Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca


Published on Saturday, November 12, 2022

Racism isn’t only in other countries

Sunday November 6, 2022 


I’d better say this tight up front – I have never experienced prejudice against me because I am white. I suspect that no “person of colour” can say the same.

            I have travelled widely. I have spent time in, by my last count, 66 different countries. In many of those, the local population had darker skin than mine. I have never been told, “Hey, whitey, go to the back of the line.” Or, “This is where WE eat; what are you doing here?”

            And if anyone has called me derogatory names, they did it in their own language, and I didn’t know.

            You may protest that you have no prejudice against brown- or black-skinned people. You may really believe that. But you cannot know it. Only the person experiencing prejudice knows it.

            Yes, some people may seem paranoid. But I, as a privileged white, have no right to tell them they’re wrong.

            My granddaughter is black. And beautiful.

            People will come up to her on the street. “You have such lovely skin,” they’ll say, pawing her arm. Or they’ll run their fingers through her hair, and say, “I just love your curls.”

            Would you take those same liberties with a blue-eyed blonde?

            The fact that you, as a white person, feel you have a right to accost, even handle, a black person tells me that you’re prejudiced. You just don’t know it. Yet.


Petty prejudices

            Tom Watson, a United Church minister and fellow-blogger, reported a news story from Alabama. Last May, Michael Jennings, a black pastor living in Childersburg, was asked by his neighbour to water the neighbour’s plants while the neighbour was away. Jennings did. Another neighbour called the police to report an unattended black man on an adjacent property.

            The police officers arrested Jennings.

            I read that story and fumed. At the petty-mindedness of the person who called the police. At the police for arresting him. Because a black man was watering some plants.

            I can’t shrug that story off by claiming, “That only happens in the U.S.…” My family has experienced the same attitudes, here in Canada.

            When my daughter lived in Edmonton, she received several poison-pen letters. Unsigned, of course. About how she and her family were violating community standards. About garbage pickup. Or dog training. But really, I suspect, because she had brought two black children into a 0formerly all-white block.


Racist attitudes

            After Tom Watson circulated the story about Michael Jennings, a woman wrote from Toronto: “My son Christopher is black… The abuse and comments we received were eye openers. I got most of it, as I was the one who took the children out every day.

            "Later, I worked with a woman for about 15 years whom I truly admired -- she was smart, very successful. I tried to be like her. When Chris was at University of Toronto he worked part-time at my office. One day I walked with him to the elevator. She got off the elevator and stood with me while he got on and left. She turned to me and said, ‘I don’t understand why you would waste your money sending him to university; there is no way in hell that he will ever pass!’”

            Another black man described moving to London, Ontario. When he went into stores, he was ignored.

            Don’t scoff. My family has also experienced this personally. Daughter and granddaughter go into a cosmetics store together. Black teen glows with skillfully applied makeup; white mother wears none. Guess which shopper the clerks offer to assist? Hint: not the black girl.

            My granddaughter has learned not to react when she encounters this unconscious prejudice. She walks away. Or chooses her purchases without assistance.

            It’s still happening. Here in Canada. In 2022.


Don’t meekly tolerate it

            What should I do?

            The second letter to a young man named Timothy, in the Bible – attributed to Paul the Apostle, although neither the style nor vocabulary matches other letters known to be Paul’s – itemizes 22 despicable traits. Then it counsels, “Turn away!”

            That’s what my granddaughter does. That’s what I need to do, too. Refuse to endorse people’s prejudices by keeping silent. If that barber wants me to come back, if that restaurant wants repeat business, if that friend wants to keep having coffee with me, they need to know why I’m upset.

            And to do something about it.

            It may surprise them that what they see as normal behaviour comes across to others as prejudiced. The fact that they aren’t aware that their attitudes reflect their white privilege is no excuse.


Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

 To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca



Your turn


There was no Sharp Edges column last weekend, because for a week I was the combined chaperone, designated driver, and security patrol for my grandchildren in Vernon, 25 km north of my home. With at least two trips back and forth every day, I didn’t have time or energy to think of any insights into the world’s problems. (Although I expect something from that week-long experience to show up in this coming week’s Soft Edges column.)

            So the mail is all from the previous week’s Sharp Edges, on the decline in the salmon run in the Adamas River. 


I had closed with the line, “What have we done to you, my friends?” Mirza Yawar Baig retorted, “What have we done to ourselves? And done is the word. Like the dead salmon, there's no return. It's already too late.”


Tom Watson took a similar view: “The story of the salmon is the story of human short-sightedness. We did the same with the Great Awk. If it benefits us economically at the moment we do it; to heck with the long-distance effects.”


James Russell challenged that closing line: “’We’ did NOT do this, although we have not done enough to fight it.  The ‘we’ who are to blame are those especially who have done their best to bamboozle the world about the consequences of wasteful and unthinking pursuit of individual and immediate personal gain no matter what cost to others, including all that other life that makes our own possible.  And next to blame are those who voted for the enablers and servants of those miscreants, willfully ignoring what has been common knowledge for decades.  

            Nor is the question, “What have I done to you, my friends [fellow beings]?”  Rather, it is “What am I going to do now to mitigate the damage being done and to support opposition to racing ever further and more quickly down this road?  What must I stop doing today?  Where can I throw my mite of effort where it might yet do some good.?’”


Frank Martens offered a vote of confidence: “We need more people like you, Jim, who have regular access to public media, and who are generally trusted to look at the facts on the ground.

