Time for change

If we could see the world through the eyes of our children, we might be better off, writes Chris Hunt

My son sits beside me on the couch.  His head, warm and improbably heavy, rests on my shoulder.  We are watching a cartoon, the name of which escapes me.  I should know it as it’s probably the fifth time I’ve seen it during the past month.

Our unwatched streaming library was an early causality during this war of attrition against COVID-19.

My son sighs and looks to the window. 

“Daddy?  Can I go outside and play?”

I follow his gaze.  The trees sway in a gentle breeze and children quietly play in the grass.  I don’t know what to tell him. 

Though the landscape looks the same as it has for as long as I’ve lived here, the truth is I don’t recognize the world anymore.

George Floyd’s cruel death at the hands of those who were supposed to protect him, to protect all of us, ignited a wildfire of controversy.

The world demanded change. It screamed for it.  American cities burned for it and for a moment it looked like change had a chance.

Since the initial outcry, it seems things haven’t changed at all.  Arguably they’ve gotten worse.

And I’m not surprised.  After all, we’ve been here before. 

I wasn’t even a teen when the Rodney King riots happened, but I remember LED_A burning.  I remember the demand for change.  I had hope then too.

That was three decades ago.

These instances happened in the U.S, but we have our own issues here too.  Even in Ottawa. 

Back in 2005, Chad Aiken was an 18-year-old kid driving his mother’s Mercedes when he was pulled over and harassed by police. 

He launched a human rights complaint, and as part of the settlement Ottawa Police agreed to track racial statistics on traffic stops. The results were telling. 

According to the data, people perceived as Middle Eastern were 3.3 times more likely to be pulled over than your average person.

Black people were 2.3 times more likely to be pulled over.

Pedestrian stops were also supposed to tracked, however the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal declined to force police to track such data, citing expense and difficulties in implementing a tracking system.

This surprised me, as one would presume the best way to make change to is understand the problem, and one of the best ways to do that is to study it.

But even then, discrimination of any sort is hard to understand.  And that’s the real issue. 

The only childhood conversation I had about racism occurred at school.  We had new students, a brother and sister from Somalia, and one of them said they hated white people. 
The class reacted pretty much as you’d expect. A lot of raised voices and harsh words.

The teacher however, quieted us down and initiated a discussion.

No finger pointing, no rebuke.  She just asked why.  They explained they’d gone to school in Europe where they were abused by the students often in front of the teachers, who did nothing.

The class was quiet after that.  We understood, to a point.  They didn’t hate white people.  They hated being hated. 

I don’t recognize the world outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s changed.  What’s changed is maybe I actually see it as it really is. 

Change won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. But it must start somewhere and there’s no time like the present.

As we look out the window, I tell my son there are people in the world who don’t like other people because of the colour of their skin, their gender or their beliefs.  I ask him how he feels about that.

This is his response:
“Daddy, people are different but they’re not actually different. We’re all just people.  Mommy and I already spoke about this.”

I smile and tell him to go play.  If only we could all see the world through the eyes of a child.