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

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

The BC Wildfire Service is urging caution amid forecasts of strong winds throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre. (BC Wildfire Service photo)
Strong winds forecasted for Kamloops Fire Centre, BC Wildfire service urges caution

“Wind can cause grass fires to spread very quickly,” says the BC Wildfire Service

Richard Cannings
Penticton MP weighs in on federal budget

Budget caters to the wealthy, but Richard Cannings is happy with $10/day childcare

Are you considering any ambitious home renovation projects? The Okanagan Regional Library can help. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Redecorate your home with help from the library

Plenty of resources in place for home decoration projects

Wife and husband duo Alexis Esseltine and Timothy Scoon n took over Penticton’s Tin Whistle Brewing in October, 2020 and are making their mark on the iconic brew-spot by announcing a new look and an environmental focus. (Contributed)
Penticton’s original brewery goes eco-friendly under new ownership

Tin Whistle Brewing is now one of the first certified carbon neutral breweries in B.C.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Vernon RCMP are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who allegedly pointed a firearm at two people outside a downtown business Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Contributed)
Man who brandished firearm in downtown Vernon sought by police

Video surveillance image shows man pointing what investigators believe to be a handgun April 10

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RauDZ pop-up patio located on Pandosy Street in front of The Okanagan Table. (Contributed: Audrey Surrao)
Kelowna restaurant gets creative to adjust to new health orders

The owners of RauDZ Regional Table open ‘pop-up patio’ to adjust to health order banning indoor dining

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

The City of Vernon has placed 30th in Macleans.ca’s poll of the 415 best communities to live in Canada. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan city high on Macleans’ list of best places to live in Canada

Vernon ranked No. 30, fifth-highest in province and best ranking outside Vancouver Island; Halifax No. 1

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

The Regional District of North Okanagan is asking Vernon-based Tolko Industries to halt a planned cut block 500 metres above the Duteau Creek water intake, which provides 60 per cent of the Greater Vernon water supply April 22, 2021. (File photo)
Tolko urged to halt planned logging above Greater Vernon water supply

RDNO says planned cutblock above Duteau Creek could threaten 60 per cent of Vernon area water supply

Most Read