What Does Racism and Hate Look Like?

Expressions of racism and hate can be subtle or obvious, intentional or unintentional and can operate on several levels ranging from an individual or group to institutions and society at large. These acts can include things like destruction or defacement of property, violence and threats, or racial jokes or exclusion. The most common of these are likely in the form of jokes or teasing. What often is brushed aside as “only joking” may in fact be very hurtful to the individual or group targeted whether or not they are present.  When groups or individuals are demeaned in this way, they are devalued. It then becomes much easier to degrade something seen as lower than yourself.

This general attitude of disrespect and intolerance can spread and become normalized and ingrained in society. This is why it is important to recognize and challenge even these subtle expressions of racism or discrimination so they are not perpetuated and/or escalated. Sometimes a lack of understanding can result in unintended discrimination that the proponent is not even aware of.

Racsim Free Edmonton offers these insights:

You might see or hear:

Have You Ever Committed Racism or Discrimination?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have been a perpetrator of racism and discrimination. Find out how you can help change your perceptions and find mutual respect here.

  • Believed and/or acted as if you were better than someone else because of the colour of their skin, their accent, or their cultural practices?
  • Oppressed others of your own racial group because you believed in the negative racial stereotypes and prejudices presented by others?
  • Excluded someone from a group or chosen to not work with someone because you were intimidated by, afraid or suspicious of their race?
  • Openly threatened, assaulted, or called someone names because they were of a different race?
  • Left a social event or a public place because a person or a group of people of a different race were also there?
  • Assumed that a person was unintelligent or that they could not speak English because of the way they looked, their accent, or the sound of their name?

Race is a social construct that divides people into groups, based on physical characteristics (such as skin colour, etc.), origin or ancestry. This term raises debates. Many people state that ‘race’ is meaningless and the acceptance of it as a legitimate category has been harmful. Instead, some people have used the word ‘ethnicity’ or ‘ethnic identity’ (these are used interchangeably). In human rights law the word ‘race’ is used because the courts have determined that what is important is not the actual physical characteristic of a person, but how the perpetrator perceives the person.

Racism is a set of mistaken assumptions, opinions and actions resulting from the belief that one group of people categorized by physical characteristics or ancestry are inherently superior to another. Racism can happen one on one, or it may be practiced by groups, organizations or institutions.

Racial Discrimination As one of the many signatories to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism, in 1969, Canada agreed to the following definition of racial discrimination found in Article 1: ‘Racial discrimination’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

Hate Activity is any expression of hate or hostility towards a group or individual, based on things such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

Hate Crime is a criminal offence, motivated by a person’s hate, prejudice or bias against an identifiable group or individual. This includes, for example, people who share a common language, ethnicity, skin colour, gender, age or religion.

Hate Propaganda is a type of hate crime. Spoken or written words that encourage or promote hate, dislike, or harm towards a person, a specific group or groups.

Discrimination happens when people are treated unfavourably because of prejudice, especially prejudice based on things like race, gender, class, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

Racism and Hate and Our Human Rights

In Canada and in each territory and province, there are Acts and Codes that govern and enforce the rights of Canadians under the law.

Under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and The Canadian Human Rights Act,  all Canadians are to be free of discrimination and have rights  to protection and benefits under the law regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

The Citizenship Act stipulates that all Canadians by birth or choice have equal status, rights, powers and privileges and the same obligations, duties, and liabilities.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act recognizes the diverse cultures that make up Canadian society and secures their rights to preserve and enhance this multicultural heritage while working to achieve economic, social, cultural, and political equality.

In British Columbia, these rights are protected and enforced under the BC Human Rights Code through the BC Human Rights Tribunal. These codes recognize that human being are equal in worth and dignity and have rights to the same freedoms, which includes freedom from discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil, marital or family status, age, religion, political belief, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, or disability. In BC, if a person has a complaint, the BC Human Rights Clinic can advise you. A complaint would be filed with the BC Human Right Tribunal.

Under the Criminal Code, a hate-bias crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by the suspect’s bias, prejudice or hate against an identifiable group based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.

In British Columbia, the BC Hate Crime Team has a mandate to identify, investigate and prosecute hate-motivated crimes. Police and Crown Council work hand in hand to fulfill this mandate. In consultation with stakeholders and community groups, they developed a policy guide that outlines their roles and responsibilities.

What We’re Doing About Racism and Hate In BC

Organizing Against Racism and Hate is one of the elements of a provincial initiative that is funded through Embrace BC, charged with promoting multiculturalism and eliminating racism in British Columbia. The focus of this effort is currently working with more remote regions of the province to build community capacity, engage them in discussions about racism and hate, and to begin to organize networks to share and develop resources in order to more fully address the issues locally.

In Our Communities - The Respect Network

Across the Okanagan Valley, up to the Shuswap and over to the Thompson region, efforts are being made to organize our communities against racism and hate. The Respect Network was developed to facilitate this process and to encourage others to get involved in the Network and in their communities.

The Respect Network believes that everyone has an obligation to respond to incidents of racism and hate, educate themselves, and model appropriate behaviour and attitudes in our homes, workplaces, recreation, and in all facets of community life. We believe that the basis for building inclusive and accessible communities is through mutual respect.

Critical Incident Response Model (CIRM)

An earlier provincial initiative encouraged communities to develop a Critical Incident Response Model (CIRM) to determine protocols to follow when incidences occurred.

Some examples of Community Protocols can be found below

Find out more about what YOU can do