By Pauline Kerr
Yes, this is terrorism.
A sign carried by a person at one of the vigils held after a London, Ontario family was killed by a young man driving a pickup truck, asked if white supremacists who commit such acts are terrorists. They are.
Unfortunately, too many white supremacists have been given a free pass for less extreme acts. Refusing to hire or rent a house because of someone’s colour, culture or gender is a good example. Telling, or laughing at racist jokes around the office water cooler is another. So is making disparaging comments about people of other cultures in any context.
These send a double message. The group being targeted feels intimidated and unwelcome, even afraid.
There is another group that is negatively affected – children who look at the perpetrator as someone admirable, a role model.
It is unlikely the accused killer in London developed his hateful ideas on his own. He learned them from someone, perhaps family members, perhaps friends. As have so many others, he may have found inspiration on websites that have no business being open for anyone to read, no matter what the law has to say about freedom of speech. Freedom to live without fear takes precedence.
Unfortunately, a certain mentality has come to the fore in recent years among some high-profile people, including the former American president. Lest we feel superior, Canada has them too. Openly, even proudly and obnoxiously racist and sexist, they have no filter between brain and mouth, no matter how much damage their words cause.
Whether white supremacist venom is spouted by a one-toothed drunk on a back porch, or tweeted by a famous person, it is still venom. Make no mistake, it does influence people.
Those of us who were horrified by what happened in London – and one would like to think that means the vast majority of Canadians – have a moral obligation to take action.
It is easy enough to show sympathy for and solidarity with the Muslim community by wearing a purple and green ribbon, but harder to declare the company lunch room an offensive-joke-free zone – and harder still to tell a respected relative that racist comments are not to be made in hearing range of you or your children.
However, if enough decent and fair-minded Canadians speak up, racism will stop rearing its ugly head. Although there is some dispute about who uttered these words (attributed to Edmund Burke but possibly traced back to John Stuart Mill), there is no question about their truth: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Too many of us have remained silent for too long. The Canada we want has plenty of room for fine, upstanding citizens that come in a rich array of colours, cultures and religions, who wear many styles of clothing and eat a variety of foods. The Canada we want is made better and stronger through diversity.
What we have no time for is those who think it is permissible to verbally or physically assault random strangers they deem unequal.
London has a couple of individuals who call themselves street preachers, who shout vicious comments to women. They have been doing it for years, and pretty much getting away with it, apart from a few minor charges.
There are people in various communities who have shoved Oriental-looking fishermen into rivers; most of them have escaped punishment for assault.
Racist comments are made quite openly on a daily basis to people on the street, with no repercussions.
Violence happens in increments, a joke here and there, escalating to a rude comment by a group of youths to a lone and terrified victim, posters nailed to hydro poles escalating to rocks through windows, a stream of online racist hate escalating to murder. All of this must end.
Please note, the alleged perpetrator of the crime in London has not been convicted in a court of law, nor has he had formal charges of terrorism laid as of press time.