Culture shock 'hit me really hard,' boxer says: Stories of racial discrimination in Saskatchewan

Culture shock 'hit me really hard,' boxer says: Stories of racial discrimination in Saskatchewan

In 1993, a 13-year-old Moses B. Alli arrived in Regina with his parents and siblings from the African country of Sudan. He immediately started attending Miller High School, which, at that time had a very small immigrant population.

"We came here in April and the culture shock was something that hit me really hard," said Alli, who has since become a Canadian citizen and a nationally recognized boxer and trainer.

"I wasn't sure if I fit in. I experienced a lot of rejection and [was] unaccepted because I stood out … I'm an African kid with an accent."

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The atmosphere of Saskatchewan was a far cry from what Alli was familiar with — he said his family left Sudan because it was a war zone.

For Alli, being in Regina was a different type of war zone — it was an environment ridden with racial discrimination, he says.

After school one day, Alli was heading home on the bus listening to some music, "minding my own business. [Then] this girl comes up and says, 'You know, if the bus is full and there's nowhere for white women to sit then the black man is supposed to stand up,'" he said.

Coming from a country that was afflicted with violence and having to experience such blatant racism was "shocking," Alli said.

"She grabs my headphones and threw my headphones to the back of the bus. I went and grabbed them, I came back and she was sitting in my seat," he said.

"I was scared to do anything because I looked around me and see that there was one or two black people on the bus and the bus was filled with white people, and I was afraid that if I do anything all these white guys are going to turn against me, and that was my fear."

Alli's take on the state of discrimination is that racism still exists, but "it has changed form."

He has seen discrimination evolve from something blatant to people understanding it in what he calls an "educated approach to ignorance."

Brad Bellegarde is a reporter at CBC Saskatchewan. This week, CBC Radio's Morning Edition is sharing stories of discrimination from Saskatchewan residents. On Friday, we will hear from someone who witnessed discrimination in sports throughout his life.