Gurdeep Parhar on Fixing Racism: Racism is at the Root of Many of Humanity’s Evils at TEDxStanleyPark (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Gurdeep Parhar’s TEDx Talk presentation on Fixing Racism: Racism is at the Root of Many of Humanity’s Evils at TEDxStanleyPark conference.

 

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Gurdeep Parhar – Executive Associate Dean Clinical Partnerships and Professionalism for Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia

Chinese? Bad drivers.

Italians? Mafia.

Mexicans? Trafficked drugs.

Irish? Drunks.

Middle Eastern people? Terrorists.

Racial stereotyping is very common. Racial stereotyping often leads to misunderstandings, discrimination, and sometimes even violence.

Six million Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust because someone thought they belonged to an inferior race. Millions of African people were bought and sold as slaves, and killed because someone thought they belonged to an inferior race.

Millions of indigenous people around the world have been oppressed and killed because someone thought they belonged to an inferior race. Most recently in Rwanda, a million people, as part of an ethnic cleansing, were killed because someone thought they belonged to an inferior race.

I grew up on the north coast of Canada. And when I was a child in school, we would change out of our regular school clothes into our gym or exercise clothes, and we did that in the locker room. And in that locker room, when I was all alone, partly dressed — my feet were bare because I was changing my shoes from my regular shoes to my gym shoes — two big bullies came and found me.

They came up to me and they said, “Hey! You, Paki. You, Hindu.” First I was just confused. Because I wasn’t from Pakistan. So the word “Paki” didn’t make any sense. I wasn’t Hindu, so the word “Hindu” didn’t make any sense. Were they mixing me up with someone else?

My feelings of confusion were quickly replaced by fear because I realized the meaning of those words didn’t matter, because of the venom and the hatred in their tone. I realized those words were meant to insult me; those words were meant to hurt me. This happened week after week.

When I was alone in that locker room as a child, these bullies would find me. I didn’t know what to do. The way I dealt with it was, I wouldn’t make eye contact with them, I would look down at the floor in that locker room, and I still remember the blue tiles to this day. I still remember the cold under my bare feet making my feet chill. I would just keep staring down at the floor, not making eye contact with the bullies. I just kept thinking to myself: I hope they don’t beat me; I hope they don’t hit me; I hope they go away. I was very frightened; I was very scared.

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I was too embarrassed to tell my teachers; I was too embarrassed to tell my parents or my sisters; I was too embarrassed to tell my good friends. I’m telling this story for the first time today. I’m telling the story because I’m tired of looking at those blue tiles. I’m also tired of feeling the cold under my feet. But most importantly, I’m tired of being frightened.

That locker room — that locker room story has an ending. But before I tell you the ending of that locker room story, let’s talk a little bit more about racial stereotyping.

Sometimes racial stereotyping isn’t frightening, it isn’t scary, it’s just awkward. So I’ll be at a party, having just a splendid time, a cocktail party, but just a great time, and then the inevitable happens. Someone comes up to me and says, “Tell me about your culture.” Yes, it’s usually someone white.

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