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I am going to say the wrong thing.
I am going to do the wrong thing.
I am going to speak when I should listen.
I am going to listen when I should be speaking up.
THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
I own that. I know that I am learning and so I will make mistakes while I do so. I am okay with that. I will take ownership of those mistakes because they will teach me how to be better. Those mistakes will drive people who know better to speak to me. To say, "You need to think about this because of .....". I am grateful to those people.
I know that I am not perfect. I know I never will be. What I am is willing to learn, ready to grow, and willing to be better. I am willing to try every day to educate myself and become better involved in the issues.
Yesterday I spent the day amplifying others' voices and sharing stories on Instagram that are not my own. Learning how I can do better at shining a light on the injustice that exists in this world and in my own country. I started following more meaningful accounts, and I took a hard look at who makes up my circle of friends. I looked hard at the businesses I buy from, support, and try to help grow.
People say to me all the time, "Things are different in Canada" whenever I talk to anyone about the culture here vs the USA. The truth, however, is there may be differences in our cultures, but racism still exists here. We still have to be accountable for it. We still have work to do in this country to change. We can't do any of that if we are unwilling to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, "Where have I failed? Where have I not shown up when I should have? How am I holding people accountable?".
When I was in University, I was exposed to issues I didn't know existed here. I had never heard of residential schools. I had no idea what that meant or how it changed this country. I didn't know that Indigenous women were going missing or being murdered at alarming rates. I had no idea because it wasn't widely talked about or covered in the media. I wasn't exposed to people who did talk about it until I was in University. It shocked me. I started reading, donating, and trying to get involved in the ways I could. In the years since then, I've stopped being as educated. I've stopped being involved in a meaningful way (outside of just donating to organizations I care about). This has been my fault. No one else is responsible for educating me. No one else is responsible for the amount of my involvement in communities and organizations that support our Indigenous people. No one else is responsible for how often I vote or pressure my government officials to change and be accountable. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY LACK OF INVOLVEMENT.
I sat on the accessibility committee at Brock while I was a student. I learned ASL and became aware of the issues in education for people who don't fit the "everyday" mould of a student. I gained an understanding at a government level as well as the institutional level of how hard these things can be to change. When I sit back and look at what I have done since, how I've helped over the last few years in this area, I realize just how removed from it all I allowed myself to become. That's my fault. I didn't make an active effort to keep involved and stay involved in these issues. I didn't actively seek out voices that would keep me educated or involved. I didn't look for places where I could offer support in whatever way I was able to. I have to own that!
We've all seen the posts, the protests, and the movement for Black Lives Matter. We all know there is a systemic problem with racism in our country as well as in other countries. We've all seen years of protests and killings that outraged us. We know it is happening.
I know it's hard for some of you reading this to admit that it happens here. I know it is here because I moved across the country a few years ago and started to see it in my everyday life. Racism became a 'normal' part of life when a friend (who was a life long Edmonton resident) told me, "Edmonton is the Alabama of Canada." I remember thinking at the time, "How can this be possible? I came from Southern Ontario, and we don't have this open acceptance of racism there. This isn't Canadian" (or so I thought at the time). While this lead to many meaningful conversations, I fully admit that aside from those conversations and limited exposure to several new organizations that I donate to, I did not actively seek to change it. I DID NOT STEP UP. I have to own that. While I was and have been openly talking to people about that experience out there since I came home, I haven't been doing anything else to change it. I didn't seek to change it at all. That is where I failed.
We, as the white, privileged people of this country, have to step up. We have to take ownership of our actions and say, "I was wrong, and I am sorry. I am going to try to do better, be better". We have to be willing to try. We have to be responsible for educating ourselves. Understanding how the colour of our skin has given us things we never asked for but were given anyway.
I, as a white Canadian woman, have never had to fear being pulled over.
I have never had to fear a knock at my door.
I have never been followed in a store by security.
I have never had to think about making sure I don't walk in any neighbourhood alone because someone may feel threatened by me.
I may never have to explain to my kids (if I have kids) that someday they will be targeted because of the colour of their skin and nothing more.
I have not had to worry about clean drinking water (A significant problem in this country for many indigenous people).
I have never had to worry about so many things because I was born white. This is white privilege. I know some of you reading this have already stopped reading, and those of you still reading want to look away, but that is the problem. We tell ourselves we don't see colour, and therefore we have an excuse to look elsewhere. THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO LOOK AWAY. This is 2020, and I want this world to be better, I want to help make it better. I want us all to see the beauty in colour and culture and differences that make us all unique.
I do see colour, and I think it is beautiful. I do see how different cultures add value and perspectives to life that we may otherwise never have. I do know the joy of learning and experiencing different cultures. I do see that I have been given something by merely being born white, which requires me to stand up and speak when others are silenced because of who they are. I do see how I have failed and need to do better.
I may not have asked to be born with white skin, but I have a responsibility to others because I was. I am responsible for understanding how my life has been different because of it and a responsibility to work to try to change it. I am responsible for helping other voices to be heard. I am responsible for educating myself on what those differences are and what changes need to be made. I am responsible for holding our businesses, our police, and our politicians accountable.
SO ARE YOU!