Letters: We all come from Africa

Dear Editor,

Re: “Local anti-racism organization will work with RCMP to tackle racism,” Online, Nov. 24.

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Having just read about the latest racist rant (washing car at a condo building), as well as Richmond City Councillor Chak Au’s initiative (Stop Racism Alliance) to tackle hate crimes, I find myself reflecting deeply and empathizing with all parties involved.

To begin, I hope our modern tech-centred way of life has not made all of us too trigger happy when it comes to shooting photos or videos with our handy-dandy cellphone cameras at the expense of being more compassionate and people-centred.

Yet, what would I have done had I been in that woman’s shoes? Would I have also felt that taking a photo as proof was the most logical thing to do?

What about the man washing his car in the clearly marked ‘No Car Washing Permitted’ spot? Was there a bigger back story?

I do not have all the pieces to this story-puzzle, so I simply wish to share some ideas that could, hopefully, spark a little more mutual understanding.

When I first immigrated to Canada about 15 years ago, I often thought of the caterpillar sternly asking Alice (Alice in the Wonderland),“Who are you?”

And poor Alice — whom I empathized with — struggled to answer, “I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir…I’m not myself, you see…”

As humans, who we are is very much tied to where we are. Thus, familiar external or environmental reference points give us that sense of self, safety and stability.

I know of many newcomers who are now busy re-inventing themselves by attending English language classes or carving jack o’lanterns.

I also know that these newcomers sincerely appreciate all the community members, hosts and leaders for giving them so many useful learning and integration opportunities.

At the same time, I hope these newcomers can learn more Richmond’s history and empathize with the long-time residents in Richmond.

Why? Because the newcomers are not the only ones feeling “lost.” The sense of being “dis-located” could be just as real for those who have called Richmond their home for a long time — and this rightfully includes the Musqueam people.

Some long-time residents may be upset because Richmond’s physical and psychological landscapes are changing so fast they might also feel pressure to “integrate.”

All said — no matter what — before we tell another fellow human to “Go back to (wherever),” we might all just want to remember that we all came from… Africa.

Allow me to borrow my final thought from Carl Sagan, the astronomer who used to host Cosmos. Here’s what he famously said in one episode:

“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”

April Toh

RICHMOND

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