Canada is grappling with having found a mass grave at one residential school of 215 indigenous children. On June 1, Oklahoma began to dig to identify mass graves from the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa massacre, where an affluent black community was levelled by mobs of white residents. “Heartbeat” abortion bans have also been passed in several Republican-led states, and transgender girls are being banned from sports teams. It’s no wonder that Indigenous, people of colour, women, and LGBTQ+ are reeling, wondering how we fit into North America’s power mold.
This is my rant to the white (usually) men who are getting defensive, and who do not understand white privilege. If you are an ally, you have no reason to feel judged, because you are part of the solution; please keep listening, learning, and teaching others. If you get defensive about social justice hashtags like #blm, #metoo, #everychildmatters, #ReadtheTRCReport, #pride, #stopAsianHate, #genocide, and #checkyourprivilege please listen up.
Be clear that no one is calling you racist, nor homophobe, nor misogynist; just that you have systemic advantages through being Caucasian, called white privilege. There is a big difference between privilege and racism, sexism, homophobia, unless the man doth protest too much?
If you’re not scared walking down the street late at night, concerned that you may be assaulted, raped, kidnapped, or murdered, you have privilege. If you don’t worry that a simple traffic stop may result in you unjustly being taken into custody, or beaten or killed, you have privilege. If you’ve never had someone else telling you who you can or can’t love, or what you can and can’t do with your body if you’re pregnant, you have privilege.
If you talk about residential schools and race violence as being a thing of the past, and say things like: “Why can’t people just move on?” you have white privilege. You also don’t understand intergenerational trauma. Feeling different, and being told you aren’t valued or aren’t enough, is highly damaging, and it is passed down. Self-worthlessness and racism are taught.
While it is true that there is less overt racism today, and that the most egregious acts are hopefully ancient history, they still happened. The fact that these dark sides of the last century are not in our history books is part of the problem. The report on truth and reconciliation (RTR) had a whole section on missing children and unmarked burials from residential schools and yet it is only now that we are talking about it. How many of the recommendations from the RTR have even been implemented? Not many, as those who don’t have a voice, typically don’t have privilege.
Don’t tell me that it wasn’t you who did these things. No one is blaming you personally for the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of residential school children. But have you ever made anyone feel like they were less intelligent, or less capable, or not as entitled to all the same rights and freedoms that you have? Did you ever tell a racially charged joke? Do you use terms associated with the LGBTQ community to insult your friends? Do you support a gay man as your scouts troupe leader? Would you let your daughter date a woman or man outside your race? Would you want your child to be treated like non-white children are treated by police or shop merchants? If you still think that everyone is on a level-playing-field, does your child’s elementary school have a graveyard for students behind it? Really think about that.
I know that you were not personally involved in killing those 215 children. Now is not the time for you to repeat that banality and express your indignation at being blamed. The fact that you think it is time for people to once again listen to you is part of the problem. That very feeling of entitlement that your views are important and need to be heard right now are the foundation of white privilege.
I get it, you don’t like someone looking at you differently than how you view yourself. You don’t like feeling like your voice doesn’t matter. You don’t want someone pointing a finger at you, judging you for your skin colour and/or gender. Is the irony starting to creep in yet? The very fact that you don’t feel different, singled-out, marginalized, or impotent every single day is your privilege talking. Only ‘unwoke’ people who have privilege don’t think privilege exists.
May your current feelings of hurt and confusion give you a fraction of the understanding of what others who don’t have the same amount of privilege as you have experienced for the last century. If you don’t like how it feels, please become an ally, all are welcome.
We are all human beings who matter and deserve to feel worthy. We don’t want to feel like someone else has control over us, our bodies, our decisions, our justice, our power, or our destiny. We need to see ourselves reflected in our leaders, and have them honestly acknowledge our past. We need power and financial systems devoid of criteria for race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Want to get mad? Get mad at the historical bad apples who did atrocious things or those who didn’t speak up against those who did. Listen and learn about what actually happened and how it is still affecting people today. If you really want to have your say, say “I’m sorry that happened, it isn’t fair. How can I help?”