When Rawlson King leaves his home, whether it’s for a quick errand or a long day at city hall, he always brings personal ID. It’s second nature to him.
Rawlson, the first black elected to Ottawa City Council, is now also the first head of the newly created council liaison for a secretariat for anti-racism and ethnocultural relations. And certainly, given the times, the creation of the new secretariat is desperately and obviously needed now more than ever.
But King’s increased city profile won’t change the practice of always having his ID with him.
“You wake up and you go about your day. I’m a city councillor, but I’m going to take my wallet, that’s the thing, it’s natural, it’s not something new for me. It’s just a natural thing where race is such a factor in a society. You’re thinking about it. You think about your implications of your race everyday,” he told On the City, From the Burbs.
And he’s very aware that Ottawa isn’t immune from having black people stopped by the police.
“People who might have different perceptions. There’s a lot of psychology, little micro aggressions affecting you, so if you’re on the bus, you’re the last person someone will sit with you,” he said as one example.
And he knows not everyone values black lives like they do white lives, and he knows there is systemic racism that needs to be addressed in a more fulsome way. “We’re not going to get there quickly. But this is the thing, the majority of people want to have an understanding and that’s where we’re making progress,” he said.
But the issues are many and essentially effect every part of our lives.
“The experiences you’re having are unique to you and part of a pattern, but a continued battle. We don’t want to go backwards, and people don’t always get it, these are challenges, ensuring equal access to the services, that all people should receive, ” he continued. Earlier this week, the city’s finance committee, on the recommendation of Mayor JimWatson, approved the creation of the new secretariat with King as the liaison.
In a motion moved by Mayor Jim Watson, the new secretariat and King’s role were approved earlier this week. It will be rubber-stamped at next week’s council meeting.
“Racism is present in our midst. We must continue to stamp it out whenever it rears its ugly head, whether it’s in the community, at a police station, at City Hall or anywhere else. I am grateful that we live in a country where we have the courage to name things for what they are,” Watson said at the meeting.
The new secretariat will attempt to ensure all city policies will be looked at through a new lens.
“We want to have a greater investment in our communities,” King said following the committee’s endorsement of him. “It’s about enhancing the quality of life.”
The first order of business will be addressing issues surround the COVID pandemic, he added.
King’s view of systemic racism in Canada, is however not shared by all Canadian politicians. Former Alberta politician Stockwell Day is out of gig with the CBC, Telus, and McMillan after he stepped into it with this recent quote.
“We have to recognize that our system is not perfect in Canada,” Day said during a panel on CBC. Yes, there’s a few idiot racists hanging around but Canada is not a racist country and most Canadians are not racist. And our system, that always needs to be improved, is not systemically racist.”
He took it a step further down the rabbit hole, equating racism in Canada to what is what like for him being bullied as a child for wearing glasses.
So here’s the good thing, though it’s too late for Stockwell.
More and more people just aren’t willing to put up with ignorance anymore, and much more sensitivity and understanding is being demanded of our politicians and reporters and the public at large.
It took less than 24 hours this week for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to realize there actually is a real racism problem in Ontario and Canada.
On Tuesday, here’s what he said:
“Thank God that we’re different than the United States and we don’t have the systemic, deep roots they have had for years,” Ford said.
Fast forward to Wednesday, and he’d seen the light.
“Of course there’s systemic racism in Ontario, there’s systemic racism across this country,” Ford said.
But it’s important to remember that neither Ford nor Stockwell flip-flopped because they saw the light, they heard the public.
And for the actual progress, it is still being made far too slowly.