IS RACISM ALIVE AND WELL IN CALGARY? YOU BET IT IS: JUST ASK A CABBIE!
Anyone including the White Anglo-Saxon males can easily be a victim of racism: Just ask my dearly departed grandfather. Upon his arrival here in 1906 his employability was hampered by signs everywhere that read “Help Wanted: no Englishmen need apply”.
You might want to call that reverse discrimination—a common misnomer in face of the reality that there is no such thing as “reverse discrimination”. It is pure discrimination and racism no matter the victim’s ethnic background. It is still racism.
Flash forward three generations and there I am driving a cab in pursuit of a college education. After graduation, I began working in Alberta’s oilfields and quickly discovered an unbelievably shocking level of racism throughout Alberta.
I shocked at the incidence of racism everywhere, particularly in housing and employment. Compared to other provinces where I lived, Alberta landlords and employers were cherry picking the race of their choice with impunity, for unlike the rest of Canada, human rights laws were archaic and unenforced on a variety of political pretexts.
The taxi industry was brutal and stood out as the poster boy for racism anywhere in Canada. It was a regular occurrence for me to see customers at taxi stands leaning to check the skin color of a cab’s driver before hiring. They were not infrequently belligerent when I told such customers to take the first cab in the que.
I had my own taxi and as such, would hire drivers. I was then with Red Top Taxi a white man only company. Being a Baha’i I was not about to get racist in my hiring practices.
In 1984 I found myself in trouble with the company over my hiring a person of color. I stood my ground and went to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The commission told me that white persons could not complain on behalf of visible minorities and if my religion were an obstacle, I should work for another broker or start my own company.
In other words, it was obvious that the government of the day was unclear of the concept that members of the Ku Klux Klan were not qualified as intake officers for the commission.
Both Calgary’s taxi brokers and local politicians were brazenly racist to the extreme. One manager said “I’m not prejudiced, I simply hate their guts” while a city councilor walked up to a group of company managers in my presence and blurted “You boys don’t need to worry, we’ll (city council) take care of those turban heads for you.” It was obvious where council’s in camera debates were heading.
It was clearly obvious that cab drivers—most of whom by the mid 1980’s were visible minorities, had to cope with politicians who were publicly champions of racial equality and in camera racists from the word go.
That generation of political leadership is now a thing of the past, for children of today are racially colorblind. Kids today are noticeably intolerant of racist attitudes. It clearly shows that extermination of racism begins with the education the suckling generation and the public in general.
Society can’t even begin to reconcile with oppressed minorities. Reconciliation simply doesn’t work. Instead embrace each other’s racial and cultural heritage, for true reconciliation is through embracement and not apologies for past wrongs.
For example, why not instruct school boards to teach the First Nations language of the tribe where the school board is located and name a street or other landmark after DR PETER HENDERSON BRYCE —a champion of native rights.