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Aug. 5, 2020 | Wednesday
Editorials and Opinions
Editorial: A town full of racists? No, but NOTL can do better
One of the negative reactions to Yvonne Bredow's story about racist behaviour in NOTL.

Kevin MacLean

Managing Editor

Sometimes the truth hurts. Or is uncomfortable. Or lays waste to our closely held beliefs. Or makes us angry.

The Lake Report reported two weeks ago about instances in which migrant workers – non-whites upon whom our agricultural sector is extremely dependent – were mistreated and racially profiled by some local businesses.

That inspired Yvonne Bredow, a Queenston resident who works at a store in Old Town, to speak out last week about the race-based abuse and encounters she has endured in town.

Bredow did not accuse everyone in Niagara-on-the-Lake of harbouring racist beliefs. That would be silly. She clearly stated – right in paragraph 4 – that she was not painting the whole town with the same brush, but was shining a light on the sort of recurring behaviour most would like to think was left behind generations ago.

The overwhelming public reaction to Bredow’s opinion piece has been positive and supportive, though she did receive some hateful messages and “blacklash” from a few people, as did we.

Most of the negativity came predictably via social media, since that is the battleground of keyboard warriors nowadays.

Sadly, oddly in 2020, one of the recurring themes among the negative comments was that if you really don’t like it here, you should leave. And don’t dare try to change NOTL. You’re just like the people who hate bird bangers. And if you come from away, leave your “outsider opinions” behind.

Good Lord. (And in a town with numerous churches, and many faiths, is it wrong to ask if any of those who share these black-and-white views are righteous God-fearing, church-going folks?)

Does anyone else see the irony of this happening in NOTL, which has a proud history of tolerance dating to the days of the Underground Railway?

Perhaps history and change have something to do with it. NOTL is not what it once was, it’s grown – and is still growing – it’s changed, and many people fear and hate change. Actually, does anyone really like it?

And in any small town when you dare publish something uncomplimentary about what goes on, there often is a segment of the populace that takes grave offence. In the case of Bredow’s story, it is hugely embarrassing for us to collectively look in the mirror and know that some folks in NOTL are stuck in deep in a bygone era. And it makes us look bad to the outside world.

In addition, there are some who simply don’t believe her story. “Didn’t happen,” “You’re not even black,” they tell the woman born of a black mother and German father, who spent much of her life in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities on the planet.

Well, the fact that even a few people (and it IS, thankfully, a small number) took it upon themselves to deny the truth of Bredow’s story in the way they did has actually proven her point.

Let’s look forward. We did not take lightly the decision to publish these stories. It's an ugly saga. We weighed the consequences. But we believe it was necessary to shine a light and maybe end the complacency and ingrained attitudes that permit such racial beliefs to fester.

So, when you hear or see this happening, step up. It’s not easy, but don’t simply tolerate it. And if you are guilty of such behaviour, educate yourself. Yours is the minority opinion now. Because it’s 2020.

We all can do better, and ultimately, NOTL can be better.

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