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Scott Thompson: Is Canada a land of opportunity? It’s a question of privilege

Demonstrators take part in a rally protesting the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in downtown Toronto, Saturday May 30, 2020. Korchinski-Paquet, 29, fell from the balcony of a 24th-floor Toronto apartment while police were in the home. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to rally in the aftermath of high-profile, police-involved deaths in both Canada and the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.
Demonstrators take part in a rally protesting the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in downtown Toronto, Saturday May 30, 2020. Korchinski-Paquet, 29, fell from the balcony of a 24th-floor Toronto apartment while police were in the home. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to rally in the aftermath of high-profile, police-involved deaths in both Canada and the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

I remember hearing the phrase “white privilege” for the first time and thinking, “Privileged? Am I privileged just because I am white?

“Doesn’t everyone who is in Canada have the same opportunity I have?”

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Even if you’ve come from humble beginnings, I thought, don’t we all have at least access to the same tools that I have, the same success?

It may be a longer journey but you’ll get there, the thinking goes — that old idea of if you want to make it, you will.

But no, that isn’t the case. Because if you take the time to ask a person who is living this disadvantage in life, you will realize there is much more to it than that.

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Willy T. Ribbs was a Black race car driver in the ’80s and ’90s and was told by his self-made grandfather, who owned a successful plumbing business, that if he wanted to succeed, he’d have to be better than the rest.

That mantra was burned into Willy’s head at a young age, but even when he proved he was better than the rest, the opportunities never came.

It’s not because he wasn’t good enough. It’s because there were people who didn’t want to see him succeed because of the colour of his skin.

They didn’t want to see a Black winner, let alone a Black champion.

Click to play video 'Man in custody following tense moments during Calgary protest' Man in custody following tense moments during Calgary protest
Man in custody following tense moments during Calgary protest

Willy did eventually realize his dream of competing in the Indy 500, becoming the first Black person to do so.

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There are countless stories just like his if you take time to look — stories of prejudice.

White privilege means never having to face that prejudice.

The sad irony, however, is that what white Canadians enjoy as a privilege is a basic human right. We are all equal.

That is why more white people have to speak up against racism.

Scott Thompson is the host of The Scott Thompson Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML Hamilton.​​​​