A Vancouver man is speaking out after recording what he describes as a racist encounter on a Vancouver bus on Saturday.
“It’s something I just want people to realize,” said Randy Keeping, who captured the exchange on the number 41 bus near Joyce Street, around 7 p.m. on June 23. “Like, racism. It’s 2018, right? We should all grow up a little bit.”
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“People do deserve a little wake-up call.”
From the video, it is unclear how the interaction began.
Keeping said that before he began recording, there was an argument at the front of the bus between several people regarding someone talking loudly on the phone.
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He said afterwards, a woman near the front of the bus began speaking in another language.
He believes a white woman dressed in pink sitting in front of him thought the woman speaking the foreign tongue was mocking one of the people involved in the altercation, and stepped in.
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Go back to your country
“You’re being racist, now drop it,” the woman in pink can be heard saying as the video begins.
“No,” replies the foreign language speaker, before the woman in pink talks over her. “I have the right to.”
“I don’t give a s**t if you have a right,” says the woman in pink. “Yeah, go back to your country,” she adds.
“That was ridiculous,” the woman in pink then says to someone off-camera. “Like, you think I don’t know they’re talking about you? They’re looking right at you.”
The exchange continues with the foreign-language speaker asking, “You want to threaten me?”
The woman in pink replies, “How am I threatening you? You guys need to stop talking your language.”
At that point, Keeping, who is First Nations, interjects, telling the woman in pink that people can speak whatever language they want, adding that they’re all on Indigenous land that belongs to everyone.
The woman in pink then replies, “I didn’t say you can’t talk your language, I said you can’t put people down in your language.”
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Metro Vancouver Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan told Global News that no formal report was made about the incident, but that a file has now been opened.
Drennan said police would need to identify all parties involved in the exchange and discuss what happened.
She said it’s not clear if there could be legal ramifications, “given that there was no violence, but very racist language.”
“We do look at hate crimes, but its difficult to say if this would meet that threshold,” Drennan said.
In a statement, TransLink said it also had not received a report of the incident.
“We take the safety and comfort of every single passenger very seriously. Ensuring that our transit system is harassment free is very important to us,” it said.
“We encourage customers who witness this kind of situation unfold to come forward right away so that we can investigate further.”
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Countering racism with racism
For his part, Keeping believes the woman in pink thought she was doing right and standing up for someone against what she perceived as racism — but that she did it in the wrong way.
“She tried to counter racism with more racism, which I found appalling,” he said.
“She couldn’t understand what they were saying, so I’m not sure how she could step in.”
He said he was motivated to share the video to show people that incidents like this are more common than many might believe.
“And to show people that we can be better and not be racist and feel safe walking down the street, feel safe getting on a bus. Showing videos like this can help people realize this is a messed up world. We just have to be better people.”
Keeping said that as a First Nations person, he was particularly upset by the exchange, and that he himself has been the target of many similar incidents.
“When people say that, and they say ‘go back to your country,’ it really bugs me,” he said.
“Because you’re on First Nations land, but it’s not even my land to say it’s my land. Like I say in the video, it’s everyone’s land. They can speak any language they want in this country.”