“You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” professed Ghandi, a man who saw the world as a whole. He acted on his insights and fought for the rights of others- an honourable task for an Indian when racism ran so rampant. It is true that Canada has grown significantly from its years of segregation and of racial prejudice; but how far have we, as a society, really come? We need not look very far to secure our answer, but we must look under the surface of media, see between the lines of dialogue, and view our own behaviours more closely.
When I began to think of a worthy topic for this essay, I never thought I would be writing on racism. To be honest, growing up in Toronto with many other cultures taught me to appreciate the uniqueness of one another. Cultures fascinate me, and I adore the experience of trying new foods. Needless to say, I was shocked when five months ago I moved from the big city to a small town of 900 people. It wasn’t the downsizing that troubled me, but the closed mindedness of my new neighbours. Not everyone is so, but I’ve heard enough racial comments to last a lifetime in such a short period.
Opening my eyes to the racism that still survives, and learning of a Black Durham student killed near my childhood school, I decided that this was a topic of importance. A young, Black male dressed in a baseball cap and black hooded jacket sits slouched on the bus; clearly a self-portrait taken on public transit. The man gives an almost grimace towards the camera. It’s a look that screams of a tough facade. Using this picture to represent a victim of gun violence would lead readers to negative assumptions. Instead of seeing that
Gaethan Kitadi was “an incredibly kind and ambitious man who treated others with dignity and the utmost respect,” (as written on a Durham College Facebook page), he is depicted as a thug or someone to be feared. Although the photo was lifted from Kitadi’s Twitter profile, the context of the photo is not made clear. Yet this is the impression we are given of a young man shot in the lobby of his apartment building on his 20th birthday. Toronto Police Service Det. -Sgt. Justin VanderHeyden made it clear during a news conference that day that Gaethan was unknown to police and,”clearly didn’t lead a lifestyle that would lead him into this.
Then why did the majority of the media choose to use that photograph of the Sports Administration student? This is a subtle example of discrimination in mass media. To prove this point is not an objective interpretation, Global News republished their report with the lines, “An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that the shooting occurred in a Toronto Community Housing apartment building. The incident actually occurred in a private apartment building. ” Where did the information about Community Housing surface? No other articles reported this, so did Global News assume this was the case based on the circumstance?
Additionally, Jennifer Pagliaro (Twitter handle @jpags), a Toronto Star crime reporter tweeted, “20-year-old Gaethan Kitadi shot dead in Scarborough last night. He is the 52nd person to be killed in Toronto this year. ” The response Pagliaro received was a speedy one by many who wanted the tweet corrected. Kitadi’s apartment and site of death is actually within the Toronto border, and to be more precise, located in the more prestigious Upper Beaches area- far from the negative stigma of Scarborough. Once brought to Pagliaro’s attention she then posted, “Correction on one thing – shooting not quite in Scarborough. At Kingston Rd. Main St. in Old Toronto. ” It seemed it was hard for Jennifer to make a simple correction, and her subtext is apparent in the way she words her sentence.
However it did not go unnoticed; Schreiber wrote, “What do you mean not quite in Scarborough. It’s not in Scarborough! Actually it’s in the upper Beaches. Write that. ” Although the details surrounding Gaethan Kitadi’s case are still unclear, why were so many simple details mistaken in the media? There are only two scenarios that make sense; either reporters are too eager to release stories first and overlook details, or they begin to assume and have their biases leak into the press.
If reporters sincerely made human errors, that still does not explain the wide use of a menacing photo of the victim. Had Kitadi been White, would the media have used such an intimidating photo? Although this is an isolated case, a closer look at media would reveal racism, prejudice, and discrimination to be a sociological issue. By going unnoticed racism fosters hate in others and causes people to pass judgments upon those undeserving. If we aren’t careful as a society, we may take a step back toward that civilization that Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King fought for so passionately.
As a society, racism and prejudice still exist, but we can make a positive difference. Recently, clothing company GAP changed their Twitter profile page to an image of an ad campaign featuring a Sikh man; just days after the same ad was publicly vandalized to read, “Make Bombs” instead of “Make Love”, and “Please stop driving TAXIS”. GAP’s actions may appear to be of little significance, but the impact it made was both powerful and inspiring. There is a lesson to be learned here, and that is to take action, stand up for others, and fight for a healthier society that includes everyone.
A Torontonian recently published an article in the U. K. ‘s The Guardian saying, “Honestly, who would want to be black? Who would want people to be terrified of you and not want to sit next to you on public transportation? A lot of the time I feel like my skin color is like my personal prison, something that I have no control over, for I am judged just because of the way I look. ” Although this is one man’s words, they are not far off from the feelings of many around the world; to think, we almost allowed Gaethan Kitadi the same fate in death.
Novelist Paulo Coelho said it best, “It is part of the human nature always to judge others very severely and, when the wind turns against us, always to find an excuse for our own misdeeds, or to blame someone else for our mistakes. ” Although it is true that humans naturally judge, there is something to be said if the judgments are solely negative. University of Alberta professor of psychology, Jeff Schimel’s experiment on self-projection indicated that we see in others what we fear in ourselves. Keeping this in mind, racism does then serve a purpose.
Using the functionalist perspective in Sociology, racism suppresses and discriminates against people of distinct physical differences. Plainly, it keeps minorities working for cheap and without hopes of reaching their full potential; this also keeps the dominant working class in fear of asking for a raise, as there is always someone ready to replace them. To put that into perspective: the median income level of a Black man, as reported by Statistics Canada, is a mere $24, 343 per year (approximately $11. 70 an hour). This salary is indicative of the low rankings Black men hold in the working sector.
In conclusion, from the above examples it is apparent that racism and prejudice are present in media and modern society. However, collectively we can change this. We need to stand up, take notice, continue questioning, delve deeper, judge less, and take action on behalf of those being stereotyped and misrepresented. By following GAP’s example we can be better people, and if there is ever another Gaethan Kitadi, perhaps we can see him for who he really is without prejudice. As Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder once sang, “Ebony And Ivory Live Together In Perfect Harmony. Side By Side On My Piano Keyboard. Oh Lord, Why Don’t We?