‘I wanted him to know I heard him, and I wanted him to have an opportunity to say it to my face’
By Wallis Snowdon, CBC News
While shooting a commercial to promote downtown Edmonton as a great place to live, actor Jesse Lipscombe got a “disgusting” reminder of how quickly the city can become an unwelcoming place for minorities.
Lipscombe was between takes, but the camera was still rolling Wednesday evening when a group of men in a grey car pulled up at the intersection in front of him.
They began to yell the phrase “the n—-rs are coming, the n—-rs are coming,” over and over again.
“There is always a small level of shock when this happens,” Lipscombe told CBC News in an interview.
“Ultimately the word is disappointing. You see so much progression. And then you’re reminded that there is so much more work left.”
Lipscombe, an Edmonton actor and film producer, responded to the racial slurs by walking up to the car, opening the passenger-side door and calmly speaking to the men inside.
“I wanted him to know I heard him, and I wanted him to have an opportunity to say it my face,” he said.
“He denied it, started cursing, sped away, and then said it a couple more times.”
‘It’s become such a normalcy’
Lipscombe has since posted the video to his Facebook page. As of Thursday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 19,000 times.
“As disgusting as the situation was, I’m happy that it happened to me. I do have a platform. I do have people in my life that I care about and that care about me that will rally behind me, behind the city and behind injustices.”
This isn’t the first time this summer that hate speech has been caught on camera in Edmonton.
At the end of July, cyclist Bashir Mohamed posted a video on Facebook of a similar racist incident in the city’s downtown.
Mohamed was cycling home near the construction site for the new arena when a couple behind him in a pickup truck rolled down their window and yelled ‘Get off the f–king road, you f–king n—-r.’
The incident drew national attention, and Mayor Don Iveson quickly condemned the couple, calling the altercation an example of “unacceptable racism.”
A similar condemnation came from Iveson on Wednesday, in response to the slurs against Lipscombe.
“No one in our city should ever be exposed to hateful comments like this,” the mayor said. “I happen to know Jesse personally, and he’s a talented entrepreneur, a giving member of the community, and a proud Edmontonian. I have spoken to him this afternoon and I was able to express how atrocious I felt those comments were.”
Racial attacks of this nature are commonplace in Edmonton, said Ahmed Abdulkadir, an Edmonton human rights activist.
“This is nothing new,” said Abdulkadir, executive director of the Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta Residents.
“These kind of incidents have been happening to the black community … I myself have experienced similar things.”
Abdulkadir would like to see stronger laws outlawing hate speech, and more serious penalties imposed on the perpetrators.
“Unless somebody commits violence, there is nothing you can do about it. This word is extremely hurtful to our kids, to our community and to the general public, and we have to find a way to pass some legislation.
“Because there are no consequences, there are more people using these kind of words … and hurting people, because they can get away with it.”
Lipscombe has no plans to pursue a complaint with police. He instead wants the video to serve as an opportunity to start a conversation about race and diversity in Edmonton.
“I have dealt with things like this before. I would say that almost every person of colour has dealt with things like this before. Women have dealt with things like this on a daily basis.
“The problem is how often things like this occur and how it’s become such a normalcy and how de-sensitized we’ve become.
“The prevalence of it is very high. How much of it is caught on tape is low, and how many times you can share it to make a difference is even lower.”