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