My second job in Lethbridge was cleaning carpets. My boss was racist.
One time, we went to a nearby reserve, but the person who booked us wasn’t home. My boss then implemented a surcharge for every reserve job we had. Plus he required the client to meet us in Lethbridge and we’d follow them to their house.
Here’s why that’s racist.
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Before I get to that though, I remember one time a client on one of the reserves mentioned that he worked at the school on the reserve. My boss asked him if he was the janitor. He was a teacher. It’s a reserve school. Most of the people who worked there were indigenous.
Anyhow, back to the surcharge.
We had plenty of white people who were no shows. But we never once had a white person surcharge. We never required white people to meet us then lead us to their house. And it didn’t matter how many times white people screwed us over.
My boss’s tendency to treat indigenous people all the same because of an individual’s actions wasn’t the only time I’ve seen this.
If an indigenous person steals from a store, mall security and store employees follow all indigenous people. No matter how many white people steal, white people aren’t followed because they’re white.
If an indigenous person panhandles, pedestrians assume panhandling is an indigenous activity. No matter how many white people panhandle, no one ever sees panhandling as a white activity.
If an indigenous person is publicly intoxicated, people assume public intoxication is an indigenous activity. No matter how many white people are publicly intoxicated, no one ever sees public intoxication as a white activity.
If an indigenous person is a bad rental tenant, landlords assume all indigenous people are bad tenants. No matter how many white people are bad tenants, landlords never create policies to avoid renting to white people.
If an indigenous person’s name show up in a police crime news release, people assume crime is an indigenous activity. No matter how many white names show up in police crime news releases, no one will see crime as a white activity.
Anytime we tie the colour of a person’s skin to their undesirable behaviour, we’re being racist, especially if we don’t do the same thing to white people.
It’s normal for store owners to worry about shoptlifting. It’s normal for pedestrians to be uncomfortable with panhandling. It’s normal for people to be uncomfortable around drunk people. It’s normal for landlords to worry about their property.
All of that is normal. But you need to be worried about it across the board, not just when black people, indigenous people, and other people of colour are in the room.
This is how white people perpetuate racism.