Walking home from the park one late afternoon, carrying my young mixed-race son in my arms, I stopped in mid-step. A few feet away from the place we currently call home was a sight that, at first glance, would have never caught me off-guard here on the Island: a white pick-up truck, raised wheel beds, auxiliary lighting and a small, but ever-so-shiny and carefully placed American flag decal pasted to the side window. To the many passersby, the scene was hardly noteworthy. But to me, the image of the Confederate Battle flag – the red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars and a large spread eagle fanning its wings across the truck’s back window – was a beacon glorifying the division and hatred this symbol represents well beyond its southern American roots.
Outside of the Comox Valley’s two Black Lives Matters peaceful protests, in early June, and the condemnation of racist acts carried out on Tseshaht First Nation territory, in the Alberni Valley, or at the Cornerstone Taphouse in Courtenay, there has been little, if any, talk of how we might address other acts (verbal or otherwise) that promote exclusion and exalt repression. As the partner of a man who grew up in Europe facing daily reminders that his blackness deemed him somehow less ‘worthy,’ I was shocked and saddened to see that here on our “peaceful” West Coast we, too, have individuals that believe their freedom of expression trumps (no pun intended) all else.
I’d like to hope that the day my son is carrying his own child back from the park, this type of experience will only be recalled in history books or museums. I’d like to think we could get there. I’d like to think one day these symbols will be deemed illegal.
But it’s not something likely to happen if we all continue to just walk on by.