Solidarity together: Central Albertans protest in Red Deer against racism

Racism is a concern in central Alberta

There’s no such thing as a little bit of racism.

Even one act of discrimination is one too many, said a central Alberta protester Monday.

Lacombe resident Dieulita Datus was one of many people who participated in a peaceful anti-racism march at Red Deer City Hall Park.

“(As a black woman), I absolutely experience racism in everyday life,” she said. “I don’t think we’re better off than the U.S., because a little bit of racism is still racism.”

Recalling one incident, Datus said she and her brother were at a local library with their hoodies on, and a security guard approached the two.

“And told us that we need to make sure our faces are visible at all times. And he didn’t ask that of anybody else, just of me and my younger brother,” she said.

The protester said Monday’s demonstration was as much about Indigenous people in Canada as it was about black people.

“As a black woman living in central Alberta, I can tell you the majority of racism is geared towards the Indigenous community.”

More than 130 central Albertans showed up at City Hall Park for the peaceful march protesting racism.

There has been a series of anti-racism demonstrations in the U.S. and in Canadian cities, including Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

The marches have been triggered by the death of George Floyd, whose torturous death beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer was captured on cellphone video.

Local march co-organizers Cheryl Jaime and Kiana Salzsauler of Red Deer said their event’s Facebook page received more than 250 responses within 24 hours.

“It shows it’s a big problem, even in our city. A lot of people have been asking why we’re doing this here, and the thing is, it’s happening everywhere in the world,” said Salzsauler.

As an Indigenous woman, Jaime has experienced racism on more than one occasion in Red Deer.

“Just the other day, I actually had a lady telling me she is sorry being the skin colour that I am, because it’s always going to be a struggle for me being my colour,” said Jaime, adding it was an incident while she was in line at a Tim Hortons.

“I was really shocked. I didn’t respond,” said the 23-year-old.

“The first thing that came to mind was the only reason it’s difficult for people like me is because people have this mind frame. There’s just no excuse for people to be saying stuff like that to each other. It’s not OK.”

Markus Lawrence, a Red Deer resident and a protester, said racism “is alive and well” in the oilpatch, where he has previously worked.

“There’s wording, actions, snide remarks that everyone makes of one another,” he said, explaining “if you haven’t worked in the industry, you don’t know. But if you have, you know it’s a whole different lifestyle.”

Sadia Khan, another Red Deer resident who was marchng Monday, believes society needs to take the issue a step further, and for her, that means calling racism out when it’s seen.

“Calling it out within your friends, and not just saying ‘that’s sad that it happened.’”

Khan said she has sisters in Alberta who wear hijabs and experience racial slurs.

“You’ll get called out at your workplace, or walking down the street, or being in a shopping mall (if you’re wearing a hijab).”

This article has been corrected to state Cheryl Jaime is an Indigenous woman.

ALSO READ: Opinion: Feelings of guilt are behind America’s racial anguish

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More than 100 central Albertans peacefully marched in downtown Red Deer against racism Monday. The demonstrations have been triggered by the death of George Floyd, whose torturous death beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer was captured on cellphone video. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

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