, there was always a comment: "Those people." And she didn't mean criminals... she meant all others of that race.
"Those people" in her mind were all bad in some form or another. Whenever I challenged her, she would just shrug off the comment. Except that it wouldn't go away. "Those people" were taking jobs from real Canadians, or they were dirty, lazy and shifty.
It didn't take long to deconstruct my mother's position. She had never met or spoken to any of "those people". She confined herself to her small anglo-protestant world, surrounded by like thinking people, all of whom held similar views.
When on one occasion I was returning from the Middle-East after consulting on the construction of a container port, my mother once again let her racist beliefs slip out. After describing some of the sites and mentioning some of the friends I'd made she said, "I suppose that's the next bunch that will flood in to take over the country."
Take over the country?! What if they were to come here looking for something better in life?
It was then that I realized what her problem really was: fear. She feared losing the established order. Instead of viewing the cultural differences as something which took the edges off a stiff British social construct, she feared the change and she expressed it with hatred.
And there it was. The fear that others were going to bring about change. The fear that her traditions, customs and personal comfort were under assault. Her defence against that mythical assault was to erect a barrier of hate. And all she ever accomplished with it was to shut out good people and to watch her own world grow smaller.
Racists are cowards. They live in fear and instead of facing the fear by learning more, they shut down their ability to see anything beyond the colour of skin, an accent or clothing.
Almost every person has something positive to offer this world. You just have to find out what it is and then let them do it, without being held to account for their colour, culture, language or sex.