This opinion piece was submitted by Vancouver resident Nazlie Soeker.
There’s a blight on our skyline. Its name is Trump Tower. In a city fighting against systemic racism, that needs to change.
As a Muslim woman of colour who was born in South Africa during the era of apartheid, I intimately understand the racism of colour, gender, and religion.
Generations of my family and friends have died at the hands of state-approved and authorized racists and bigots. I understood early that I could not raise a family in a country where white supremacy was the law.
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When an opportunity to emigrate to North America beckoned, I, like many other South Africans, left in order to pursue the chance at a normal life. With minimal means and infinite hope, we bounced between prospects in Canada and the United States until we were able to find the best combination of opportunity, security, and acceptance. A place called Vancouver, which we now call home.
It was from my home here, in the 1990s, that I watched with pride and satisfaction as the people of South Africa brought the racist doctrine of apartheid to an end. Members of my own family marched with and supported Mandela in the struggle against this oppression, and I am proud to say they marched alongside him as he led the nation across the threshold of freedom.
Today, and with equal pride, I watch as my adult children are driven by their convictions, join marches in Canada and the US to express their support for the BLM Movement.
Just as in post-apartheid South Africa, where the symbols and monuments erected to our tormentors and oppressors were taken down, the moment has arrived for all well-intentioned Canadians in our beautiful city to consider whether an edifice bearing the name of a virulent and unapologetic racist should be the centrepiece of our skyline.
We are informed that licensing and operating obligations with the Trump organization make the name on the building contractually unalterable. But its is worth remembering that during its construction, 56,000 people signed a petition objecting to the name on this building, and 11 elected officials called the structure a “beacon of racism.” When President Trump’s sons — Eric and Donald Jr. — visited the Vancouver tower in 2017 for its grand opening, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the building to protest.
The name of the building denigrates our efforts against systemic racism when it screams the Trump name. Surely the time has arrived to revisit the issue of removing Trump’s name from the heart of our city, starting perhaps with simply the removal of the six-foot-tall letters hanging over West Georgia Street, and turning off the LED running the length of the building to the sky.
The removal of the name and the extinguishing of the light would speak volumes about our true commitment to a just, equal and non-racial society.
I do not make this request out of anger nor as a refugee who lived through the hell of white supremacy, nor do I do so as the descendant of brutalized and oppressed slaves, or even as a Muslim woman of colour.
Rather, I do this for the sake of my children and grandchildren and for all my fellow Canadians. We can no longer respond mildly to the glorification of individuals and ideologies that are inimical to our sense of justice and fairness.
We must stand up and fight because it is the right thing to do. It is the Canadian thing to do.