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Racism in North America, then and now

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By Amanda Nguyen

The core beliefs of racism are that individuals can be divided into different categories based on the behaviour, or economic and political success of some individuals within the group of individuals. Researchers have found that these assumptions are incorrect. It has been found that there are more differences within the groups than differences between groups. Racism primarily affects people of colour.

Around the 1900s, Black people were discriminated against in Canada and the U.S. The first Black person to arrive in Canada was named Mathieu de Costa, an interpreter to the Micmac Nation. Costa arrived in the year of 1608. Ever since then, racism has grown to become a big problem. In America for centuries, Black people were slaves owned by White people. Degradation, violence, mistreatment and malnutrition, were features of Black people’s lives under slavery. The first slave that arrived in Canada was named Oliver Le Jeune in 1628. Oliver was captured at the age of six and was sent to Canada. This is an example of how slaves were captured and forced into slavery regardless of age. Slaves were used to do chores for White families. They were treated horribly.

Today, people of colour still face racism and stereotypes. Chinese people are assumed to be smart, intelligent, short, and “yellow.” Having small eyes would have people automatically assuming you’re Chinese (or Asian). Assumptions are why Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old teenage boy who is from Miami, Florida. He was on the youth football team at school. On February 26th, George Zimmerman was driving around the town and assumed Trayvon was dangerous only because he was young black man who had a hood on. He found that Trayvon was “suspicious.” Zimmerman felt threatened so he decided to shoot Trayvon. Zimmerman explained to the police that it was self-defence.

Young Black boys are assumed to be aggressive, dangerous and up to no good. This is an example of a stereotype Black people go through. They are assumed to be “dangerous.” White people are always assumed to be rich. Blonde girls are assumed to be dumb. Muslim people who grow beards are assumed to be terrorists only because of what happened during 9/11. These are some stereotypes of different groups of people.

Looking back on the history of the 1800s, overt racism was everywhere, and slavery was a major part of society. If the families were not happy with their slaves they were able to sell them. Harriet Tubman was a runaway slave who freed over 70 slaves with the Underground Railroad. Black people did not have equal rights as White people; this included the right to vote, schooling, employment, or the right to go to certain public places. Everything they did was limited and controlled. White people had much more freedom than Black people. Since Black people were captured over to Canada and turned into slaves, they did not make a good living. They worked all day and night cleaning and taking on commands their masters demanded them to do. They were not fed full meals because they were only fed left-over dinner from their masters.

The slaves were not treated with respect, they were beaten and whipped by their masters if they were to do something wrong or if they were to disobey commands. Eventually, after the abolition of slavery, and after the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, Black people started to receive the same rights as White people. They were able to vote, able to go to public locations without any difficulties, and they were also able to go to the same school as White people.

Some things about racism have changed for the better. Now, there are organizations and laws that have been formed to work against discrimination against, and unequal treatment of, people of colour. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Human Rights legislation, and hate laws are evidence of this change. Even though it may be impossible to entirely prevent the amount of racism and discrimination people of colour receive, some improvements are possible.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is an organization that tries to interact with individuals who feel like they have been discriminated against due to their skin, sex, religion, age, family status, disability, etc. They try to decrease the amount of discrimination people face and they try to make a change for citizens. Even though these organizations exist and overt racism isn't as common anymore, there are also things that have not changed, like the racist thoughts and racist comments people still have in mind. Although these are more difficult to eliminate, there have been other positive changes to race relations

Amanda Nguyen is a student at Parkdale Collegiate Institute