Sunday, 28 July 2013

On Racism

In The Footsteps Of our Race

I was watching CNN the other day and the topic was about racial prejudices and the plight of blacks and other minority races.  As a Ukrainian growing up in the forties, I can almost empathize with those who are on the receiving end of racial prejudice.  Mind you, I grew up on a farm in a very rural setting and was surrounded by other Ukrainians so I was not subjected to the painful bigotry and racial slurs that my father spoke about.  When he came to Canada, Ukrainians were ostracized and ridiculed. They were the “Bohunks”,  the “Galicians”, and whatever other derogatory term the superior English cared to label the poor peasant immigrants and  that came to Canada at the turn of the century. 

I did not hear those terms myself but I do remember being strapped for saying even a single Ukrainian word while I was on the school grounds.  Use of Ukrainian was cause for corporal punishment. In fact when I started school, because I knew no English, I was relegated to be a total mute for months, until I became proficient in the English language.  When we moved to the village for my grade nine, I was often teased for my Ukrainian accent.  (I still have it, I think, but in today’s multicultural society, I don’t think people notice it - or care anymore.) I do know that I have always felt that I needed to work harder than other folks to overcome the stigma of inferiority. I am still super-sensitive to those jokes and songs that depict Ukrainians as being dim-witted, slovenly, whiskey-swilling drunks in dirty coveralls and babushkas that are the source of “stupid” jokes in more sagacious society.

The way I see it, I don’t think any race, black, white or purple, has a monopoly on smart or stupid, good or bad, neat or slovenly, compassionate or mean, superior or inferior. Every race has its share of the good and the bad.  Every now and then, some person will rise out of the populace and leave some indelible imprint of him/herself that we find  fantastically great and admirable or absolutely terrible and atrocious.  The rest of us are then left to either try to bask in their shadow or to forever try hide from it. Both are difficult.

Would not life be wonderful if each and every one of us was judged solely on our own merits rather than on those of someone else - a single person or a whole race?  

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