Anti-racism protests around the world have struck a chord for many, including a man in Peterborough, Ont., who says his family was targeted by an incident earlier this year.
The image that Joziah saw on the morning of Feb. 2 will never leave his mind, he told Global News. His last name is being withheld for safety reasons.
Joziah was on his way to his mother-in-law’s house to pick up some family members for a Sunday service. As he parked his car, he saw an anti-Black message that seemed to be directed at him and his family.
“I’ll never forget turning my head to the house directly across the street from where she lived,” he said. “There was a red hatchback car parked in the driveway with some fresh-laden snow that was on the back hatchback, and someone had written ‘I hate Black people.'”
Joziah said he took a picture immediately and went to his family for advice.
“I was hurt, I was upset. I just couldn’t believe that that would happen,” he said. “Just the fact that my mother-in-law and family just moved there just that year, you know?”
“It was quite sad and quite disturbing.”
Joziah said he called the police, and they deemed it a hate incident. He also said the police ended up going over to the neighbour’s house to investigate and were told the owner of the house didn’t do it.
Joziah said that to his knowledge, no Black people lived at the house across the street where the car was parked, so the message in snow seems to have pointed to his family instead.
Joziah said the police haven’t been able to identify the perpetrator.
This is not the first time something like this has happened in Peterborough, according to Joziah. And he is certainly not the first to speak out. Joziah told Global News he recalls a time when he was walking down the street in the city, and an individual who was hiding in the bushes called him the n- word.
“Oh yeah, there’s definitely microaggressions,” he said.
According to statistics gathered by Peterborough Police Service, there were six unsolved hate/bias crimes in 2019, two resolved incidents, and two which led to charges. Global News contacted the police service for the number of hate crimes reported in 2020, but was told those stats are not available at this time.
What defines a ‘hate crime’ or ‘hate incident’ is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code, according to Insp. Neil Collins from the Criminal Investigations Division of the service.
According to the Hate Crimes Community Working Group under the Ontario Human Rights Commission, a ‘hate incident’ is an expression of bias, hatred, and bigotry carried out by individuals, groups, organizations, or states that is meant to marginalize community groups and secure existing structures of dominance.
A ‘hate crime’ is a hate incident that also happens to be a criminal offense.
Demonstrations against hate crimes and anti-racism were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. The unarmed Black man died May 25 after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, while two other officers held him down and an additional officer stood guard.
After the incident — filmed by bystanders — was circulated widely online, international protests erupted. But Floyd’s killing, as well as the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, are only a few high-profile examples of what the Black community has been demanding for a long time — justice for all Black lives and an end to systemic racism.
According to a damning 2018 interim report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, members of the Black community were nearly 20 times more likely than white people to be fatally shot by Toronto police between 2013 and 2017.
Conversations being held online around Black lives have also raised questions on what it means for non-Black people to be an ally.
Joziah says he doesn’t let this incident, or the multiple microaggressions he’s faced over the years, taint his picture of Peterborough.
“I always try to not just look at the negative side of things in life,” he said. “Yes, its unfortunate these things have happened to me, in my teenage years, what’s happening right now and other things that we haven’t really talked about. But at the same time, Peterborough is also a good city. There’s also good that happens here. These are individuals that have done this, but that doesn’t mean that everybody else is like that. ”
“There are so many wonderful people here that have encouraged my life and that have been accepting, that have been loving as well.”
However, he does admit that when it comes to systemic racism — in things like policing, education and hiring practices — we need to look at things from a different perspective.
“Oh boy, that’s a whole other topic,” he said. “I feel that the level of racism here in the city, when it comes to power, and politics and law enforcement, it’s very hidden. A lot of it, I believe, is said behind our backs… They won’t say it to your face, but you can just tell by body language, subtle kind of hints of what’s going on, kind rejections and things like that.”
He hopes those who see his story can start tackling the issue, by first acknowledging that racism does in fact exist in Canada.
“I just hope that out of this, it just sparks real genuine relationships and conversations… Hatred won’t ever solve hatred. I believe that love and open-mindedness, forgiveness, patience and kindness — these are things that are going to move us forward in a different direction,” he said. “I am standing for everyone who is a minority that is getting mistreated.”