Difficult Conversations: The First Step to Tough Changes in Systemic Racism

By Hayley Montes

In order to properly combat racism, we must first understand and recognize the racist tendencies and beliefs that are often hidden within plain sight and embedded within the foundations of our society. Racism is more than just having prejudices against skin colour and hair type; in fact, racism runs so much deeper than what meets the eyes, and it is systemic. The system, including that in Canada and the United States, was created to benefit certain groups. The fight against racism is not only about checking stereotypes and ending bigoted comments, but also about dismantling a system that was created to oppress and marginalize people.

The system that society functions on capitalizes on the notion that someone must always receive the shorter end of the stick and that someone must always end up at the bottom of the food chain. The term “dog eat dog” world had to have come from somewhere, right? One such example of this issue presented is in the article The Italian American Table, where Simone Cinotto notes how upon their arrival to the New York area, Italian immigrants were viewed as lower class and were often criticized for their cultural practices, mainly to do with their diets. However, when Puerto Rican immigrants began to relocate in the New York area, those same Italian immigrants began to “criticize behaviours for which they had been criticized only a few years earlier” (pg. 84, Cinotto). This example displays the flaw in categorizing human beings into distinct boundaries, as these perceptions are arbitrary and subject to change. Placing humans into different categories only creates a divide among them. No one wants to be left behind or be placed at the bottom; in turn, this results in a snowballing effect of racism and discrimination.

All things considered, racism is a difficult topic to navigate. It is one of those topics that people avoid because it can be uncomfortable, but the truth is, we need to have these uncomfortable conversations in order to move forward and be better than those in the past. While racism and discrimination may not be as blatantly in our face in Canada in comparison to some other places in the world, it is still an issue present right here, right now. In fact, the reason why I refuse to turn a blind eye to this difficult topic, or shy away from having difficult conversations, is because I have experienced and witnessed racism and discrimination firsthand, and so have many of my loved ones. It is not enough to be silent and wait for things to get better. In order to combat racism, we must understand and recognize that racism is not an issue of the past. It is present, and unless we continue to have difficult conversations, it will continue to be an issue in the future. 

Works Cited 

Cinotto, S. (2013). “The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City.” Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt3fh46s

Hayley Montes is a fourth year KPU student majoring in anthropology. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, baking all sorts of pastries, and reading tarot cards for fun. She is also an avid Canucks fan and hopes to one day become an elementary school teacher. She believes that educating young minds will help aid in creating a better world for all.