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.
My comments are off because of the sheer amount of spam trying to sell me sunglasses. Please feel free to join my inadequate self and the conversation over on Facebook or Twitter.