BY INDIRA PRAHST
Instructor of Race and Ethnic Relations
Department of Sociology
THE International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, was commemorated Wednesday in Surrey at the annual “Stop Racism” event organized by Kids Play and with Asian Pulse TV on board. Over 400 community members, students, scholars, and MLAs packed the room.
Kal Dosanjh, who is a police officer and one of the founders of Kids Play, recounted the story of a young teenager he found doing drugs in an alley at three in the morning while he was on duty and said: “No young child should be subjected to this kind of life.” This is why Kids Play is so important in making a difference in a young person’s life, to empower them and steer them away from gangs, he pointed out.
Five panelists presented on the subject of racism. Tony McAleer, Executive Director of “Life After Hate” and a former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), spoke about what led him on the path towards Neo-Nazi activity, how he left and the work he does to help youth stay clear of Neo-Nazi groups through his group. His lived experiences captivated the youth especially as he advocated for compassion and the danger of hatred.
I presented on geopolitical climates, such as the war on terror and how the “construction of the enemy” has impacted Sikhs, Muslims and others to freely express their identities without being stigmatized and how racism expresses itself in silent ways through a “violent gaze” – one which both dehumanizes and humiliates.
Bhai Hari Nam Singh Khalsa, host and producer of Insight into Sikhism, spoke about remaining positive and how Sikhi teaches love and tolerance. He said we should focus on our attitude about “what is right with each other” and “look through the eyes of love.” He noted that “the scar of a sword can be healed, but the cut of a word cannot.”
Sim Sidhu, who’s with Crime Stoppers, informed the youth about how that organization began, how tipsters are anonymous and that there are rewards of up to $2,000 for information that can lead to an arrest. She also presented some stats, revealing that in 2016 some 5,000 tips were reported, and one million dollars in drugs and property were seized.
Harinder Mahil, who was chief commissioner of the former B.C. Human Rights Commission, gave a positive talk, starting with: “If you want to be a Prime Minister, you can, with support and determination.” He spoke about working on a farm and in the saw mills, and the history of the farm workers and their influence on legislation.
He told the youth: “If you face racist behaviour, don’t let it sit … We each have a part to play” in eliminating racism.
After the panelists had spoken, Ken Herar with Cycling 4 Diversity informed the community about their program. He also showed the audience the racist Ku Klux Klan (KKK) flyers that were distributed in Abbotsford and neighbouring areas.
There was a draw for six scholarships worth $500 each for students towards their education. This was followed by a recognition ceremony with acknowledgments and plaques of appreciation, bouquets and Langara goodie bags.
The event was officially opened with a drum ceremony and prayer by Alana Anderson, originally from the Campbell River reserve and daughter of the current Hereditary Chief. She spoke about preserving her ancestral traditions, and how despite struggles resulting from colonialism, we need to practice love and respect.
Kamilla Singh, Director and Producer of Asian Pulse TV said: “I feel that it is important to continue to hold forums which we have been doing for the past 10 years because racism has not gone away and the youth need to find new ways to come up with solutions.”
In closing, part of the solution to tackle racism, is to continue to educate about it making important connections between power, colonialism and imperialism. Also, there is an urgent need to critically examine the current media discourses on the war on terror – what they conceal and legitimate, and their impact.
The organizers of the event, Kids Play, and the youth who volunteered their time are to be commended for a successful, informative and inspiring event.