To the City of Surrey,
My name is Deepak Sharma and I have lived in Surrey for over 22 years.
I believe that Surrey needs to stand up, in order to address the systemic racism that our Indigenous and Black neighbours have faced, and continue to face, within the very communities we all reside in. Addressing systemic racism must be paired with and in addition to supporting police reform, that will end police brutality that continues to create a divide between residents and law enforcement.
How are we going to be able to accomplish this if we have civic leaders in the City of Surrey who have openly refused to acknowledge and take any action in addressing systemic racism and police violence or prejudice?
Prior to our city’s lack of action on this topic, I’ve been a very proud resident of this city that I’ve been so privileged to grow up in. I’m someone who prides myself in how from 2006 to late 2018, our city, and specifically, my neighbourhood of Whalley, went from the dubbed car theft capital of North America to one of the fastest growing urban areas in North America, and even earned the right to call our city one of the top 7 most intelligent communities in the world.
With all this gratified respect towards our city in mind, like many others, I’m currently very ashamed, upset, and quite frankly disgusted with our city’s response in not even acknowledging the systemic racism that our Indigenous and Black neighbours are born into, or the police brutality these very same neighbours are very likely to face at some point in their lifetime, right here in our city.
Acknowledging systemic racism against Indigenous and Black people in Surrey is not a partisan issue, or a jurisdiction issue that our city leaders can just simply pass off to the provincial or federal government.
We can and should acknowledge that there has been positive inclusion work done by the city since the 90’s. However, until we as a city condemn systemic racism against our Indigenous and Black populations, we cannot say the work is done. There is no way vocal city leaders should be denying the existence of systemic racism in our city. For myself, it reflects how city leaders, even without malicious intent, are continuing to enable the acceptance of racist behaviour in our city and surrounding communities.
It is important to note that systemic racism goes well beyond the police brutality that has been taking place for generations. It’s about you and I making sure we’re helping break barriers that most of us quite frankly never have to face in comparison to our Indigenous and Black neighbours. It’s about being an ally and being open to listening and learning. We all even without knowing grew up in communities with racism from a young age either in our household, at school or at a local community centre. You may not acknowledge it but if we all don’t take action we’re part of the problem.
This is why it is the utmost importance of our city leaders to stand up against systemic racism. Acknowledging this won’t take away from the fact that “Surrey has been built and strengthened by its diversity,” but it rather makes it more clear that as engaged citizens we all have the duty to continue not to be silent, take action, listen and be an ally to our Indigenous and Black neighbours.
A very proud but currently ashamed resident of Surrey.