BY INDIRA PRAHST
Instructor of Race and Ethnic Relations
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Langara College, Vancouver
THE International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is observed in March to collectively work towards the elimination of all forms of racism and inequalities, will be celebrated on Saturday, March 21 at the annual “Stop Racism” event. This free event will take place at Kwantlen University in Surrey, and is organized by Asian Pulse TV and Kids Play. This day draws our attention to the fact that racism is a global reality. With the current geo-political climate and the war on terror, issues such as Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, protests in Europe, neo-Nazi movements, and the anti-terrorism law Bill C-51, to name a few, have impacted Canadians on local levels as well with increased experiences of racism on individual and structural levels. The ongoing media coverage of the war on terror and its violence, and how racialized and religious communities, in particular Sikhs and Muslims, are being misrepresented has profoundly impacted such communities and infringed on their freedom to express their identities and faith. The increase in Neo-Nazi and other far right movements worldwide that target racialized and Jewish communities has led to a mobilization of anti-racists groups as a form of resistance to confront this global phenomenon.
Last month, I interviewed Tony McAleer, former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) who served as a skinhead recruiter, proprietor of Canadian Liberty Net and executive director of the organization, “Life After Hate.” He has inspired many youth and helped them to exit the neo-Nazi lifestyle. When Mc Aleer gave a talk to my sociology students at Langara last month, they treasured having learned from a neo-Nazi’s past experience firsthand. Next week, at the Stop Racism event, McAleer will be part of the panel to speak and will present on lived experiences of being in neo-Nazi movements, what attracts people to them and prevention through life after hate.
The event will open with an Aboriginal greeting and prayer by Alana Anderson. Originally from the Campbell River reserve and daughter to the current Hereditary Chief, Anderson facilitates a Traditional Regalia Making Program about native cultures, traditions, ceremonies, protocol, regalia, drumming and singing native songs and volunteers with the Aboriginal Ministry Children Family Development with the foster children aging out called HOYJA (Honouring Our Youth Journey Adult).
This will be followed by speakers to engage on topics of racism in Canada and current geopolitical climates, media representations and terrorist labels, Islamaphobia, anti-semitism, neo-Nazi movements, and personal narratives. The first speaker is Jodi Derkson with FAST, BC Regional Director of Educational Program, who will present on anti-Semitism, map out its historical roots, and dispel myths about Judaism. A short video clip of Holocaust survivor Max Eisen will be shown and the presentation will culminate in a look at the current rise of anti-Semitism and what humanity can do to quash its hateful emergence. This will be followed by a talk by Tony McAleer.
With the barrage of negative media representations of the current war on terror and issues in Punjab, I will present on the “violent” gaze towards the turban, and interrogate the binaries and the inheritance of frames about the turban from current neo-liberalist discourses. I further illuminate the impact such a gaze can have on dignity, identity formation and in perpetuating further violence on the Sikh and Muslim body.
Charan Gill, founder of PICS and prominent community activist who has been involved in anti-racism movements (which at one point included challenging Mc Aleer’s racist website in Surrey), will speak about his lived experiences, the continued struggle to end racism, how it has transformed in BC and Canada and the nature of hidden racism in the present day.
Sadia Sameeullah, outspoken activist and speaker within the Muslim and Pakistan community, will address the rising Islamaphobic sentiments towards the Muslim community in current geopolitical climates.
The event will open for a question and answer period to the public, where university and college students from racism and ethnic relations classes, youth from kids play, will be attending to engage and participate in the discussion, together with members of First Nations and Aboriginal, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and other communities, scholars and the general public.
According to Kamilla Singh, Director and Producer of Asian Pulse TV and one of the organizers of the event: “The reason for organizing this anti-racism event is to empower, educate and bring awareness to the community about the importance of living in a society where we all can live freely and be able to practice our religion or culture. By doing such events we become allies and voices of those who are not able to stand for themselves.”
If you want to learn, listen and engage, you are welcome to attend the event including a free lunch at 12 p.m. (noon) sharp at Kwantlen University in Surrey in the auditorium.
See events section for more information.