Don’t go home. Stick around and help build a stronger province.

My wife and I were headed out to Grande-Digue yesterday to take in Ballet-by-the-Ocean and impressive innovation during Covid-19 from the Atlantic Ballet of Canada. At a stop light my wife pointed out to me that on the driver’s door of the car next to us someone had scratched the words “GO HOME” into the paint. The driver was a visible minority and quite possibly an immigrant.

Now normally I don’t like to jump to conclusions. Possibly, this GO HOME note was etched by his wife as her cell phone battery was dead. Maybe he was from Ontario and so excited to be going home that he wrote those two words himself. Maybe he was an actor in an anti-racism campaign and was driving the car around town to spark a conversation among unsuspecting travelers on their way to the ballet, or the beach or some other benign activity.

Given the thinness of those scenarios, it is likely this guy was on the receiving end of a nasty racist event. He might have cut someone off on the highway or ‘stolen’ the best parking spot. Maybe he rejected a romantic partner. Or, maybe, someone just didn’t like the color of his skin or his place of birth.

This bothered me. A lot. In fact, I had trouble sleeping last night.

I am the one who chafes when people say there are racists in New Brunswick. I prefer to say there are people who have no experience with immigration or with people of colour and all we need is better communication. We don’t have racists – i.e. those who believe they are fundamentally superior to others based on skin colour or ethnic origin – rather we have ignorance – people who don’t know why we need to attract immigrants or who read on Facebook that immigrants ‘take our jobs’ or ‘dilute our culture’ or other incendiary allegations.

I spent 6+ years living in Virginia and while I loved much about the place – I did see real racism there in the late 1980s. I saw the lady that cut flowers where I worked grimace when a black person accidentally rubbed up against her. I heard her whisper the ‘n’ word through her teeth. I saw the raised eyebrows when I took my African American girlfriend to a barbeque.

But I didn’t think it was here. At least not prevalent. Here it wasn’t racism – it was ignorance.

Carving the words “GO HOME” into the car door of a person of colour is racism. There is no nuance, no explanation, no yah buts. The person who does this is an idiot and should be ashamed. It’s hard to imagine that a public awareness campaign will have any impact on people such as this.

To all the people who have faced “GO HOME” in any form, I am truly sorry.

Most New Brunswickers want you here and know you will help us build stronger communities in the years ahead. Don’t GO HOME, STAY and build your lives, families and careers here.

To those of us who have lived here all or most of our lives we can and need to do better. Anytime some in your circle or beyond makes anything from a snide remark to an outright racist comment, you need to push back hard.

This goes way beyond economics or demographics. This is fundamentally about what kind of person you are and what kind of a society we are.

We can turn inward and isolate around the familiar with ever hardening views of anything or anyone that is different. Or we can open up.

You choose.