THIS year as all levels of government and mainstream media remembered the horrible 1914 Komagata Maru racist incident in diverse ways – from the release of a commemorative stamp by Canada Post to a formal function at the B.C. Legislature – it is also time for the South Asian community to remember The VOICE’s brave and bold stand against the shameful racism of mainstream media in B.C. since the mid-1990s when I first became editor of this newspaper.
Equally shameful was the cowardice of too many of our so-called community leaders who would phone me to say what a bold stand I had taken on this or that issue or incident, but would admit to me that they were too scared to write a letter or publically comment on it!
Yet some of these guys ended up getting the Order of B.C. and the Queen’s medals or being elected or appointed to various positions. That is why many of them are held in contempt within the South Asian community.
Some of them were even so shameless as to ask me time and again why I was always hammering away at racism – especially that in mainstream media. When I would ask them if what I was writing was wrong, they would admit it was the truth, but would add: “But why do you have write about it?” How stupid was that!
Interestingly, when I would tell some of them that they didn’t have to pick up my free paper if they didn’t like what I wrote, they would respond: “But everybody reads it!”
The list of the “wars” I waged against individuals and institutions and mainstream media that attacked South Asians over the past 20 years would be TOO LONG to mention here.
But the one piece that I would like to reproduce this week is the fight – by emails – that I had with the then-editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun that I carried in a front-page story in this newspaper back in October of 2006 that caused a huge sensation in the community – and one that led to Vancouver Sun and other mainstream media to stop discrimination against Sikhs.
I also constantly highlighted how a MINOR negative news item on Sikhs would be prominently displayed on the FRONT PAGE of the Vancouver Sun while a MAJOR negative news item on white guys would be buried INSIDE the newspaper!
It seemed that the mainstream media’s mentality was the same as it was in 1914 when they whipped up racism against the Komagata Maru passengers.
Indeed, it would be stupid of us to think all is cool now – we still have to remain on guard because the fact is that racism is still very much alive and kicking in Canada.
JUST this week, on Wednesday night, Vancouver Sun put up a story titled “Man who packed loaded gun in his man-purse hopes to avoid going to jail – Glenn Sheck’s lawyer asks for sentence to be stayed due to unreasonable court delays,” on its website.
In the comments section, a comment by “Tracy Foran” read:
“Is that a Sikh name?
“In favor of deportation, for him and his family. If they want to raise a criminal they should do it in their own country. They want a better life? They want to live in Canada? Then raise your children to respect the same values that bloody well brought you here!”
How come nobody says something like, “Oh, another white person! Deport them to Europe right away,” whenever crimes committed by them are reported? In that case, the websites would be FULL of such comments.
Fortunately, there are many decent white Canadians around. One of them, “Carli Rachel,” reacted to that comment with this:
“Actually it is a German surname, reasonably common among people born in Canada and the USA. But great job exposing yourself as a racist.”
WELL, below is the October 14, 2006 item that you should go through carefully.
Remember the famous saying: “”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
PUTTING SIKHS IN A BAD LIGHT?
Editor-in-chief of Vancouver Sun just doesn’t get it!
By RATTAN MALL
Last Saturday night, two men were involved in a shooting just outside a house in the 12500-block of 70 th Avenue in Surrey. Both were taken to hospital with very serious injuries. Police said no other parties were involved in the incident.
Both the Vancouver Sun and the Province in their reports on this incident highlighted the fact that SIKHS were involved. The Sun’s heading was: “Two men seriously injured after shooting outside house where Sikhs were gathered.”
The Globe and the Mail, on the other hand, did not identify the men as Sikhs in their report.
This is just the type of biased slant that has led to Canadians mistakenly believing that Indo-Canadians, and Sikhs in particular, are responsible for most of the crime in the Lower Mainland. Readers may recall the survey that brought out this wrong impression although most crimes are committed by white guys.
When I read the story on Monday, I sent an email to Vancouver Sun Editor-in-chief Patricia Graham, who launched a shocking personal attack against me instead of addressing the issue, which is:
After over 100 years in B.C., why is it still necessary to identify Sikhs by their religion every time there is a NEGATIVE story?
Anyway, we had a 40-minute exchange of emails on this topic and I will let you, the readers, judge what kind of an atmosphere prevails in the Vancouver Sun:
#1. RATTAN MALL:
This is to bring to your notice the heading in your newspaper:
“Two men seriously injured after shooting outside house where Sikhs were gathered.”
Do you guys ever give headings such as:
“Two men seriously injured after shooting outside house where CHRISTIANS were gathered”?
Indeed, if you did, your paper would be filled with the word CHRISTIAN(S) for negative stories.
Why don’t you STOP THIS RACISM?
I eagerly await your response – as do my newspaper’s readers.
The Indo-Canadian Voice
#2. PATRICIA GRAHAM:
You continue to see things where nothing exists.
#3. RATTAN MALL:
Also, Patricia, you just don’t seem to get it – which is a real tragedy.
As a white person, why would you give a damn how the Sikhs suffer because of your distorted and biased approach to news when it comes to non-whites or non-Christians?
#4. PATRICIA GRAHAM:
Being a white person doesn’t disqualify me.
As for you, you lack credibility. You rant rather than reason. You are only interested in setting up bogeymen to raise your own profile. And we all remember you trying to get a job here.
#5. RATTAN MALL:
Patricia, you are REALLY a PETTY MINDED WOMAN. I could never imagine a person of your calibre stooping so low as to write: “And we all remember you trying to get a job here.”
Yes, those times were different when Ian Haysom had the vision to pursue a multicultural policy. Even then I faced racism in your paper – as I once wrote about the Rafays murder case in The VOICE in which your bigwigs believed the white suspect’s father that I had misrepresented myself as a Province reporter – until I produced a recording (thanks to the taperecorder in my pocket) that clearly showed that I had introduced myself as a Vancouver Sun reporter.
And my not getting a job at the time in your all-white paper just PROVES YOUR RACISM! You only want bootlickers – you don’t want honest ethnic reporters!
Have I ever asked you for a job?
Shame on you!
I think you should have the decency to apologize for your low remarks.
I will produce all this in my paper to let the readers know the facts and judge for themselves.
#6. PATRICIA GRAHAM:
As long as you reproduce ALL of it.
#7. RATTAN MALL:
You bet I will – I am not like your selective-type reporting.
Have a great day.
I really hope you seriously reconsider your approach to headings. I am not a Sikh but I know how they feel about it – the hurt – and that is what I am trying to get through to you.
#8. PATRICIA GRAHAM
All of it? Without one of your self-serving lead-ins? I shall see.
“Self-serving lead-ins”? And what do the Vancouver Sun reporters and editorial writers do?
So, the Vancouver Sun doesn’t mind reporting and presenting news and views as they feel like, BUT when someone else does it – especially The VOICE – they would dare to dictate to us how we should report news!
Secondly, I would like Patricia to know that I worked for an internationally renowned newspaper – The Times of India – as a special correspondent – and not just for a mere regional paper like hers.
I still hope that she or her successor (hopefully the white-staffed Vancouver Sun will have an editor-in-chief who really understands multiculturalism) will see the light sooner rather than later instead of getting into petty ego trips. I have seen many editors-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun come and go.
As far as my credibility goes, readers of The VOICE (including the readers of our online paper www.voiceonline.com all around the world) can provide a resounding reply to that. So can a host of contributors. I don’t need to say anymore.