Ethan Bear is a defenseman on the Edmonton Oilers who happens to be from Ochapowace First Nation in Saskatchewan. I don’t personally know Ethan; I have never met him and probably never will and yet something that happened to him this past week continues to echo in my mind. He was the subject of racist behaviour as the Oilers lost their first round of the NHL playoffs. When I first heard this news, I was disgusted. I still am disgusted. It amazes me how we seek shelter behind our phones and screens to make ignorant comments about someone and their race. It is never okay to do this, it is even worse to think we have a privilege to this because of the power of technology we hold in our hands. Our phones can become loaded weapons which seek to destroy another person. A person who more often than not we have no sense of their life.
Ethan along with his partner Lenasia responded to the racists remarks in a video statement. They responded with grace and dignity. They challenged us again to consider what it means to be part of community and how love and kindness are our core actions which lead to healthy relationships and tearing down walls of racism. Ethan and Lenasia ask us to be a part of the change and are rooted in the hope that we can get to place where racism does not exist. Something he said which really struck me is that he is not doing this for himself, but for others. I can imagine that the sports world can easily have an athlete turn in on themselves only thinking about themselves. Ethan could have stayed in his own world and become bitter about it all and let it destroy him and his future. Instead, he is taking this moment to again draw our attention to the big issue of racism and how it remains prevalent in society as it impacts many lives. Ethan is challenging us to face this reality and do something about it. What can we do? It’s too big of an issue, we say. Yes, it is a big issue but there is something each of us can do. Each one of us has a voice and each one of us can use that voice for the good – for love and kindness. Using our voice on social media platforms, in our circle of family and friends, at community events and supporting those who deal with racism every day. We have to ask ourselves how are we doing this in our communities and in building relationships with First Nations communities, Peoples of Colour and all people? The other question we must ask ourselves is: Why does another generation have to endure the immaturity of not seeing the value of each human being?
As I read about Ethan and this latest stint of racist remarks he has faced, I was taken back to a year ago when much of the world was horrified by the death of George Floyd in the US. A year later with race related deaths on both sides of the border we clearly still have a long way to go. George Floyd’s death sent shock waves and called for change. Small steps have begun. We however must ask ourselves have we continued to raise our voices for justice with love and kindness as we strive for a world where the God-given dignity of each person is respected (no matter their life journey)? Through the racist remarks that Ethan faced this past week, which do indeed kill part of a person, Ethan is again calling to our attention the reality which First Nations and Peoples of Colour face. Yet he is calling us to move forward with hope. I choose to stand with Ethan and be a person of hope, using my voice to condemn hatred. I choose to use my voice to expand the circle of love and kindness our world desperately needs. How about you?
In the Catholic world this Sunday (May 30) is known as Trinity Sunday, where we celebrate God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Here is a perfect community where love is the dominate feature, kindness is an outpouring of this love and a collective self-emptying (as in not doing it for self) is the norm. Seems to me that if we remember that we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is love and functions in a community of love then we could tackle the ugliness of racism and move towards eliminating it. Together we can stand along side Ethan and Lenasia with hope for a future where love and kindness are the norm because we have done our work and raised our voices for the common good. That time is now, the future is this very next minute, and then the next hour and so on. We have a choice to make. As St. Francis would say: let us begin again.
Priscilla Du Preez