My husband had a dream last night that we were traveling in a foreign country. We examined a wall covered in illustrations and marveled at how humans had been doing this for thousands of years. I pulled something political out of my bag, stuck it to the wall, grabbed his hand and walked away, urging him not to look back.
As I think about what I scribbled on paper this morning and now type onto my computer screen, I wonder if he might be slightly prophetic. Except for one thing: I’m not walking away. I’m engaging in a conversation so many of us want to have, should be having.
On Friday morning, feeling heartbroken about another terrible week in my home country, I used the hashtag “#alllivesmater” from my personal Twitter account. I was promptly trolled by someone who blocked me from reading any of her tweets and then was gently educated – in true Canadian fashion – by a follower about why that hashtag is polarizing and ignorant. Where I may have been coming from a position of “please stop killing each other” I understand now I was belittling marginalized communities whose lives seemingly don’t matter and haven’t mattered in North American society. I apologized on Twitter and have spent the last 48 hours educating myself on how I can lend my voice to be part of the solution rather than an obvious part of the problem.
I come from a position of privilege for many reasons. As I wrote in a personal Facebook post last year, I have a lot of legislation and activists to thank for the privileges I enjoy as a white woman (however long they may have taken):
So how do I use this privilege to help? How can I help indigenous, black, and other marginalized communities in Canada where I now live? How can I do the same for those in the U.S. where I no longer live? How do we get fired up and stay fired up rather than adopting a “this too shall pass” attitude when it doesn’t pass for those living it every single day?
I start where I always do: I read. Here are a few pieces I read last night, along with each piece’s comments:
- “I, Racist” by John Metta (thanks, Martin, for posting this on Facebook)
- “I, Racist, Sexist” by bexkerr (linked by John Metta in the comments of his post)
- “This is what white people can do to support #blacklivesmatter” by Sally Kohn (stumbled upon this Washington Post piece while on Twitter)
- “How Black Lives Matter co-founder Janaya Khan sees Canada” by Zane Schwarts for Maclean’s (thanks, Ken, for posting this one on Facebook)
I could go on. I was reading online for the better part of 6 hours last night.
This morning I started journaling, writing, to understand what I think, to borrow and paraphrase from Joan Didion and Flannery O’Connor. It’s less that I don’t know what I think – racism in all of its forms is wrong. It’s more I write to understand how I feel about what I think, how I benefit from institutionalized -isms, what makes me uncomfortable about acknowledging that, brainstorming how I can do better.
And then here’s the part where I really feel inadequate: action. I started looking into the plight of the Pikangikum First Nations community after a canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and a conversation with the owner of Red Lake Outfitters. I gave up when my inquiries were met with silence. How cowardly on my part. I don’t want to be uncomfortable with conversations, strong feelings, arguments, action. And while I don’t want to be vague about what my actions this week, next month, five years from now will be to effect change, I don’t have concrete answers yet. All I’m doing today is acknowledging my part in the problem and starting my piece of the dialogue about what happens next.