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Racism and discrimination: where are we headed?

Racism is an awful reality of life, something no government or society has yet been able to eradicate. Racism is an awful reality of life, something no government or society has yet been able to eradicate. Racists and their ilk attack something that is intrinsic to human life and human personhood, something that is sacred.

Racists and their ilk attack something that is intrinsic to human life and human personhood, something that is sacred.

This week we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous “I have a dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impassioned plea to a crowd of 250,000 and to a nation of millions that there should be equality between black men and white men, white girls and black girls.

In many respects, here in North America, we have come a long way since that speech 50 years ago. Society (more or less) does not tolerate racism, even though racists still exist at the fringes. And our governments too, largely because of the work of King and his followers, have enacted civil rights legislation to clamp down on racism.

Looking back, we see good intentions in the government’s attempt to eradicate racism. And we see that society has reacted positively to changes (although I would point out that, in fact, society changed first, and then government responded by enacting laws that were popular). So, 50 years later, where to from here?

Some people will point out that racism still exists. Indeed it does. As mentioned above, there remain repugnant racists who revel in the margins of society. But human rights scholars, professionals and commissioners go one step further – they argue that racism is not just on the fringe; it’s still very much present in our society, in our institutions and in ourselves. It’s systemic. We are told that we don’t even know it exists, we don’t see it – it’s just there.

When it comes to policing racism, we’ve come a long way. But perhaps we’ve come too far. Our professional human rights experts are so eager to expunge racism that they are beginning to see it in places it might not exist.

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