Friday, January 29, 2016

We're different on the outside, same on the inside

January 28, 2016 · Updated 9:01 AM

Abbotsford News columnist Ken Herar / FILE PHOTO
I have never forgotten the first time I experienced racism and came to the realization that I was a bit different than the rest.
Reflecting on a moment growing in our hometown of Mission where our family encountered racism for the first time to my knowledge.
Back in the 1970's people (kids) unfortunately threw eggs at homes if they were from immigrant families. Diversity wasn't a concept that was really spoken about, but it was a learning experience we had to go through.
I recall, eating supper at our dinner table one evening when a bunch of kids threw eggs, which sounded like rocks at our door and yelled, " Paki's Go Home". A bit scared and never really understanding the situation, we asked our father what do they mean. Dad replies, " We are a little different than the rest, son."
Looking back at it now he was trying to shelter us from the hate. Trying to comprehend all of this, we sucked it up and realized we had to be a bit stronger than the rest.  You don't really understand it, until you know you are different.
I don't believe this happens anymore at least I hope not. We still love our town of Mission and they're are no hard feelings from our family. You move forward, but you don't really forget the lasting imprint it leaves on your conscience. You just hope it doesn't happen again to anyone else. Actually, the kids that used to do this apologized indirectly to us many years later. Even some of those eggs may have been different on the outside, they all looked the same on the inside when they were scrambled at our doorstep.
This ordeal had been on my mind for the past year to share on what some immigrant families had to go through many decades ago and reminded that we were different and had to work a little harder than the rest
I recently reached out to the three men, who were being sought after for suspicious behaviour ( Middle Eastern men) at Pacific Centre in Vancouver a few weeks ago and provided them with encouragement and shared a little what we do with Cycling4Diversity. I also gave them C4D shirts as gifts before they headed back home to England to showcase our true diverse spirit as Canadians. The first thing I said as I walked through the door to shake Mohammed Sharaz is, " I am sorry for what happened" and he responded, " Don't be sorry". The three of them, including his son and a friend were taking pictures at the downtown mall and alarms bells were raised by their behaviour by security staff, while two of them suffer from vision issues and were here for treatment. The three men turned themselves in after they found the story accidentally and images of themselves when Goggling Vancouver. During, our talk they didn't have a ill faded word to say and loved Vancouver and all the kind people who stepped forward to assist and clear the air. As Mohammed said police and security staff have a responsibility to keep people safe. But, he added it could of been handled better by some of the media outlets to protect them and their safety.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The valley’s bushiest beard

COLUMN: The valley’s bushiest beard

    On the Spot by Ken Herar

I recently bumped into Thomas Hodgson, the guy with the bushiest beard probably in the Fraser Valley. He certainly wasn’t hard to miss by any stretch of the imagination as I sat in a restaurant. I shared with him that his hairy reddish beard was very impressive and he shared that it goes past his waist. I have seen my fellow Sikh brothers with beards like these, but not a Caucasian person, except for Santa, of course. I was told once that people with beards hold much wisdom.
Hodgson, who has been growing his beard for two years, says he gets a lot of strange responses from people. Women have asked him to shave it off and his response to them is to stop wearing makeup.
He explains that small children are always pleasant with him and usually hold no judgments or biases. Adults and teenagers are the worst, he explains.
“Rarely do I get a positive reaction from an adult or teens. Women in their 20s are scared and intimidated and same goes for men. Older women and men are very judgmental and stare for a long time, and make really puzzled looks and that’s the same for people who have grown up here.”
Hodgson says he feels alienated through all of this, especially when looking for employment, where many employers have asked him to shave it off.
He lost his job a year ago, and has a hard time finding a job, because many have judged him because of this very reason, but he refuses to shave it off. He says people are far more judgmental in the Fraser Valley than in the metro surroundings.
On the bright side, there are people who find it fascinating. They are usually the ones who cannot grow beards, while some just find it intriguing. It’s all not negative, according to Hodgson, but he still loves the person who he is and the beard, which makes him, who he is.
* * * * *
The Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards are approaching quickly with the deadline around the corner on Jan. 12 and the awards ceremony on March 4 at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre in Abbotsford. Having been a past recipient of the Champion of Diversity in 2007, I was honoured to receive this recognition.
With this award comes a responsibility to continue to serve. There are five award categories and never a shortage of outstanding nominees that showcase our community’s commitment to cultural diversity.
The event is always sold out with fine representatives from our community. The time has come that award organizers and judges should consider expanding and awarding two awards for each category. In doing this, we touch more people and create more mentors.
One thing I hear often from volunteers is they never get recognized for their work,  and this would be a small way to change this perception. Having a few extra recipients will not only encourage organizations to continue to do their work, but also bring new nominees into the fold.