I was surprised with the level of fear that exists in the Valley when I attended a recent public meeting, hosted by Cowichan Tribes, to draw attention to three missing First Nations men.
Some First Nations members who were at the meeting started questioning RCMP Corp. Kerry Howse, head of First Nations policing for the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, on what measures were being taken to make aboriginal people more safe in the community.
Patsy Jones, a leader in the Cowichan Tribes community, stated there have been a number of incidents in the Valley in which First Nations people walking along sidewalks have had rocks thrown at them from passing cars.
Another person at the meeting said there is so much racism in the Valley, aboriginal people should go out in groups to support each other in case they are attacked or harassed.
I wondered at the time whether these people were just being paranoid and exaggerating the dangers to them from the rest of the community.
But the fight, or fights, between First Nations kids and other students from Cowichan Secondary that took place earlier this week seemed to confirm the worst.
One fight that was filmed from many angles by bystanders with cell phones showed one First Nations kid being struck down by a white youth, and then being swarmed by a group of other students who kicked him in the head and torso while he was on the ground.
Apparently, he had to be taken to the hospital with a bruised jaw, but his injuries could have easily been much worse.
The mother of the First Nations boy called the office and told me that her son, and many other aboriginal students at the school, had been taunted about their race by a group of white students continuously for weeks in the lead up to the fight.
The incident that was filmed was just one of the many “pre-arranged” fights that had been set up off school grounds for that day.
Fortunately, Cowichan Secondary’s principal Charlie Coleman got wind of what was going on, called the police, and did the best he could to separate the two groups of students.
But, with so many kids going in different directions, some violence was inevitable.
I was appalled that such blatant racism still exists at all in this day and age, much less in this beautiful Valley, and I finally understood the concerns that were raised by the aboriginal community at the meeting about the three missing men.
I think it’s time we took a good, hard look at ourselves to determine where this scourge of racism stems from.
Kids generally take their social cues from those they live with and are close to, and that’s usually their families and friends.
So singling out their peers who are aboriginal for bullying and harassment, and even bashing them with rocks from cars, is likely something that was learned and even sometimes encouraged at home and in the community.
These kids, and those who encourage them, should know that it’s almost 2018, and the tribalism that governed most people’s actions in the past has given way to a new globalism in which different cultures are not only accepted, but celebrated.
It’s this new-found cooperative spirit in an increasingly small world that has accelerated mankind’s progress, and has seen us develop from brutish cave dwellers to a species reaching for the stars in just a few thousand years.
Racism, which is typically bred from ignorance and fear of those who are different, should be relegated to the scrap heap of history.
It’s up to each and every one us, as members of society, to make our community the best it can be.
And that’s one where racism is a thing of the past.
Robert Barron is a reporter with the Cowichan Valley Citizen. He can be reached at Robert.Barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com.