Letter: Bigotry is also a virus that needs fighting


Anti-Asian discrimination and assaults during COVID-19. Police killing and injuring Black and Indigenous people. LGBTQ and Transgender communities still fighting for equal rights.

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Hate-fuelled graffiti on the home of a Summerland family. Systemic racism and sexism, both overt and covert, at all levels of society.

Prejudice is indeed pandemic. Bigotry is a virus. And we all have the potential to be hosts (even those of us from racialized minorities).

We’re not born with it in our blood. It’s transmitted from person to person. From family to family. It’s learned through conversations, comments, jokes, judgements, looks, books, micro-aggressions, political rhetoric, insults, attitudes, ignorance, and even classroom lesson plans.

It infects entire institutions to the point where everyone within the organization becomes immune to biased hiring practices, offensive language, token diversity, racial and religious profiling, and exclusive, patriarchal power structures.

And like COVID-19, it won’t just go away on its own. We have to track it and attack it. We have to trace it, isolate it, and call it out. By name. Persistently. We have to propose anti-racist policies, pass anti-racist laws, and push for anti-racist consequences.

We have to stop passively and proudly saying we’re not racist. And we have to start actively and loudly being anti-racist. We have to listen to those with lived experience.

We have to hold elected officials (and each other) accountable. We have to. And we can.

The world has changed dramatically over the last two months, since George Floyd took his last breath on May 25, 2020. In many ways, the globe has gotten smaller, as evidenced by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (with about 13.5 million cases worldwide and over 580,000 deaths and rising), and the massive outpouring of protesters on city streets from Vancouver to Sydney screaming that Black Lives Matter.

No matter what language we speak or what corner of the Earth we inhabit, “social distancing” has become a part of our everyday vocabulary and behaviour.

Yet science has proven that all human beings – regardless of colour, class, culture, gender, or sexual orientation – are inextricably linked like never before.

As the motto goes, we’re all in this together. Overnight, we’ve all become armchair epidemiologists. Following the lead of our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbians have sacrificed and worked hard to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

Complacency is not an option. We can’t afford to go backwards. And we must be equally vigilant and aggressive to finally squash the scourge of white supremacy, police brutality, systemic racism, and hatred in all its insidious forms.

Silence is no longer acceptable. We’re in a pandemic. And lives are at stake.
Harman Pandher, Burnaby

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