A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)

VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

“Am I racist?”

It’s a question that has perhaps come up more than usual this year, as Black and Indigenous peoples took to the streets for Black Lives Matter protests this spring and summer.

In November, B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner asked the province’s residents to consider that question again as it launched an advertising campaign.

The large black signs with white writing have popped up across 23 B.C. communities, posing the question: “Am I racist?”

“Systemic racism is a difficult and urgent problem in B.C.,” said Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender. “Statistics show a rise in hate crimes in B.C., both gradually over the last decade and rapidly since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the province. We need to name the problem before we can solve it, and that starts when we confront our own, often subconscious, racial biases.”

And as of Monday, (Nov. 30), some signs dig deeper.

One now says “If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?” Another questions: “If I want to forget our province’s history, am I racist?”

Govender started her five-year term in September 2019, 17 years after B.C.’s last human rights commission was dismantled. She said that Canada can often be guilty of brushing racism under the rug.

“Canada has a reputation of being a safe place with minimal racism, but this does not truly reflect the history and present-day experiences of Indigenous and racialized people in this province and country,” Govender said. “I know it’s uncomfortable to recognize this racism and to start to work on it, but it’s crucial that we do so—because uprooting systemic racism starts when we change ourselves.”

According to the office, reported hate crimes in B.C. rose by 34 per cent between 2015 and 2018, and in the first nine months of 2020, Vancouver police reported a 116 per cent rise in hate crimes. Asian communities saw an even steeper rise as hate crimes targeting them rose from nine in 2019 to 88 in the first nine months of 2020, a 878 per cent spike.

The public launch of the “Am I racist?” campaign comes the day that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is scheduled to release her report, titled Addressing Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination in B.C. health care. The report stems from allegations of a racist blood alcohol guessing game played using Indigenous patients in a B.C. hospital.

READ MORE: B.C. launches investigation into allegations of racist blood-alcohol guessing game in ER

READ MORE: Long seen as radical, Black Lives Matter goes mainstream


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Racial injusticeracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Visit to Kluskus (Lhoosk’us):Part 2

As dark descended on this five-horse outfit, we found a place to camp

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in South Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Jim Hilton took a trip to Helmcken falls in Wells Gray park. (Jim Hilton Photo)
HILTON: Forests and human health, Part one

What can Quesnel take away from worldwide forestry programs

Mitch Love played his minor hockey in Quesnel before moving to the WHL and beginning his coaching career. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mitch Love, Team Canada, come up one game short

The Quesnel-born coach helped lead Canada to a silver medal at the World Juniors

Amy Newman (left) and castmate Rebecca Thackray parading around Barkerville in costume in 2018. Newman designed both gowns, which were both made of silk, and constructed her own gown. Thackray’s gown was made by a seamstress in Vancouver. Her camel-coloured velveteen cloak was made in Hong Kong, with pattern and fabric chosen by Newman. Her wool neckpiece/shawl was crocheted by a friend on Vancouver Island. The reticule/handbag was handmade by Newman, and her olive green shawl was ready-made, as were her elegant green leather gloves. (Photo Submitted)
Amy Newman wins international costume design award for Nam Sing film

The Nam Sing pack trip re-enactment took place in September 2019 in Barkerville

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read