Outpouring of support after former Vancouver park commissioner Niki Sharma responds to racist comment

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      Niki Sharma has written a heartfelt response to a racist comment she received in relation to her campaign for an opening on the Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity) board of directors.

      On March 24, the former park board commissioner and candidate for Vancouver city council saw a comment posted on a Facebook page she had created for the election. “We don’t want packys in politics you people are taking over our country,” it read.

      The comment was subsequently deleted but Sharma captured a screen grab.

      Her original response posted on Facebook is republished here.

      It's the middle of the night here in Vancouver. I can't sleep.

      I was going to delete your comment. As my hand went over to the delete button, something stopped me. As much as we both might want to, you and I cannot delete each other.

      So, I want to introduce myself to you. My name is Niki Sharma. I come from a proud and beautiful family. My parents come from India, but I was born here in Canada. I grew up in a small town in the Rocky Mountains. My parents gave me the name Niki so that it would be easy for people here to pronounce.

      I have thick brown skin -- layers of protection beginning from when I was in Kindergarten and I was called that name for the first time and realized that there was something different about me.

      I can see by your Facebook page that you are afraid of people like me. I see your posts have violent brown faces with names you probably cannot pronounce.

      But, I am afraid too Loretta. I am worried that by staying silent and not confronting racism -- our society will deform and twist until it is unrecognizable to us. Maybe it is already happening. I worry for the many young and more vulnerable people who are targeted by online hate speech, which is now unavoidable.

      We may never agree on very much, but we are both human beings. We are all vulnerable and seeking acceptance and security in this confusing, scary and ever-changing world. I may never have your acceptance, but I ask that you stop spreading your hate.

      Sharma is trained as a lawyer. In 2014, she placed 17th out of 49 candidates for the 10-seat Vancouver city council, receiving 48,987 votes. If she had received another 7,845 votes, she would have become the first women of South Asian descent elected to the governing civic body. In 2011, she made local history when she became the first candidate with an Indian surname elected to the Vancouver park board.

      Since Sharma posted her response, the short essay has received hundreds of reactions, shares, and comments. Many people have also posted messages of support on their own Facebook accounts.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, for example, encouraged his Facebook followers to read Sharma’s comment. “A good reminder that March 21st the International Day for the Elimination Racial Discrimination isn't the only day to take on racism,” he wrote.

      On March 27, Sharma posted a second message thanking people who had voiced their support.

      “I want to thank you all for your heartwarming messages of solidarity over the last few days,” it reads. “People have reached out from across Canada and abroad who are standing up to hate and ignorance. It is an honour to walk with you.”

      Voting for the Vancity board of directors takes place from March 29 to April 22.

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