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OPINION: Learning tough lessons from a shocking incident of racism

Throughout the pandemic, a frequent response of mine to the question ‘how’ve you been doing?’ has been that I’m extremely grateful to be living in Kimberley during these crazy times. It’s felt almost like Kimberley has to a degree been sheltered from the brunt of COVID’s severity. We’ve had extremely low case counts, to the point where it can sometimes almost seem like COVID is a problem of elsewhere.

For the most part our businesses and restaurants have survived and I relish getting to go back and sit down and my favourite spots. The ski hill and our endless trails through exquisite natural settings I explore with my dog have done wonders to preserve my sanity.

Like the pandemic, Kimberley also sometimes feels like it’s immune to other problems of the greater world as well. The things that dominate mainstream media like mass shootings and other acts of unthinkable violence, social unrest and racism seem unfathomable in a small, charming town like this.

However, while not necessarily a totally naive notion, it also isn’t completely reflective of reality.

Jay Wiseman’s post in the Facebook group “Kimberley: About Town” expressing his outrage at four young boys stopping in front of his house to yell the N word at his three daughters is a stark and sobering reminder that Kimberley is not immune from the issue of racism.

The original post garnered 140 reactions, 82 comments and 100 shares at the time of writing. It’s re-post into Kimberley Cork Board has another couple hundred reactions, predominantly people expressing their shared outrage. Sentiments like: ‘this is unacceptable in today’s day and age,’ or ‘this isn’t the United States,’ abounded.

There are other comments that disagree with the latter, that express the unfortunate truth which is that racism isn’t a problem of elsewhere. It can and does creep in anywhere, even in small, charming towns.

I initially wrote a column to vent my frustration at what happened to Jay’s family. I then contacted him to make sure it was okay with him and his daughters that the newspaper was sharing the incident. Initially his daughters were not comfortable with it, and I understood and respected that.

However, he and his wife Natasha later reached out and we discussed it further and they decided to encourage me to go ahead and share the incident, sharing with me the belief that it needs to be known.

While I admittedly don’t have a solution on how to stop incidents like this from happening again, what I can do is voice my support for this family and share my hope that the horribly ugly action of these four young boys, can indeed spur some difficult conversations around town.

Parents need to talk to their children about these things, even if they can’t imagine their own child would do such a thing.

Jay in fact did later comment that he found out who the boys were after one of the parents saw the post, called the Wisemans and gave them the names of the other three, which led to Jay speaking with all their parents.

While I don’t know if these boys were students there, I spoke with Selkirk Secondary Principal Clint Dolgopol, who said:

“It’s concerning and sad to hear that this happened to Jay’s daughters. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming, inclusive school community.”

He said that there is indeed education in schools that focuses on anti-racism, bullying prejudice, discrimination and that their goal is to, “along with our parents and greater community, guide our students to be educated and kind citizens.”

And that’s the thing. As the dozens of comments and shares indicate, the majority of people in Kimberley recognize this incident as abhorrent and readily shared words of support for the family.

However, after speaking with Natasha it’s clear that this specific incident, while particularly egregious, is far from isolated. Her daughters, and other BIPOC people in Kimberley face acts of racism and ignorance every day, and the level of heartbreak she feels for her daughters is impossible to express.

So while the visible support on social media shows that many people are outraged by this, it remains to be a problem. And while I absolutely don’t know what should be done, my only goal was to use this platform I have to voice the support of the community and hopefully encourage whoever reads this to do some introspection and ask themselves how they truly feel about an incident like this. I believe the responsibility is on us all to work towards eliminating hate.


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