Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

What Kind of City Do We Want?

By: James Jeff McLaren
Major Topic:
Minor Topic:

Opinion piece on the need to fight racism in Kingston

Recent events, internationally, nationally, and locally, point to an increase in incidents of racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes. Many reports from reputable news sources confirm this new reality.

This is particularly important to me because my family is bi-racial. I see the recent trend and wonder if my children will suffer unjust prejudices or violence. My family and I moved back to Canada in great part because Canada’s multicultural policy would free my children from prejudices experienced elsewhere. So far our Canadian experience has produced a wondrous transformation in my oldest son. But I fear the recent uptick in expressions of racism.

Formal racist state policies have been coming to an end for over 200 years. Abolitionists in the 19th century, the Second World War, and many liberation movements in the 20th century have generally appeared to put an end to overtly racist state polices. But even today this project is still not complete in several parts of the world. Here in our community, while racism is not as overt as these past mistakes, racism has evolved and continues in more subtle and hidden ways. I mean subtle and hidden from people who are not the targets – racism is still very blatant and obvious to its victims.

This leads me to think about what kind of city do we want to live in? Do we want a city where racism is OK as long as it doesn’t happen to me or as long as I don’t have to see or be aware of it? Or do we want a city without racism: a proudly multicultural city with equity for all and where people are judged on the content of their character – as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed?

This question is of particular concern for Kingston because our population will start to plateau in about 10 years and then start to decrease. There is high correlation between population growth and economic growth in advanced economies. It is a concern for our livability too. An increase in xenophobia, the hatred and/or fear of people from other countries, is an increase in negative qualities that are not conducive to community living. It is also a concern of justice, dignity, humanity, and human rights.

Do newer subtler expressions of racism, xenophobia, and racial discrimination still exist? Yes. They include micro-aggressions, stigmatizations, stereotyping, implicit bias, racial profiling, and under-privileging. These examples often go unrealized by privileged groups but they do immense harm to the victims.

The City of Kingston has been at the forefront of anti-racism action and policy. The City takes very seriously respect for human rights and our duties and obligations under the Ontario and Canadian Human Rights Codes. Fortunately, with a culture of continuous improvement we can always do better. This is especially important now, in light of resurgent events south of the border that are trying to unjustly legitimize racist and xenophobic policies and expressions. Those who know that racism is wrong must also adapt and challenge the old and the newer and increasingly popular forms of racism arising in our world.

Added on: July 31, 2017
By: James Jeff McLaren
© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren