Racism hurts. There are no two ways about it. To pass judgment on someone based solely on the colour of their skin is wrong. Never mind whether it's wrong in this day and age. It's always been wrong, and as a society, it is important to recognize that fact, accept it, and move forward together.
March 21 is recognized as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. There will be several services held across Halifax Regional Municipality and Nova Scotia. A panel discussion will take place on Friday, March 22 at Saint Mary's University Sobey Theatre starting at 11:30 a.m. On Saturday, March 23, the 6th Annual Towards the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Gospel Concert will be held at the Black Cultural Centre at 7 p.m., and the annual church service for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will be held on Sunday, March 24th, at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church.
Beyond attending a service, what can the average person do to help end racial discrimination? A friendly smile is a good place to start. Sometimes, that smile can lead to a pleasant greeting, and if that goes well, the next thing you know, you might be in the middle of a conversation. You might find yourself talking to someone with a background completely different than your own. You might find that their experiences are absolutely fascinating, or you might be surprised at how much you have in common. The important thing is taking steps to break down barriers.
The story of Herb Carnegie is particularly relevant in terms of breaking down the barriers of racial discrimination. Herb Carnegie was a hockey player, an African-Canadian hockey player, and a very good one at that. For those of you who don't know who he was, it's probably because he never played in the NHL. Herb Carnegie was at the peak of his skills in the 1940's, and at that time, there were no black players in the NHL. Herb Carnegie could have been the first. He was offered a position with the New York Rangers in 1948, but he turned it down because the money the team was offering was less than what other rookies were being offered at the time, and it was less than he was making with the Quebec Aces in the minor leagues.
Herb Carnegie was seen as being less valuable because he was black.
Fortunately, Herb Carnegie didn't see it that way. He continued with a successful career in the minor leagues, and after his retirement in 1953, he started the Future Aces Hockey School. It was one of the first hockey schools in Canada, and it was designed to foster a sense of respect, tolerance and diversity among young people.
It was designed to create a path for others to follow. And they did.
In 1958, Willie O'Ree did become the first black NHL player. He played for the Boston Bruins as a right-winger after having played with the Quebec Aces in the minor leagues, following that path laid by Herb Carnegie.
Herb Carnegie passed away a year ago at the age of 92. He was a noted philanthropist, an Order of Canada recipient, and most certainly, a trailblazer.