Canadian board’s decision reinforces South African racism

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Sometimes, going to a school like Carnegie Mellon, which I believe is at least fairly diverse, I forget that racism and discrimination exist and are practiced elsewhere. Especially in times like those we’re living in now, where we have an African-American President, it continues to surprise me when I read about cases that I believe are blatantly discriminatory.
Such is the case of Brandon Carl Huntley, a South African citizen who was recently granted refugee status in Canada after claiming persecution in his home state.

Huntley claimed that whites are targeted by blacks in South Africa, and that he himself had been targeted seven times in cases of attempted robberies and muggings. He also claimed that the government does nothing to protect their white citizens. After hearing his arguments, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, which is a tribunal independent of the Canadian government, issued their decision to grant Huntley the refugee status that he asked for.
I find the board’s decision disgraceful and appalling on a number of levels. I admit to having very little knowledge of international politics, but even I know that the racial situation in South Africa is one that was already volatile before this decision was made.

And by granting Huntley refugee status, the board is reinforcing the dichotomy that already exists between whites and blacks in that country, and also reinforcing Huntley’s claim that the South African government is not doing what is necessary to protect its citizens. I can see no positive outcomes that will result from the board’s decision.

In addition, I feel that the board has put too much weight on Huntley’s claims, and has not done enough research into the reality of the situation. Maybe if they, like me, had watched the Disney Channel’s classic movie The Color of Friendship, they would have a different verdict on the matter. While I know I probably sound slightly ridiculous basing my interpretation of reality on a Disney Channel movie, it actually did a good job painting a fairly accurate picture of the political happenings of South Africa, which I did learn more about later from more reputable sources.

But even from the movie alone, I learned of the injustices that existed for blacks in South Africa: that while they may have technically been the racial majority in the country, they certainly were not treated as such. To imply that Huntley, as a white man in South Africa, would be targeted in a discriminatory manner is ridiculous. The movie may have been obviously preachy, but it did well in delivering its message in a way that kids watching the movie would understand, and it was a message that has since stuck with me.

I am also doubtful of the board’s basing their decision on Huntley’s claims that he was targeted for attempted muggings and robberies. As we have lately been reminded, muggings can happen even in places that we believe to be secure, whether it’s an intersection that is seconds away from campus or a suburban neighborhood. And while I am certain that South Africa does have secure neighborhoods, I am sure they have less secure ones as well. And muggings and robberies will occur, no matter your race, political party, or what country you live in or hail from. I do not believe that being the victim of a mugging is cause to be granted refugee status in another country.

And Huntley’s claim that the government is not doing all that it can to protect him and its other citizens is one that strikes me as doubtful, as well. I feel certain that the South African government is doing its best to cut down on crime in their country against all of its citizens. But I think it’s safe to assume that blacks and whites alike are experiencing criminal acts, and if Huntley’s claim is to be used as evidence, it should be a claim that the government is not protecting all of its citizens from crime, not just one racial group.

I am certainly saddened that Huntley does not feel comfortable or safe enough to live in his own country, and that he must instead plead to live in another, and that he believes that his government is not doing all that it possibly can to protect him, one of its own citizens, as a government clearly should.

But I am even more saddened by what I believe will come of the board’s decision. When making the ruling, the panel chair of the tribunal stated that it was clear that Huntley would stand out like a “sore thumb” in any part of South Africa due to his race, a comment that I find racist and unfitting to be made by the man who holds the position of panel chair.
I can only hope that the repercussions of the board’s decisions do not serve to reinforce the already existing racism in South Africa, although I fear that they will.