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Love / Hate / Indifference

The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference - Elie Wiesel

I heard this quote a few years ago and kept it in my back pocket. It rears its ugly head often; in my life, in relationships, in the news about ignored human rights/ land rights/ what else rights, another murdered Indigenous girl, more newcomers struggling to resettle because of a lack of resources, oh, the list goes on. It’s been so in my face lately. Allow me to share an anecdote.

I was asking him lots of questions about the diversity in the city.

Recently I took a cab from the Winnipeg airport to the Indigenous Family Centre in the north end. I was there to attend justice and reconciliation meetings with the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee and the Centre for Public Dialogue; both ministries with the Christian Reformed Church; so reconciliation was at the top of my mind. 

My cab driver was Punjabi, he knew I was Indian, too. It was my first time to Winnipeg and I was asking him lots of questions about the diversity in the city. I was curious about all the Mandirs (Punjabi places of worship) around and where I could get an Indian meal. 

My heart was hurting because this wasn’t the first time I heard such hateful comments.

It was all good until we started to get closer to the north end. This was the time I questioned him about the big plastic barrier protecting him from passengers in his vehicle. He told me of the high crime in Winnipeg. He continued to let me know about the ‘Indians’; “not our kind”, in “this area.” I asked for clarification if he was referring to Indigenous people and he agreed. He continued telling me why he wouldn’t ever pick up people from this area. To be provocative, I asked why not and he just shook his head violently saying they were no good. Just at that moment we approaching my destination and he began  motioning to some Indigenous looking kids on the corner. “See, those people.” My heart was in my stomach. I let him know that I was going to meet with these “people” to work with them in figuring out how to create safer spaces. He wasn’t listening. I think he was too focused on getting out of there. He added that our Indians don’t live in this area. I paid him, without a tip, and got out with my heart in the pit of my stomach. My heart was hurting because this wasn’t the first time I heard such hateful comments about Indigenous people. 

There is no desire to understand that we, too, are settlers.

I’m an immigrant Canadian and the indifference my immediate and extended family and friends have towards Indigenous people is shocking. There is no desire to understand that we, too, are settlers on their land; that relationship and reconciliation matters. They are still in the mind frame of accepting simple stories  that Indigenous people are like TV characters, red indians, who all live on welfare. It kills me. Their racism hurts, the indifference cuts. 

Asking questions and listening is not on their radar. Sometimes I wonder if stories like mine from the cab come about as a result of the same reasons; indifference, lack of questions and lack of desire to listen. I think about Matthew 11:16-17,

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the pipe for you,

and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge,

and you did not mourn.’"

Jesus likens the crowd to a group a fickle children who aren’t happy with neither happy games/sounds nor solemn occasions. Like those crowds in this passage, we have become so passive to all the stimulus around us in the news and in our experiences.

I haven’t figured out how to effectively communicate ... But, I’m searching,

This is spiritual indifference. This is not love. Not God’s love anyway. I don’t have the answers. I am active in reconciliation and my own family wouldn’t even be able to tell you what the word means. I’m guilty of letting doubt consume me, too. But, I’m not giving up. Sometimes hitting people over the head with information doesn’t work and we need to find the back door to their hearts and minds. Let the story of the cab driver remind my immigrant community but all Canadians the importance of listening and learning that needs to happen around the topic of reconciliation. I haven’t figured out how to effectively communicate with my communities so that they listen intentionally. But, I’m searching, and I’m starting. I don’t want to live in indifference.     

Photo by Lexi Ruskell on Unsplash

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