A Brampton high school student who posted a video of herself on YouTube making disparaging remarks about “brown people” and Sikhs sparked has angry responses and a brief police investigation. The girl spelled out her full name at the end of the video and invited any “white people” who think like her to contact her via Twitter or Facebook. She received feedback of a different kind, though, as the backlash spread across the Internet. The just-under-two-minute video was met with a barrage of criticism on the Internet from those labelling it “racist” and “hate speech”.
Peel Regional Police investigated after receiving complaints and viewing the video, but they have determined the teen did not break the law. Brampton’s Ryan Naraine and Suman Furmah registered their objections to the video in an email to The Guardian.
“Many commenters ‘disliked’ on the video, however it was the few number of ‘likes’ the video got which were particularly enraging,” Naraine, a university student, wrote. “It’s those few people who agree with her messages of hatred that are upsetting. This type of hate should not be accessible to the youth on the Internet.”
Naraine called her video remarks “strong and hateful” and her claims “ignorant and arbitrary”. Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell released a statement late about the video: “Racism is not tolerated in Brampton,” she said. “I know this isolated incident does not reflect the values and voice of our broader community. Our rich cultural heritage and diversity are what make Brampton a strong, successful community.”
She said she will speak to the Mayor’s Youth Team to ensure they continue to be “champions of compassion, tolerance and cultural diversity.”
“Further, I implore all citizens of Brampton to take a stand against racism.” Although when contacted, the girls’ father commented on her behalf and apologized for her comments. He said she has been faced with “challenges” in her life that have been going on for a while, but there is no apparent correlation to what she said on the video. “She’s getting the help that she needs,” he said, indicating she is undergoing counselling. “She would like to give an apology. I don’t think the time is right now.” That is why he chose to come forward to apologize on behalf of his daughter, himself and the rest of his family.
The World Sikh Organization, a Canadian human rights group, was saddened but not surprised to hear racist remarks from children and politicians after some news outlets misrepresented human rights rallies involving Sikhs last month.
“We always feel an increase in racist rhetoric following news stories that portray Sikhs as extremists, but it has been particularly bad this month,” says Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the WSO. “We’re so concerned by the inaccuracy in one report that we sent CBC’s ombudsman a letter of concern two weeks ago.” The WSO believes it’s no coincidence that a Brampton high schooler made a YouTube video linking “turbans and terrorists” and complaining about all the brown people “with shanks in their turbans” within days of coverage claiming Canadian Sikhs were rallying for a suicide bomber. While some news outlets reported the story that Sikhs worldwide joined international human rights groups in opposing India’s death penalty for Balwant Singh Rajoana accurately, opinion pieces in some major media claimed the protests were evidence of extremists. “What can we expect from children when media misrepresent news stories and politicians like Wildrose candidate Ron Leech brag that being Caucasian is a political advantage?” says Prem Singh Vinning, president. “Mr. Leech’s comment that that Sikh and Muslim politicians will work only for ‘their own people’ makes it clear he sees us as something other than Canadian.” Leech’s opponent, Progressive Conservative Manmeet Bhullar, is a Calgary native and a Sikh who has been serving the constituents of Calgary-Greenway since 2008. The WSO is concerned that if misleading news reports continue, there will be an increase in physical attacks on Sikhs, like the one in Edmonton in March by Calgary-based white-supremacist group Blood and Honour. The neo-Nazi group also has active members in Vancouver. “Racism tends to escalate. We began seeing an increase in hateful remarks posted under news stories and on discussion sites like Craigslist following opinion pieces claiming a rise in so-called Sikh extremism about 18 months ago. Now we have politicians and children openly declaring their anti-Sikh views in mass media, and neo-Nazis physically attacking Sikhs. It’s not a coincidence,” Balpreet Singh says.