Recently, it came to light that the province’s aboriginal and northern affairs minister referred to a volunteer raising money for a shelter for abused women as the “ignorance of do-good white people.”
After first refusing to apologize for the remark, Eric Robinson later said he was entitled to say these comments because he had experienced racism firsthand.
After experiencing a lifetime of hatred, Nelson Mandela chose a different path for South Africa when he became president of a nation divided through racist policies. As he worked for positive change in his country and the end of racism, Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The difference in what Mandela did and what Robinson said could not be more obvious. Mandela could have perpetuated a cycle of racism and violence through his words and deeds. He chose not to. Past difficulties are never a justification for racist comments and, in fact, we would expect those tragic events of his past would give Robinson even more empathy and understanding as to how damaging racism is.
All his comments achieve is the continuation of the racism we seek to cease.
It was bad enough that Robinson allowed himself to write those words in an email. It’s worse that he believes it doesn’t matter what he said because it was only to be a private communication with his staff. The public found out about Robinson’s racist remark after a bungled attempt to hide this comment from the public, when a freedom of information request was filed.
This government condoned the deliberate attempt to cover up racist acts by a senior government minister. Premier Greg Selinger and the NDP continue to condone these acts by refusing to hold Robinson accountable and remove him from the cabinet.
These are shocking acts by NDP MLAs and government employees who are supposed to work for the betterment of all Manitobans regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation or belief. Unfortunately, it puts on display the amount of work our society has ahead of us before we achieve a world free of hate and racism.
Critic for Aboriginal and Northern Affairs
MLA for Tuxedo
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 4, 2013