In light of the recent events in New Orleans, a friend recently asked me to share my experiences of racism up here in Montreal.

To start, I am a bit surprised that in this day and age racism in the US still exists to the degree that it does. There has been a very gradual move toward equality, but it seems it should be faster. I don’t think it is because elders are passing on their beliefs to the youth and I don’t think it is people have direct negative experiences with people of color. I think it boils down to social class and the evening news. Unfortunately, blacks and Hispanics make up a higher percentage of the poor. The poor are more likely to commit crimes due to the hardship in their lives. So it always seems like a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics are shown on the evening news having committed murders or thefts. I wouldn’t blame the evening news other than possibly exaggerating stories for better ratings. But seeing this on a regular basis has an effect on people’s psyche. There is also a fear/anxiety/ paranoia trend in the US (that I will touch on next week) which feeds all of this. Whether the response to Katrina was racial driven is debatable. But the disturbing thing is the vast difference between how blacks and whites viewed the response.

So… Regarding life here in Montreal. There is not the same kind of racism because there are very few African Americans. It is interesting because there are people with black skin, but they are either from Africa or the Caribbean. They make up a much smaller percentage of the population and they are primarily concentrated in the metropolitan area. To tell you the truth, it has been an odd experience being among people primarily composed of Western European ethnicities. Being poor doesn’t seem to discriminate, so the people committing crimes don’t fall into easily defined categories.

That said, there are some tensions. I once took a cab to the airport where the driver ranted about how all the immigrants were taking the jobs. I guess he didn’t consider me one. There is also the francophone/anglophone tensions. I have never noticed any first hand, but have occasionally heard about them through the news. Also a couple people I know have made comments suggesting the francophones don’t like those who display their loyalty to Canada. But that has been the vast minority of my experiences so far. I will talk more about the separatist movement later. Please note that these are the views and observations of one person with only a couple years experience in this new environment. Also, my understanding of the language is evolving and I may have been blissfully unaware of some things said. I hope to cover the language topic soon.


~ by Frank on September 19, 2005.

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