'Overtly racist:' B.C. woman speaks out after swastika drawn on car
A Port Alberni family says they’ve had enough and plan to move after being victim to racism one too many times in their small community.
Angela Brown and her husband have lived in Port Alberni for 11 years.
“We’ve encountered many racist issues given that we are an interracial couple, given that I’m obviously not white,” Brown said.
It happens often, including when she and her husband go out to eat with their son and get asked about separate bills. Difficult situations have even come up in their circle of friends, Brown says.
“For me personally I’ve had a few difficult run-ins, difficult moments,” she recalled. “The hardest ones are the ones that are subtle, where you’re not even sure how to respond to that kind of behaviour.”
The most recent incident happened on Sunday when the couple found a swastika scribbled on their car in permanent marker.
“What happened to our car was overtly racist,” Brown said.
She adds that “subtle racism” may not be noticeable to everyone, but it exists in small towns.
“Somebody said to me maybe the person who wrote that on your car was trying to be nice, maybe it was a symbol of goodness like it used to be 5,000 years ago,” Brown said. “I thought well it’s not etched in marble, it’s scrawled on the back of my car so let’s just call it what it is.”
The Vancouver Island woman believes extreme acts like the one she was victim to come out during international events, like the mass shooting that happened at a Quebec mosque this past Sunday.
“When things like this happen then it becomes suddenly overt, suddenly it’s in your face,” she said.
The town’s mayor maintains that he’s always surprised when episodes like this happen because Port Alberni is a safe, diverse and respectable community.
“When it does happen it’s so extraordinary that everybody notices it, talks about it, is shocked by it, abhors what happened,” Mike Ruttan stated.
Port Alberni RCMP are investigating, but admit they don’t have any leads.
They say officers go to schools and talk to grade seven students in the district to promote a culture share program.
Ruttan claims the issue isn’t one specific to Port Alberni.
“Something that worries me is that this is an issue that’s coming about because some of the extreme dysfunction that’s happening elsewhere in the world,” the mayor said. “This sort of anti-social behaviour is kind of bubbling to the surface in a way that frankly isn’t Canadian.”
Brown calls her current community a lovely one to live in, but says the way people look at minorities needs to change.
“I don’t feel like a minority because the community has come out and told me they’re not ok with this, people are upset,” Brown said. “That tells me I’m majority […] we need to measure majority in goodness and not in a visible difference.”
The family says they’ve received an outpouring of support during the upsetting time, someone even offering to detail their car.
Brown says they’re planning to move to a bigger city, either Victoria or Vancouver, in the near future. They hope the change will allow them to move on from the racist acts they’ve encountered over the past decade.