The man who was the target of racial slurs in downtown Edmonton earlier this week met with Mayor Don Iveson Friday morning, and the pair used their time together to come up with a concept to fight racism.
Jesse Lipscombe, who’s an actor, was filming a PSA Wednesday about the great attributes of downtown when a car pulled up at an intersection in front of him, and someone inside the vehicle “The n*****s are coming! The n*****s are coming!”
Lipscombe approached the vehicle and opened the passenger side door.
Words were exchanged before a passenger shut the door and the vehicle pulled away.
As the vehicle left, a voice can be heard on the video yelling “n****r!”
Watch below: A racist incident in downtown Edmonton was caught on camera and has spread on social media.
On Friday, Lipscombe and Iveson met at the mayor’s office to discuss the incident. They also started an initiative they’re calling #makeitawkward.
“If you have someone in your workplace, someone in the locker room, someone around the campfire who is even casually being racist or derogatory to any group or individual, it’s time to stop the conversation; it’s time to make it a little awkward and talk about it,” Iveson said.
Lipscombe posted a video on his Facebook page with more details about the #makeitawkward movement.
Iveson said he’s impressed with Lipscombe’s ability to take the negative incident and turn it into an opportunity to open a discussion about racism.
“He has turned this right around and I’m so proud of him, and that’s what we talked about this morning and how to activate that.”
Iveson also used the opportunity to express the important role social media can play in opening up the conversation about discrimination and providing support for victims of racism.
“This is not a racist city, this is not a racist country, but unfortunately, as Canadians we’d like to think those values don’t exist in our community, but in the hearts of some people they do.”
A representative from Black Lives Matter Edmonton said racism happens all too often in Edmonton but most often it’s more subtle.
“The quieter, smiling racism that we see on an extremely frequent basis, microaggressions, off-colour jokes, those are the things that are more insidious,” Kassia Haynes said.
A University of Alberta researcher who studies racism and social media credits Lipscombe with taking control of the situation with a campaign that provides a safe way for others to do the same.
“It almost gives a blueprint, so to speak, of what people can start to do or think about doing when we do see aspects and expressions of hate in public spaces,” Irfan Chaudhry said. “A lot of times, if we saw something in the offline world, it’s very difficult for people to intervene.”
Chaudhry said #MakeItAwkward is a good place to start, but adds governments need to start taking incidents like this more seriously.
With files from Jennifer Crosby, Global News.