We All Lose When Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

by Lynne Fernandez

News of the racist posters taped throughout downtown have outraged Winnipeggers, and rightly so.  The hateful message these posters contained have no place in our society. Insidious and inherently violent, they inflict damage on more than one level.

The first sickening blow is felt by the individuals and communities these acts target – sickening because of the degree of ignorance and intolerance they contain. The violent impact of the message is such that it shakes Winnipeggers of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. But the second blow, although less violent, is also troubling.

The secondary effect these posters have had is to distract and deflect public discourse away from the business of the day. As an influential politician, Mr. Katz must be in the public eye and he must meet the public’s expectations as mayor. How well he does his job is certainly fair game in terms of media scrutiny and public discourse; in fact it is important that we have these discussions so the public can participate fully in democracy. With this latest flare up of racism, our attention was deflected from an important policy debate and we are now spending time and energy dealing with the fallout of such an unconscionable and cowardly deed.

This act, as the Free Press’s Bartley Kives so aptly describes, “constitutes the actions of a tiny minority of depraved, opportunistic people who would twist newspaper headlines toward their own benefit”. It is so unfortunate that so few can inflict such damage on so many levels.

We must get beyond racist/anti-Semitic attacks on minority groups and get back to a democratic and informed debate on things that matter to the general community. Otherwise we all lose.

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