A mother of three children, Aisha Pollard works as a supervisor for School District 42 (SD42) and is the only African American woman on the staff.
Although she moved to Maple Ridge seven years ago, the lack of diversity in the community and on city council makes her uneasy.
As a person of colour, that raises many questions, top of her mind is whether she’s a diversity hire?
“… And I don’t know if they hired me because they wanted to have a coloured person on the staff or because of my resume.”
Being married to a Caucasian man hasn’t been easy for her because of how people treat her differently based on her skin colour.
She shared that in a predominantly white city like Maple Ridge, navigating daily life can be a challenge.
“I think people profile and judge [me] right away. I have had [people make] comments about me being Black. I feel like I am being followed when I am in stores. I don’t know if that’s paranoia or real.”
But she’s not alone in that experience.
Rise in hate crimes in Canada
According to the latest hate crime report by StatCan, hate crimes against Black communities increased by 92 per cent across the country by 2020.
The report revealed that although crimes such as theft and robbery decreased, a substantial increase in hate crimes was noted since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019.
In 2019, 1,951 incidents were reported while in 2020, 2,669 incidents were reported to the police. This is the highest increase in hate-motivated crimes since 2009, according to the report.
As for crimes against Black people, more than 318 incidents were reported across the country.
And many like Pollard continue to experience covert forms of discrimination repeatedly which are often not accounted for.
“I think it was hard enough for people to accept me before the pandemic and now I feel like people are ruder than they were before. I have tried to do some businesses but my identity made a difference. So I gave up on that front,” she said.
Despite experiencing segregation, racial profiling in employment and being a woman of colour, she’s teaching her children to be resilient in the face of rampant racism.
She’s teaching her children about Black history, culture and strength by having open conversations with them, not just in February but with every chance she gets.
Lack of diversity in the city
The lack of diversity in Maple Ridge makes Pollard’s job to continue this learning a necessity. Although she’s not a teacher with SD42, she makes sure to start important conversations with those in power.
“I asked my children’s school . . . how come our kids aren’t learning about Black History month?”
While SD42 schools might not be doing enough, as a mother she makes sure that her children are reading books with Black representation.
As bi-racial children, they ask questions about different skin tones from their mother but they don’t rise to the offensive things said to them by their classmates, exhibiting strength at a young age.
Pollard credits her strength to her children and shared that they help her get through difficult times.
“I want to teach them to be strong no matter what. [To] not let someone talk [them] down or treat [them] poorly because of who [they] are.”
Several times, people have avoided crossing the street when they see her so “they don’t have to cross my me” or acknowledge that she’s there.
As a human being, she naturally gets taken aback by these encounters but chooses to rise above them.
Her hope is that as she continues to navigate society with growing children, more people will acknowledge their biases and educate themselves.
I wish more people would stop and think before they say something. Sometimes they might say something which they think is not offensive but it can be offensive.”