Isn’t it sad when we interpret a friends’ compliment as racism?

This CBC article by Mr. Philip Drost is entitled “UNB soccer player speaks out against racism through personal story”:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/cierra-thomas-racism-1.5705426

The article features Ms. Reds Cierra Thomas.

What is her story of racism?

Well, basically, the following two points:

1.      People in NB asks her: “where are you from?” (she happens to be from Ontario).

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2.      And when she was 16, “One of her friends gave a toast and called her one of the most beautiful Black girls in school”.

When someone asks us from where we come from (other dorm, street, village, province/territory, or other country), it is usually meant to engage a friendly conversation. It shows an interest in our story. Sometimes people assume we are originally from X when we actually come from Y. So what? Why do we always need to read every gesture and every word through the lens of racism? Plus, if we reply and take the time to ask the persons about their own stories of where they come from, we become culturally richer.

Plus, even if we encounter true racism in life, so what? Who hasn’t heard a hurtful word? In such situations, we can sometimes resort to humour to educate others, as needed. We can decide to ignore and learn to develop a thick skin. We may perhaps take a wait and see approach to better assess a repetitive situation, etc. Who knows? We could also decide to share our feelings with the person in question, if the latter is a friend we care about, etc.

Bambi is saying all this while recalling personal stories of what could be racism or just negative comments in life. For instance, one story she can think of occurred when she was 16 herself, like Ms. Thomas’ incident with her friend. One guy, at her school in Beirut, used to tease her by calling odd names. Once, he called her “the municipality’s broom” (because of her curly hair). She sarcastically replied, calling him the name of the largest wild animal she knew of at that time (it was not a moose, although much bigger than a deer 😊). Well, this boy is a middle-aged man now. Interestingly, he still recalls this school story. A few years ago, he asked a friend about that small girl with lots of hair who called him animal. He wanted to know what happened to her because the last school year ended abruptly. Her friend told him that Bambi also survived war and lives in Canada. It is thoughtful of him to be concerned. Well, it is Bambi’s turn today to wish/pray that he survived the Beirut explosion, along with his family.     

To come back to the CBC article, the irony is Ms. Thomas’ own contradiction in two of her statements on racism:

“That I couldn’t be just beautiful or attractive,” she wrote.  “That I was only beautiful because I was black. Again, the colour of my skin put me on a different standard.” 

In contrast, earlier in the text, she said:

“One of my favourite quotes from an activist is, being Black in 2020 is being stressed about the pandemic, worried about your health and your well-being, and then going on and watching another person of colour being murdered on TV,” Thomas said. 

“You have all of that, and you still have racism.”

On one hand, Ms. Thomas is telling us that watching another person of colour murdered on TV is the ultimate stressor in the life of an already stressed “Black in 2020”. On the other hand, when a friend tells her she is “the most beautiful black girl in school”, she tells us that the latter is the utmost experience of racism.

What about the comment of her friend about her beauty? By slightly working on her attitude, could she perhaps start seeing that this comment may have been meant to be kind, despite its clumsiness?

And what about if the person murdered on TV happened to be from another ethnolinguistic background, this would not be distressing too?

As for the CBC’s journalist, are these the worst examples of racism he could find in our province 😊? If so, thank you for reassuring Bambi, once again, that New Brunswickers are far from being racist. Indeed, Canadians are among the nicest people in the world (even if a handful of individuals here and there may be truly racist, toxic even, or literally criminals).

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