This was my response to a recent Orangeville Banner Newspaper article.
Before I emigrated to Canada almost 34 years ago, my parents took my brother and I, then 9 and 14 years old respectively, on a European vacation. Ostensibly to visit and learn about new and diverse cultures that were different from ours. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that European trip was to be my initial exposure to racism against my family and myself. While unfortunate, it prepared my brother and I for our move to Canada from the country of our birth, Jamaica.
Of those 34 years in Canada, 21 of them have been in Orangeville and the surrounding Dufferin County area. Although elements of racism, whether overt or subtle, still exist in our society, I was extremely aggrieved to hear that my friend Josh (of Soulyve Restaurant) and his family were the victims of its ignorance, especially here in Orangeville.
In recent times, there has been talk about certain minority groups taking up residence or working in Orangeville, and what that purportedly does or does not do for our town. Yes, as with any growing community, there will be aspects of its growth and development that cause the “crabs in the bucket” to surface, as Josh so eloquently put it. More importantly, and what I believe is often overlooked, is that the majority of people, (including visible minorities), that choose to make Orangeville their home, do so because of its safe neighbourhoods; excellent schools; business opportunities; among its many other inherent attractions for young families.
A person’s initial experience with an individual or community of people, can and does have a lasting impression. If someone has suffered a bad experience from a person of a particular people group, unfortunately not only does that encounter leave a lasting bitter taste, it sometimes can be the impetus to brand that entire cultural group persona non grata.
Throughout history racism has fed the superiority complex of not only individuals, but whole societies. The victims of its onslaught were hardly ever viewed in an objective manner. Some were even considered as less than human. Conversely, it is sometimes difficult for these same victims not to erect walls of distrust against their racist perpetrators and the society they claim to represent. Preconceived notions on both sides, are usually acquired through unfortunate experiences, that can cause jaded belief systems to take root. Sometimes those beliefs are passed down from generation to generation.
While short-sighted individuals may live among us, I believe that the majority of Orangeville’s citizens are not closed minded, at least from a cultural standpoint. I have raised my children in Orangeville; from Kindergarten through to University and we have established deep friendships here.
I live, work, worship and contribute to the health of our community, and I will not stand by and let clueless, cowardly, racist individuals disparage my town or my friends. I would pray that those who do so are minuscule in their number. At the same time I hope that these same individuals will begin to see how much better their town is for the diversity and contributions that committed, entrepreneurial risk takers like Josh, bring to it.
Any vibrant, growing town will have its growing pains, but the heart of any community is its people. Orangeville is not without its imperfections, and differing social and economic viewpoints will always provide fodder for debate, but compared to a lot of other locales, it still is a fantastic place to live.