In a video now gone viral, a woman is recorded making several demands for a “white doctor” who “doesn’t have brown teeth” and “speaks English” at a local walk-in clinic. Recorded in Mississauga, located just outside Toronto, the four minute video shows the woman growing increasingly agitated with the clinic staff, asking multiple times to see a “white doctor” to treat her son who was suffering from chest pains. When the staff tell her that no such doctor is available until at least after 4:00PM, she gets angry, saying: “I saw a doctor that was not white that did not help my kid. I would like to see a white doctor. You’re telling me there isn’t one white doctor in this whole entire building?” She continues to complain, claiming that she waited five-and-a-hours to see a “brown doctor” whom she claims did not help her child with his chest pains.
“He was not speaking English. His teeth were brown. I do not need his help,” she exclaims to the clinic staff.
The woman’s complaints draw the attention of others in the waiting room, who accuse her of being racist and some suggesting she take her child to a hospital. She refuses their attempts at rebuttal, answering the questions and recommendations with a racist slur.
“Oh my God, what type of horrible country do I live in?” she says at one point. “Being a white person in this country, I should just shoot myself.” As she is confronted by more bystanders, she appears to back off her requirement that the doctor be white and instead asks for one born in Canada.
“My kid is part not-white, so can we get somebody to see him that at least speaks English?” she says. “I spoke English. We want somebody Canadian to see him.”
Hitesh Bhardwaj, the man who recorded the video, told media outs that he started filming the incident after the woman next to him asked the irritated woman why the doctor had to be white.
“I couldn’t help but record the video,” said Bhardwaj. “This is bad; this is inappropriate and shouldn’t go unnoticed.”
And noticed it has been. Watched thousands of times, the video has sparked outrage both online and among Canadians themselves. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne even spoke about the video, stating: “I think it is a shocking occurrence and there is no place for that kind of behavior or that kind of racism and hatred in our society. I think we should all be shocked.”
Problem is, we really shouldn’t be. Let me tell you, diving into the rabbit hole and glancing through the comments sections on social media regarding this video is an exercise in patience. The amount of people defending this woman is just disappointing. I understand that there were high emotions involved with her child being sick, or that requesting an English-speaking doctor is a valid request (but to those people: language barriers are real, but she only reverted to the language argument after she asked for a white doctor). But the argument that South-Asians and Asians are more racist that white people, that the people in the clinic repeatedly ignore white people in favor of brown, is just disgusting. C’mon now people. I will give kudos to the other people in the video though. It is awesome to see witnesses standing up to the woman, to the point where she shouts loudly that they are “attacking me because I’m white,” but Canadians need to stop pretending this isn’t common.
From tearing up the Quran to racist protests outside high schools, Canada isn’t some safe haven for people of all colors and religions. Although it’s the idea our campy Prime Minister wants the world to see, ignorance and bigotry still runs rampant in the Great White North as well. Our issues are not as polarized or obvious as our friends down south, but they are there. Hell, I’ve seen people run into problems just because they don’t speak fluent French; some Quebecois folk discriminate against English speakers, let alone immigrants.
I’m not ridiculous enough to claim that this woman represents all Canadians. I’d be selling many Canadians short with that perspective. That person is an ignorant fool. I’d infer, based on her language, that her racism is born of white fragility brought to light by social change that scares the shit out of her. Besides, she has her stereotypes mixed up. Isn’t it the English who are supposed to have bad teeth?
Of course, that’s beside the point. As Shree Paradkar from the Toronto Star says so eloquently: “Racism is the refuge of the ignorant, and thank goodness for her display of it in that overt form because it’s often the only type of discrimination that people understand and acknowledge as racism.”
This woman’s behavior comes as a surprise to some because it shatters the delicate bubble of equality that surrounds the idea of multiculturalism. This bubble has rarely been poked before, on account of inherent privileges insulating these folks from the true realities of trying to meld many groups together. When this is attempted, ignorance, fear and forced change, respectively, create environments from which resentment and anger can fester. The left and minority groups have been fighting for equal ground so long that there is a resounding backlash challenging these disruptions to the status quo, the old way of doing things. And of course, the countermovement, the anti-political correctness crowd, is being propagated and carried out largely by right-wing news and social media. I’m not blaming these individuals alone, but it’s largely why we find people like Rob Ford, Nigel Farage, and Donald Trump in power.
Anyone who thinks there is a place in this world where racism doesn’t exist sorely needs to be educated. Most of the time, it’s not as overt as asking for a white doctor, but subtle; like asking for someone who speaks proper English. This would be referred to as a micro aggression. ‘Micro aggressions’, such as asking where someone comes from, are all over Canada. I’m not saying that a varied heritage and culture is not a beautiful thing, because exploring others’ backgrounds - and especially food! - is one of the great joys in my life. But it took me a long time to realize that when people commented on how articulate, how well-spoken I was, it wasn’t a real compliment. Instead, they’re unconsciously acknowledging the idea that because I’m a visible minority, my success in learning the English or French language was absolutely marvelous. It’s a way of patting me on the head, and others like me, for aspiring towards a benchmark modelled on upper-class English ideals. I don’t look like an ideal, but I can speak like one, so that makes me acceptable.
The staff members in that Mississauga clinic didn’t look acceptable. Neither was the English spoken there; that English wasn’t that woman’s type of English. Therefore, it was faulty and invited judgement.
She said what many unconsciously feel but don’t express. Canadians judge someone who speaks differently all the time; we often view them as unintellectual or uneducated. I’ll freely admit I’ve had these thoughts too when encountering someone in front of me in the lunch line struggling to order. An unspoken but common opinion is that they invite criticisms because they haven’t bothered to learn the right way to speak. They don’t speak like a Canadian. But this mentality only marginalizes and creates barriers in our country. These biases blind us to ideas, stories, and other cultural aspects that can enrich our lives and our nation.
We need to acknowledge that this racism we see around the world is present and thriving in our own communities. Admitting the problem is the first step; educating the ignorant is next. Unfortunately, that education is not going to happen while people are yelling at each other over misguided rhetoric in a suburban walk-in clinic.