It’s been a little over two weeks since Maclean’s magazine gave Winnipeg, my home for the last six and a half years, the title of Canada’s most racist city. What I want to talk about in this post is how the reaction to another major story in the same time period – Winnipeg’s first ever city-wide boil water advisory – has shifted some of my own understanding of what this title as Canada’s most racist city means.
When it comes to Winnipeg’s racism, I have tended to understand it in systemic rather than at the legislative or personal terms. And it is true that (unless I am grossly ignorant) we don’t have KKK equivalent vigil-ante groups carrying out acts of violence against aboriginal persons and property or laws that are aimed at restricting people based on their ethnicity. We do have a colonial heritage and setting that, in subtle and non-subtle ways, tends to empower white people and disenfranchise aboriginal peoples, influencing everything from police actions to informal but very real segregation in the city. In this sense detractors of the Maclean’s story who point out that Rinelle Harper was assaulted by two aboriginal men are missing the point: this story is one powerful example of a city valuing aboriginal lives less than other lives. This is verified by statistics, but can only really be understood through telling stories.
In any case, that is where I was coming from when I first read the Maclean’s story. Continue reading Winnipeg’s Racism