Criticism shouldn’t focus on Kinew’s race, writes Hansen
BY MELISSA HANSEN
I remember the first time I called someone out for making a racist comment. It was in 2002. I was twelve-years-old and sitting in my backyard. One of my older relatives was on the deck chatting with my dad about 9/11. I immediately started eavesdropping. A comment was made about an Indian man. My relative called him a terrorist. I jumped in and said it was not fair to say, that the colour of his skin didn’t make him one. My dad supported me standing up to my older relative and ended the conversation there.
I still think of that moment years later, an exchange between three people sitting on the back deck in the suburbs of Winnipeg. It was a moment that represented someone’s fear. I did not understand why people thought that way, but I knew I believed it was wrong.
Growing up as a millennial, we are not spoon fed limited news and information the way they were 50 years ago. Although much of that news was also biased and did not tell the whole story, there was more of a cohesive system people followed. It is now our responsibility to sift through the words and find ones we think are ethical and true.
All of this sifting can be dangerous. It is easy to only read headlines and get snippets of the stories being told. Just read the comment sections on Facebook. People are so often outraged by a headline when they clearly have not even read the article.
Wab Kinew is a recent hot topic in the news. As I read article after article, a familiar trend has started. Articles speaking of him in good and bad light refers to him as Indigenous on several occasions. This brings me back to being 12 in the backyard. Why does his race matter when we talk about his politics and allegations of assault? When we talk about Premiere Pallister and his trips down south, the headlines don’t read: “Caucasian Premiere of Manitoba spends time in Costa Rica.”
We do not do this because it is irrelevant.
Manitoba is going through a transformation. Big changes take time for people to get used to, but next time you are having a discussion or choosing words when discussing Wab Kinew, try leaving his race out of it. Wab Kinew, leader of the NDP — that should be enough of a title to start a conversation.