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

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Racism isn’t only in other countries

Author: Jim Taylor

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.


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: racism, Prejudice




Prejudice visible only to victims

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday February 24, 2022


Oliver is a peaceful little town of 5,000, nestled in the south end of the Okanagan Valley.  Earlier this month, though, an apparently racist incident outside the high school made headlines. While a “Freedom” rally went on outside the school, a young mother was caught haranguing a student. The video clip where she directed profanity and racial slurs at a high school girl has since gone viral.

            She has been fined. She has apologized. The regional newspaper has published her letter expressing regret.

            Even so, one sentence in that letter caught my attention: “My intent was never to cause anyone any harm.”

            Right there is the problem with prejudice. We -- speaking generally here -- seem to assume that prejudice has to have some kind of ill intent.

            The essence of prejudice, in fact, is the failure of the persons expressing prejudice to recognize that their words and actions HAVE any ill intent, that they may cause harm -- or pain, or humiliation -- to someone else.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Prejudice, victims




Christmas dinner reveals hidden prejudices

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday December 16, 2021


A few years ago, my daughter invited three temporary Jamaican workers for Christmas dinner. 

            As the oldest male in the family, I got to carve the Christmas turkey. Of course, I served the guests first. “White meat or dark meat?” I asked.

            The three women looked at each other. Then one of them ventured, “Dark.”

            The other two agreed. 

             When plates were emptying, I offered seconds. This time, all three of the Jamaican women asked for white meat.

            It turned out that they had made an assumption. They thought that references to white and dark related to their skin colour, not the meat. 

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: racism, Prejudice




The purpose of symbolic acts

Author: Jim Taylor

I have worn mismatched socks for most of 2021. Deliberately.

            The idea came from a reader in England, a retired Methodist minister named Ken Nicholls who admits to “being a little eccentric at times.”

            I decided some time ago to make a statement with my socks. I NEVER  wear what is usually considered a pair. Socks are bought often from large stores selling them in packs of seven pairs. Often, seven different colours. 

            “So I may wear one green sock and one yellow. Or one blue, one purple. People I meet tell me that I have odd socks on. My reply is that they are wrong. This IS a pair. The socks have the same size, the same material, the same shape, the same manufacturer, and the same thermal value. 

            “They only differ in colour. And colour is irrelevant to the way they are loved and valued. Why are you judging them by colour?”

            I liked his idea enough to try it. But as a symbolic act, my mismatched socks were an utter failure.

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Prejudice, socks




To those who live in fear

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday April 4, 2021


What does it feel like, to live in fear? Not the short-term fear, that an oncoming car won’t stop in time. The long-term, constant fear that you, through no fault of your own, are a target for violence. Just because of who you are.

            It happened to a 65-year-old woman in New York last week. An unknown man knocked her down, kicked her in the stomach, stomped on her face, then casually strolled away.

            The woman was Asian.

            Most of us who are white males, like me, have no idea what it is like to spend your life knowing that you’re at risk. To feel unsafe walking to the bus at night, after work. To feel people staring at you on the street or in the classroom. To hear jokes that imply you’re genetically stupid (or, conversely, genetically smarter), or a sexual object, or inherently untrustworthy. 

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