In the last issue we did a story about the Journal de Montreal’s news piece on Chibougamau. In the article the people interviewed seemed to show a distinctly racist attitude towards the Cree. We gave coverage to it because at the Nation we believe such attitudes cannot go unquestioned or unreported. Mayor Bubar says his words were taken out of context. I believe him. My family knows this man as one who took in our niece when she attended school in Chibougamau. During that time we met with him regularly and found him to want to work with the Crees. He believes the people of the North should and have to work together in order to have a better life for all.
“Pat,” who remains anonymous in the Journal de Montreal story, is on the other hand a recognizable bigot. He feels that it’s not right if some Crees have a higher standard of living than he does. That situation somehow threatens him.
We don’t like people like “Pat.” Crees are no strangers to racism directed at them.
The reverse though is unfortunately a part of reality. When I went to Mistissini for the holidays I took a little trip into Chibougamau. In one of the bars I saw a young Cree man verbally abuse the other patrons.
He launched into a triage against the “white man.” He swore and shouted at the patrons of the bar. Not a single person got up and I could see the anger on their faces. I was ashamed of his actions and tried to talk to him. He wouldn’t listen but another Cree managed to get him out of the bar.
Such actions on both sides of the fence are unacceptable. I believe that all cultures and races have loudmouthed bigots and unfortunately they are the ones that we hear the most.
Racism is quite simply discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race, simply because of their race. One of the ways it grows is by such actions as the two examples above. Unless people talk about it and react to it, it will grow. I have heard other examples given by both Aboriginals and non-aboriginals of this type of behavior.
I point out though that not all people are like this. We must learn to distinguish between people and races.
No one likes to be the target of racism so why do we return it? It merely makes us part of the problem. It makes us become what we hate when we return bigotry with bigotry. Then we are no better than the people who are racist.
I ask that you help to make sure racism does not grow and be seen as a Cree trait. To paraphrase a saying, for a bad deed to happen all that is required is for men of good will to do nothing. I urge you all to do something. To take on racist attitudes where ever you see them and to tell the people practicing them that you find it unacceptable. The Nation has done so in the past on behalf of the Crees and will continue to do so in the future. I think it’s okay to pity a racist and hate the racism, but not the race. Remember, respect is always a two way street and act accordingly.