Candidates in the October 2020 B.C. election for the Fraser-Nicola district. (Submitted photos)

Candidates in the October 2020 B.C. election for the Fraser-Nicola district. (Submitted photos)

Fraser-Nicola candidates address racism, privilege in Oct. 14 debate

Candidates were asked how their work will be influenced by intersectionality

Fraser-Nicola candidates spoke about racism, privilege and intersectionality in their first virtual all candidates meeting.

At the Oct. 14 meeting, the five candidates were asked by a viewer how their work will be influenced by intersectionality. Their answers ranged for acknowledgements of their own privilege by Green candidate Jonah Timms and incumbent Liberal candidate Jackie Tegart, to a personal experience with intersectionality by NDP candidate Aaron Sumexheltza. Independent Dennis Adamson said he treats all people equal, and Mike Bhangu who is also an independent candidate answered that he does not “see colour.”

A term coined by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is a “metaphor for understanding the ways that multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves.” These forms of disadvantage could be race, class, gender, sexuality or other identities, and their overlapping effects are not generally understood within conventional ways of thinking Crenshaw says. She gives the example of African American girls being six times more likely to be suspended than white girls – “that’s probably a race and a gender problem, it’s not just a race problem and it’s not just a gender problem. So I encourage people to think about how the convergence of race stereotypes or gender stereotypes might actually play out,” she said.

Timms acknowledged that he is “a white male speaking about intersectionality.”

“I recognize my privilege and I just want to say that I want to work for everybody in the riding and I feel like everyone is valuable and everyone has a valuable voice towards that,” he said. He pledged to listen to everyone in the riding and their concerns should he win the seat.

Sumexheltza, who is Indigenous, referred back to his childhood growing up in Kamloops with his brother and sister. He remembered his sister, who was 10 at the time, coming home upset about an interaction she had with another child.

“She said, ‘This one girl can’t be friends with me because I’m First Nations.’ That’s something terrible for a young girl to go through.”

Acknowledging the systemic issues in communities, as well as the history of the country and province are the way forward Sumexheltza said. “What we need to do as a society is just to acknowledge that when we’re all born we’re not at an equal playing field,” he said. “If we acknowledge the issues and the history of our country and our province, then we’ll be able to take positive steps and hopefully work in a collaborative way for everybody. And for the benefit of everybody.”

Tegart acknowledged that this issue is one that is being talked about around the world. Her work involves listening, as someone born white and to a middle-class family, “trying to understand and hear people’s stories.”

“I hope that people find me an inclusive person and I always have more to learn,” she added.

Adamson said he treats everyone the same, regardless of race, language or appearance.

“I’m there to help and I basically treat everyone the same, and will continue,” he said.

Bhangu said he has experienced racism all of his life, even, currently and understands “the inner pains discrimination bestows.”

“I don’t see colour, I don’t see gender, I don’t see race, I see human beings,” he said, repeating a phrase BC NDP leader John Horgan was criticized for using at an Oct. 13 televised leaders’ debate.

Critics of this phrase and of the ideology of colourblindness contend that claiming to not see colour can both serve to negate a person’s identity as a coloured person, as well as allow people to avoid addressing how racism manifests in society.

Read more: Horgan attempts to clarify ‘I don’t see colour’ debate answer with Twitter post

“I treat all as equal, and I will continue to future of this province and country is oneness. This is what we need to work towards, a oneness,” Bhangu added.

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