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Why Bashir Mohamed isn't backing down

Tuesday, August 02, 2016
By: Tim Querengesser

'Initially, I just wanted an apology. But after the sheer number of people downplaying it … I want to take it all the way.'

Bashir Mohamed is pictured on 104 Avenue, near where he alleges he was called a racial slur by a motorist angered he was cycling on the street. TIM QUERENGESSER/METRO

Bashir Mohamed is just 21 but already fluent in how marginalization works in Edmonton.

Speak to him and he eloquently parses the various forces at play behind an incident Friday night that has put him, somewhat uncomfortably, into the media spotlight.

Mohamed, who was cycling Friday when he alleges an angry motorist called him a "N***er," caught a subsequent altercation at a stoplight with the same motorists on video.

Since posting that video to social media Friday, and then beginning to tell his story, Mohamed says Edmonton has split into two camps — with many supporting him and calling for such hate to be addressed, but with others creating fake accounts to tell him to drop his case or worse, to continue calling him a "n***er" (he's posted evidence of such messages on his Facebook page).

"If you talk to anyone from my background … they'll tell you this happens all the time," Mohamed said. 

But what has made this more frequent, and Mohamed more emboldened, is that he also rides a bicycle — itself a way to be marginalized in a city where, as he said, "the car is King."

"I started cycling five years ago and that's when this response happened," Mohamed said. "If you talk to any cyclist, they can tell you some form of hate or aggression has happened to them. However, in my case, I happen to also be black. So I think when people see my skin colour … first I'm a cyclist and that incites rage, and then I guess they use my skin colour to think of these terms to use."

The last time he was called a "n***er" cycling in Edmonton? Three weeks ago.

Since Mohamed first told Edmonton Police about the incident and shared the story publicly, he said he's been approached by several lawyers  offering to work for free to pursue some sort of consequence for the people who allegedly yelled the slur at him

"Initially, I just wanted an apology," Mohamed said. "But after the sheer number of people downplaying it … I want to take it all the way."

Metro contacted Edmonton Police Friday but as of Monday night have not received any communication back or details.

Police tweeted on the weekend they were aware of the incident and investigating.

Mohamed was born in Kenya to Somali refugees, who were fleeing war there before seeking asylum in Canada, but has lived here since he was three and said Edmonton and Alberta are his home.

He's now about to graduate from the University of Alberta and is an intern at the legislature.
Fittingly, he's using this incident as a way to assert his place in his home.

"Many people are telling me, 'just drop it, it's just a word.' I don't understand that. If I adopt that approach it becomes a normal thing, and I'm expected to carry on if this word is said to me," Mohamed said.

"That makes me frankly pissed off, mainly because according to those people, they say, 'Why don't those [Somali or black] people get involved in their community, why don't they go to school, why don't they get a job?'

"I've done all those things, but that doesn't matter to them."


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