BY: BRITTNEY CHANNER
When you hear about neighbourhoods such as Jane & Finch, Dixon Towers or Lawrence Heights, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Poverty? Crime? Low income? Unfortunately, these thoughts along with many others are common amongst many Canadians across the Greater Toronto Area. These immediate judgements and stereotypes that are cast on communities such as these and the people who reside here are potentially damaging to the growth and stability of these areas and its residents.
As a child growing up in one of these areas myself, I was always able to see two different images of where I lived. The first image was of what I personally perceived, and the second image was what society and many media outlets observed. These two images always conflicted with each other and told two different stories. One story was of harmony, community, success, hard work and understanding. However, the other story was of death, struggle, harm and negativity; with one story, (the latter) majorly overpowering the other.
These negative perceptions of these neighbourhoods are definitely uprooted through the incorrect notions of many people, however, the continuation of these perceptions have been inflated through many media outlets through biased, incorrect and unjust news reporting. For example, due to years of crime-related headlines and overall negative perception of the area, when crimes are reported by the media, although the crime itself may have happened 5-10 kilometres away from the neighbourhood, somehow, the Jane & Finch Community always gets mentioned; which continues to perpetuate the stigma of this community. What this eventually results in is an “othering” process in which people are treated differently, seen overall as fundamentally different and generally inferior.
Due to this, many of the positive attributes that exist within these neighbourhoods/communities are overshadowed or merely seen as “non-existent” in the eyes of someone on the outside looking in. Nevertheless, Jane & Finch, along with my community of Lawrence Heights are thriving, powerful communities with people who display passion, strength, kindness and selflessness. The culture and ethnic diversity that make up these neighbourhoods embody such courage and wisdom; which essentially represents what it means to be a multicultural community. The youth living within these neighbourhoods strive for excellence, possess determination and have astronomical goals for themselves, their families and their communities; just like many other students within other neighbourhoods.
Despite what one may see on the television or what is read in a newspaper, within communities such as these, lies your future doctors, lawyers, athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, therapists etc…all of whom will attain each and every goal they have, regardless of the huge target they have on their backs. I challenge those who may have similar notions based out of fear, ignorance or media, to take a day and stroll the local malls within these areas. Converse with the people and get to know their stories. Engage in meaningful and powerful dialogue with active community members; and I am positive that you will see how parallel your lives are.
Just like many communities within the GTA, there are always 1 or 2 bad apples, whose actions end up representing an entire community as a whole. However, do not allow the 1 or 2 bad apples that fell, take away from the beauty, growth and aura of the entire tree.