            You and I both are too old to be affected immediately, but the price of salmon on the grocery shelves will certainly have some consequence.


Sheila Carey: “Having seen the Adams River run in 2010 I am distressed by your news of the situation this year.  I hope that the cooler weather that has moved in will cool the river enough that the salmon survive, but I’m not holding my breath.

            “I feel helpless this year too – but we must not give up!  Events like this need to jolt us to do more to take whatever actions we can individually and to join others in agitating all levels of government to take climate change seriously and work to stop the damage – to start the reversal before it really is too late for the sake of generations to come.”


Vera Gottlieb had a personal interest in that column: “I lived 15 very happy years in the North Shuswap -- where the Adams River flows into Shuswap Lake. I clearly recall -- and can still smell it, when the corpses of the dead salmon filled the air with that sharp ‘fragrance’. And also recall the times one of my dogs loved to wallow in the corpses and afterwards, going home in the car, all windows had to be open to air out. What fond memories. 

            “And now the danger of salmon not being able to return to their place of birth on account of very low water in the rivers they travel upstream. Very hungry times ahead for all the bears and eagles (and other creatures) who depend on this natural cycle to survive.”


Peter Scott: “Your Adams River column brought tears to old and failing eyes.  This column describes in painful detail what our indigenous brothers and sisters have been telling us for all my 81 years about ‘all our relations’.  It is clear that the die is cast.  God save us from ourselves.”






If you want to comment on something, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.

            To subscribe or unsubscribe, send me an e-mail message at the address above. Or subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message) to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at sharpedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

            You can now access current columns and seven years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

 I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

            And for those of you who like poetry, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca (If the link won’t work, please let me know.)






To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

            Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

            I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

            Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



            The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns





Comments (0)Number of views (41)

Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: racism, Prejudice

«December 2022»


"gate of the year" #MeToo .C. Taylor 150th birthday 1950s 1954 1972 1984 215 3G 4004 BC 70 years 8 billion 9/11 A A God That Could Be Real abduction aboriginal abortion Abrams abuse achievement Adam Adams River addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix Advent advertising affirmative action Afghanistan agendas aging agnostics Ahriman Ahura Mazda airlines airport killings Alabama albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations allies Almighty Almighty God alone ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Gorman Amanda Todd Amazon American empire Amerika Amherst amnesia analysis Andes Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anger animals anniversaries Anniversary Anthropocene antidote Ants aphrodisiac apologetics Apologies apology apoptosis App Store Archives Ardern Aristotle armistice Armstrong army Army and Navy stores Art artifacts artists ashes Asian assisted death astronomy atheists atonement atropine Attawapiscat attitudes attraction audits Aunt Jemima Australia authorities authorities. Bible autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 Baal Shem Tov baby Bach bad news baggage Bagnell Bahai Baldi Bali Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas Barbados barbed wire barbers barriers Bashar al Assad Batman baton BC BC Conference Beans bears beauty Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour bel-2 belief systems beliefs bells belonging benefits Bernardo Berners-Lee berries Bible biblical sex bicycle Biden Bill C-6 billboards billionaire BioScience Bird songs birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Black history Blackmore blessings Blockade blockades blood blood donations blood donors Bloomberg Blue Christmas boar boarding school body Boebert Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women BOMBHEAD bombing bombings bombs books border patrol borrowing both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brain development brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken Bruce McLeod bubbles Buber Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying burials bus driver bush pilots butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras campfire Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats cancer candidates cannibalism Canute Capitol Capp caregivers Caribbean Caribbean Conference of Churches caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cash castes cats cave caveats CBC CD Cecil the lion. Zanda cell phones Celsius CentrePiece CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chesterton Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking childbirth children Chile Chile. Allende China chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christiaanity Christian Christianity Christians Christina Rossetti Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas Eve Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas tree Christmas trees Christopher Plummer Chrystia Freeland church churches circle of life citizenship Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clearwater Clichés cliffhanger climate change climate crisis clocks close votes clouds Coastal GasLink coastal tribes coffee coincidence cold Coleman collaboration collapse collective work colonial colonial mindset colonialism colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty comfort comic strips commercials communication Communion community compassion competition complexity composers composting computer processes Computers conception conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues confession confessions confidence Confirmation confusion Congo Congress Conrad Black consciousness consensual consensus consent conservative Conservative Party conservative values conspiracies conspiracy constitution construction contraception contrasts Conversations Conversion conversion therapy Convoy cooperation COP26 copyright coral Cornwallis corona virus coronavirus corporate defence corporations corruption Corrymeela Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents couple courtesy courts Covenant Coventry Cathedral cover-up COVID-19 Coyotes CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes Crawford Bay creation creche credit credit cards creeds cremation crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing Crows crucifixion Cruelty crypto-currencies Cuba Missile Crisis Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cutbacks cute cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damien Damocles Dan Rather dancing Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Scott David Suzuki de Bono dead zone deaf deafness death death survival deaths debt decision decisions decorations deficit Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy Democratic denial Denny's departure Depression Derek Chauvin Descartes Desiderata despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass Diana Butler-Bass Dickie dinosaurs discontinuities discussion Dishwashing dissent distancing diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Don Cherry Donald Trump donkey Donna Sinclair donor doorways Doug Ford Doug Martindale Dr. Keith Roach Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs ducks duets Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas earth Earth Day earthquake Earworms Easter Eat Pray Love Eatons Ebola echo chambers e-cigarettes eclipse economics Eden editing editing by committee Edwards-Sawatzky ego
Copyright 2022 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada