Towards a fair and just society: what can an old lady do?

I am white. I am a well-educated white. I am the product of a stable, loving, supportive family, from a safe, stable neighbourhood. I don’t have a name that might have labeled me as a suspicious “other” of some ethnic or religious nature. AND NONE OF THOSE THINGS, WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF MY EDUCATION, WERE ANYTHING I HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH. I had every advantage, based on nothing special about me. It was just pure luck.

I’ve been aware of this unfairness in life since I was young. If any of those factors I just mentioned had been different, my life would have been much more difficult, through no fault of my own.

If I’d been born to black or indigenous parents, but in just as stable and supportive a family and community, I would have learned at the very, very least to endure taunts, bullying and exclusion SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF MY SKIN. From the time I entered school. Maybe by just a few at first, from kids who heard things from racist parents, but a few is all it takes. A lifetime of wishing I were someone else, or having to work very, very hard to overcome self-hate, to develop a protective shell and, with a lot of luck, develop self-confidence in my value. Despite what society seems to be telling me. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

If I’d been born indigenous, in Canada at least, I’d have had to endure the taunts of “dirty Indian”, “dirty squaw”, and “drunkin’ Indian”. How does a child develop any self-esteem at all when these hateful words are tossed at you, being spit out first by kids and then by older racists who don’t give a second thought to the damage they are doing to another human being? And these unthinking, hateful people, who seemingly take pleasure in demeaning others, probably attend church on Sundays. It blows the mind.

Racism is alive and well around the world. That’s clear. And racism doesn’t just knock people down, it kills them. As we’ve been reminded yet again this week, more than once in more than one country, our societies’ systemic racism does actually kill people. Racism stereotypes and targets minorities. It IS systemic, even if William Barr (US), Boris Johnson (UK), and Stockwell Day, Doug Ford, and François Legault (Canada) argue otherwise. But – and it’s a big but – it seems that the tide of the quiet “shrug the shoulders” dismissal of systemic racism may finally be turning.

The protests that began in the U.S. with the video release of George Floyd’s killing by police have now spread across the U.S. and many other parts of the world, including Canada. They have grown bigger and bigger. They have grown more and more peaceful. The exact combination we need. And these protests are filled with young people, many of whom are young whites fully committed to being part of a world without systemic racism. These young people, all of them, are our future. And this is the future I want for them and for our countries. We now have a glimmer of hope. An important glimmer of hope. We mustn’t let go of it.

The first four blog posts that came in on my email this morning all spoke eloquently on this very subject, including suggestions for how to help. I recommend all these posts to you; they each have something special to say from very different experiences.

Rant – a poem, in the blog I Do Run

A day in the classroom, in the blog Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope

Walking through worlds carrying ancestral bundles, in the blog tea&bannock

Monday notes: social media activism and …, in the blog Kwoted.

Another two posts on this subject I highly recommend from a few days ago are:

8 specific actions we can take, in the blog of Canadian author Cynthia Reyes

You could write something, in blog Dancing on Frozen Beaver Ponds.

I started this post by admitting that I am white. I have not walked a mile in the shoes of many friends and family members who’ve been the target of racism. So as much as I can try to imagine, the pain is not mine. The utter unfairness of it. The shame of it. The horror of it.

I’m also old. An old, white woman. So what can I do to help make a difference in the fight against the scourge of racism? A scourge against humanity. Well, Kathy Garland’s post on Kwoted above (Monday notes) gives three possible suggestions for starters: Vote, Unify, and Support.

VOTE.

Vote for people who walk the talk. Help get the vote out for candidates near you who will walk the talk, not just talk. Getting out the vote is unbelievably important. If the Party you often support (like the Liberals in Canada, for example) have been disappointing in getting past the talk (like with getting clean water and decent healthcare and education to remote First Nations communities and following through with the MMIW recommendations), push your Party candidates. Push them hard. Make your voice heard.

UNIFY.

Get to know like-minded people in your community and see if there are ways in which you can help them take action.

SUPPORT.

Donate and/or volunteer with organizations whose work towards an anti-racist world you endorse.

I will vote. I will unify. I will support.

And I will keep on writing.

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38 Responses to Towards a fair and just society: what can an old lady do?

  1. Well said Jane…. We think we are doing nothing… But in fact by our very thoughts and personal responsibility in our actions of support, kindness, unity and love, we are doing a lot… We need only set an example and it is these small things within each of us which will eventually change the whole..

    It all begins with ourselves…

    Love and Blessings, I really enjoyed my afternoon time here with you today Jane.. Thank you for the love I see you share in-between every word you write ‘
    Much love ❤

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Sue. I guess I’m just not sure that “eventually” is good enough. Changing the status quo for indigenous peoples, BAMEs, and our environment can no longer wait for “eventually”. And when those in power think that “eventually” will do the trick, it will continue to be all talk and little to no action. The people and the planet can’t wait. Even the best and most well-meaning politicians – and there are some – have so many competing priorities that if these aren’t seen as needing to be at the top of the list, they won’t be.

      • May we all be the catalyst for making sure we help promote these positive changes.. I know when ever I vote in a local politician for my area.. I do not think of what ‘Party’ they represent.. But what actions they are going to take to help local communities… At last the last candidate I voted in has made good on his promises here… As for the Party? remains to be seen 😉
        The problem is they are very good at making promises, that never get carried out…
        Lovely having this discussion with you Jane.. Take care and have an enjoyable weekend 🙂

  2. AMWatson207 says:

    These are no small things. If we all do what we can, young or old, change will come.

  3. debscarey says:

    Jane, thank you for the links to some wonderful blogs. The question you ask is felt by many of us, and the answers are so on point. It is hard to totally “get it, for even when we choose put on another person’s shoes and walk around in them, we still have the freedom to take them off. I felt deeply offended a few years ago when in a University class which was largely BAME to be spoken to as if I was “a middle aged white woman from Surrey” – because I knew I was way more nuanced that just how I look from the outside. But I have held on to that feeling from that day forward in order to get some tiny understanding of how it feels to be judged every single day. But there is nothing in my life which could ever prepare me for the constant daily danger.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Wow, thanks, Debs, for that intriguing example. A BAME person might rightly say ‘big deal’, but the example speaks to the concept of being judged by a category someone else has placed you in and as white peoples we’re not used to that. As you say, it’s just a glimpse, and we’re privileged for no reason of our own doing, but it’s the beginning of understanding. Somehow, some way, as a society we’ve got to do better. Thanks for your comment.

  4. iidorun says:

    Jane! This is wonderful! Thank you for the resources and for amplifying other voices in this fight against racism. That’s really what we need to do with our unearned privilege – use it for good to help raise each other so together we can overcome the injustices in our world. ❤️❤️

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Irma, I have to say that I am heartened by the massive outpouring from so many diverse voices, all over. Heartened for the first time. We must keep the momentum going. We can all inspire each other. These systemic injustices and cruelties must be stopped. Everyone deserves to live with hope and dignity. ❤️

      • iidorun says:

        So true, Jane! Onward and upward!
        (Although don’t go lifting your arm when you read that phrase as I know you’re still recovering….😁)

  5. Jean says:

    Recently on an international cycling forum where I’ve participated over past 5 yrs., another Canadian (who is white) blasted at me on the Internet for being racist, that I belonged to the most privileged non-white group in Canada. I think it’s the perception that Asians seem to be less “violent”, (ok how about the triads, drug dealers, etc.), emphasis on education, etc. However what was lost in his tirade was….even the most educated, have a nice job …and still, some strangers just have the wrong idea of these foreigners (who are often Canadians) occasionally have to deal with wrong assumptions, ideas, etc.

    Anyway, interesting situation. He launched his tirade in front of predominantly white, male (most co-ed cycling circles still tend to be male dominant) Americans.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Wow, I am so sorry you have to put up with this crap. This is an example of it’s so important for (white) people to have some understanding of what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Aside from the most recent widespread example of people of Asian descent being targeted because the coronavirus started in China (the mind boggles), I know from many colleagues, former students, and family that there will always be that person telling you to “go back where you came from” (even when it’s likely the person’s always been in Canada or the US) or that extra hurdle to be given the same benefit at work, especially if you’re a woman as well as visible minority. When one of these egregious situation arises, that’s when another white person should step up and put them straight. Just not right. Such statements should never be allowed to stand.

  6. Well said Jane. We will do what we can,

  7. Scream it loud, Jane: “VOTE!” Can’t thank you enough for this post. It’s one more thing to remind me that there’s plenty of like-minded people out there. – Marty

  8. Very powerful, thanks Jane

  9. Who we are, the parents we have and the life we lead are pure luck and chance. I too am white and privileged lol nothing to ever be ashamed of, but yes if I’d been born darker skinned then my life would have been a whole lot harder! I enjoyed your posting. 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thank you, A.S. No, definitely nothing to be ashamed of, but worth keeping in mind. I’m pleased that you enjoyed this post with its important messages.

  10. Marilyn Noble says:

    So well said!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much, Marilyn. I appreciate it. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more important than spreading the word that we’re all one.

  11. dfolstad58 says:

    Dear Jane, thank you for your voice. I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts. One aside, my Baba in her eighties said she felt on the inside the same as she did when she was 20. I’m not there yet but I know what she meant. I suspect you are the same as I also. I can’t do physically what I once was able but the heart remains vigorous. – David

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, David. I’m not quite there with your Baba, but I’m closer than you and my husband’s even closer. You feel the same on the inside mentally, but I can say with the certainty of someone who ran her last marathon 8 years ago and her last 10K 3 years ago, your body stops agreeing with that sentiment! However, you’re right, the heart can find ways … and blogging your heart out is one of those ways!

  12. K E Garland says:

    Self-awareness is the beginning for all change. Thank you for hearing and sharing my voice Jane. I appreciate it ❤

  13. Excellent, excellent post! It feels like a change is coming, but there are formidable forces against. Onward! I’m with you all the way. I’ll keep reading.

  14. Bless you, Jane. We need a lot more people of our generation to feel as passionately as you do, And thanks for sharing those posts. We cannot leave the young people and the nearly-octogenarians to be out there marching without our at least raising our voices. We all march in different ways. Let’s do it!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. I am buoyed by how many bloggers from so many walks of life are feeling the hope that has risen from this pain and are spreading the word through their writing.

      • Me too, Jane. The young people and some very elderly people have gone out to do the brave job of peacefully protesting. They want a better world. Supporting them and remembering that the better world we also dreamed of is still worth fighting for – it’s a challenge we should not turn away from.

  15. Good morning, Jane! What an honor to find myself linked to your blog among other such powerful voices! Thank you for your part in unifying and supporting.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thank you for being there, Crystal. There may actually be a momentum shift towards a more humane world in the works at the moment. We must live in hope.

  16. Karl Dore says:

    Yes !!!

    Karl Dore via iPhone from dore@unb.ca

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