Has it become perfectly okay to demand a “white doctor” as naturally as asking someone to pass the Kleenex?

Racism has been legitimized.

This week a woman in Mississauga, Ontario went on a public racist tirade at a medical clinic. She demanded to see a “white Canadian doctor” who speaks English and does not have “brown teeth.” She had little shame in her overt racism and obvious hatred. Worse, she somehow knew there would be little repercussion against her overt display of racism, even in a full waiting room.

What can we expect these days when positive and strong social influences advocating respect and common decency are overwhelmed in a world replete with ethnic strife and politicized environments? Western societies which have been traditionally advocates for pluralism and co-existence are slowly moving in a downward direction, as faith and trust is lost in political leadership focused on divide and conquer ideology.

A divide and conquer ideology – an us versus them – mentality is emerging throughout the world. This generally happens when people become fearful and threatened – they tend to “circle the wagons” and listen to fear mongering. We saw this divide taking place recently over the US presidential election, followed by an equally compelling divide in the French election and then an election shakeup in the United Kingdom, which surprisingly strengthened a radical leftist oppositional ideology – in as much as world affairs are concerned.

Terrorism throughout Europe and North America has created legitimate fear and anxiety in the populace. Expanding conflict zones which remain unresolved for years – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Sudan, Yemen, Turkey, Iran and the everlasting situation in the Middle East – have brought to question if peace is attainable anymore. Is this the new normal?

Refugees streaming out of conflict zones or stuck in massive aid camps for years; expanding white nationalist movements in Europe, France, Hungary, Netherlands, USA and Canada (e.g. the medical clinic woman and “Your Ward News”) on one side – and radical Islamic movements on the other (e.g. “Al Quds Day”) – are tearing at the very fabric of society.

As a result, citizens are pitted against citizens and hate speech and crime become prolific. Is it any wonder that hate crime stats around the world are increasing?

This meltdown and divisiveness has impacted everyone. Has it become perfectly okay to demand a “white doctor” as naturally as asking someone to pass the Kleenex? Evidence of this attitude is most prolific online – especially in social networking sites – where people who can be identified post hateful messages and images for their own friends to see and “Like”; they call others names like “dirty Jew” and of course use the platforms to recruit would-be terrorists and fighters. What has happened to self-respect, friendship and compassion?

The Jewish community has been warning about this downward trend in civility for a number of years now. As a minority group with a long history of racism against us, we have developed an internal “early warning system” (really a gut feeling) that identifies a shift of norms and attitudes when it comes to civil society. The allowance of antisemitism on university campuses, for example, or its inclusion within unionized frameworks or churches and mosques for that matter, have a spillover effect into mainstream society.

If a propaganda violence promoting mural hanging at York University’s Student Centre is allowable – why not everything else?

The racist tirade in the medical clinic shows that we are hardly immune in Canada. This weekend, the annual “Al Quds Day” will take place in Toronto – a hate-fest that celebrates the Iranian regime’s quest to retake Yerushalayim and destroy Israel. As history reminds, tremors like these in the fabric of our peaceful society should never be disregarded, for like a virus they have an ability to spread. By then, it’s too late.

About the Author
Avi Benlolo is the President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), a Jewish non-profit human rights organization. Avi is a prominent Canadian human rights activist dedicated to promoting tolerance, freedom, democracy and human rights.
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