Opinion Column

Racist protest in Vancouver a sign we haven’t learned from history

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

Worldwide Coalition against Islam members are escorted to a bus by police after holding a rally at Calgary's City Hall in this June 25, 2017 file photo. The group is planning to attend a rally with other far-right organizations, in Vancouver this Saturday. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia Network)

Worldwide Coalition against Islam members are escorted to a bus by police after holding a rally at Calgary's City Hall in this June 25, 2017 file photo. The group is planning to attend a rally with other far-right organizations, in Vancouver this Saturday. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia Network)

After last week’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., many of us in Canada were shocked at the violence and grieving the death of the counter-protester but felt relieved that we were not in the States and talked about how much different things are here. But, as it turns out, things are unfortunately not that different.

This Saturday, a rally organized by several far-right groups is planned in Vancouver. Among them is the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, which was the centre of a clash at Calgary’s City Hall in June where the counter-protesting group Calgary Anti-Fascist Action came out to voice their opposition. Organization of counter-protests is already well underway in Vancouver for Saturday’s demonstration.

Counter-protests are important; they are a visible sign that we will not turn a blind eye to hatred in our communities and allow these vile messages to be shouted on our streets.

However, we need to look deeper within our selves and consider more carefully how we’re teaching our children. We’ve done so much work to heal the pain of the past and yet our culture has devolved into one of Internet memes and quick, thoughtless online debates. If you doubt extreme views exist (on just about any topic), just chime in on a Twitter debate on a sensitive issue even if they haven’t actually done any reading or research on it.

Online, people feel emboldened to say things they might think twice about in person. After awhile, this hateful online talk can start to feel normal enough to repeat on the steps of City Hall.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, we said, never again. But, the horrors that have been whispered in secret are once again boiling up. It’s difficult not to feel fear. Not to wonder how we, as a society, have failed and fallen so far as to advocate that white people should only breed with themselves, in order to preserve their race and to spread hatred about those of other religions, races or beliefs.

Anyone who actually believes that white people are oppressed needs to re-read all of their history books. If we are to raise a more loving next generation, we need to teach them the hard lessons from history – what can happen when hatred like this is fed and supported. We need to do the hard work of going beyond the 140-character exchanges and Internet memes and read the stories of those who have lived through the unimaginable.

It is the only way we have a chance of learning from history.