Archives for posts with tag: racism

When i wrote about racism last month, (red like me – july 13), i had no idea how close to a potential race war we actually were. Then a couple of weeks ago, whilst perusing new people to follow on Twitter, i came across a user who had written only “non-white person” on his profile. It elicited a half grin as i thought it was a bit tongue-in-cheek, like the way someone might claim to be “non-heterosexual” or something, so i followed him. The next day, he posted this on my feed, referring to my blog post on racism:

“Do you tell non-White ppl you interact with that that “card” you can carry exempts you from being a Racist/White supremacist?”

My response was:

“…?… Eh?… No.”

In hindsight, I should have left it at that… Buuuut I dint… I wanted to point out the ridiculousness of the question and wrote:

“do you tell ppl that ppl can carry a card that makes them exempt from being racist?”

He responded with:

“No. I warn non-White ppl about White ppl like you who claim non-White identity to deflect and avoid exposure as a Racist/White supremacist.”

Whilst sensing he had not understood or read the whole post, I engaged in dialogue. I did so only because, while I’ve been called an apple (red on the outside, white inside) in a negative way, I’ve never been called “white” or either of those things before and was curious. It was interesting because all responses to his questions were spun to fit the belief of his, every word of mine was either proof of my “whiteness” or a calculated white trick according to him.

We were coming from very different viewpoints, with his stance being that non-white people were not capable of racism as his definition of it was “White supremacy” and that it was “specific only to white people”. When i said that i understood “white” to be referring to skin tone, he said that i could not and would not find anything to support this. And that to avoid exposure as a white supremacist, “they’ll try to trick non-White” people into thinking that white is just a skin colour. And in response to the blog, about racism being the result of ignorance:

“White ppl (like you) express their *dedication* to Racism/White supremacy by saying their *calculated* practice is a result of ignorance.”

It felt like we weren’t on the same playing field and as we didn’t or couldn’t agree, i said we would have to agree to disagree, to which he would not agree. So i said that we would have to disagree to disagree then, and he said no…. So i thanked him for the dialogue and said farewell. Then he asked if that meant i wouldn’t show the responses from my “non-White” friends about whether or not they thought i was racist or a white supremacist – a question he had asked me earlier on to which i had said i didn’t know but would ask as i was curious. I had texted one of my non-white-skin-toned friends within hours of him asking, and so posted a pic of her response. My friend had lol’d at his q, said no and used some not so nice words. When he immediately questioned her integrity, called it a “White trick” and asked for all sorts of info about her, i ended the dialogue with:

“no, this ends here. I will not let you treat my friend the way you have treated me. good day sir.”

Mere days after that ended, Charlottesville happened. Perusing some of the news threads, i posted a response on Twitter to someone who said that he was ok with other races, so long as they followed the rules. I stated that the rules were not fair and equal for all and asked what would have happened if it had been people of colour/minorities rallying. A different user responded with:

“Riots and vandalism. Just like every time blm doesn’t get its way. If they don’t like living in a white country they can always go home.”

This prompted a days-long dialogue because in all my years, i have never engaged in dialogue with a white supremacist. I’m not saying i’ve never met one as perhaps i have, but no one has ever talked openly about their racist beliefs. It was not as aggressive a dialogue as with the other guy. Her belief that she was superior came across and she was condescending, calling me adorably naive, weak and mousy. But she did her best to explain her views, and while stopping short of stating she was a white supremacist in those exact words, she kept referring to ‘other races’ as unequal. She used the argument that “whites” were more advanced and therefore superior, then got caught in a quagmire after stating that the Japanese were “probably ahead of us”, and never responded when i asked if that meant they were superior.

She spoke in generalizations and stereotypes, stating all the counter-protestors were Antifa, alt-left and BLM, and she blamed all the violence on them, tweeting:

“…antifa/blm filth are the ones who always initiate the violence. Always. Apparently violence is ok as long as you think you’re right.”

She said that since “blacks hate us so much”, she “was sure” they’d be much happier in their own homogeneous societies, “no one” had anything to lose because multiculturalism “wasn’t working for anyone”, and that every race deserved “a homeland free of foreigners”. I ended the dialogue after she voiced hatred for all but the “polite blacks” and claimed that she had no time for people who “don’t strive to be decent and morally upright”. The irony of her statement brought out a thinly-veiled sarcastic question-comment on my part (“do you see your behaviour on this thread and out in the world as polite and morally upright?”) for which i felt shame and quickly deleted. I ended with this post instead:

“ima go strive for that. Thank you for the dialogue and your honesty.”

I posted somewhere along that thread my belief that dialogue is the only thing that will bring about real change in the long run. And i am convinced of that now more than ever as i feel much was learned from both these encounters. For instance, the woman is a white supremacist, and while she says that “Jews are at the top” because of their IQ’s, they are disqualified from being the best because of their “vile attempt at world domination via central banksterism”… She “hates the loud, rude saggy assed black people”, but not the “law abiding self-supporting polite blacks”… She also claims that she doesn’t care which race is superior “as long as whites can have our own nations like every other race”. And while she doesn’t believe her government cares about her, she justified unequal treatment of people of colour by stating:

“The majority in any country is entitled to make the rules. Rule by majority is the whole basis of democracy.”

(FYI – the definition of democracy includes: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges. Miriam-Webster)

As for what i learned from the other dialogue… I had a difficult time following his logic, but my understanding is that he thinks if any people of colour feel superior, that is only a reaction to the racism they have experienced, and erego not racist in itself… While it felt like i was getting physically slapped or punched by his words, it reaffirmed my conviction that what people label me is not my concern, and that racism is definitely my concern.

Which is why i couldn’t just sit back and say nothing after Charlottesville. I don’t see racism as an illness of light skinned people only and i will never agree that what people of colour do when they claim “racial superiority” is not racism. If you believe one ‘race’ is better than another, that’s racism. I realize that racists/supremacists might have their heels dug in as well and will never agree that all races are equal…

In the meantime, i have heard more white supremacists rallies are planned for this weekend across the US and that the movement is spreading across Canada. I shiver at the potential violence that could erupt, as some people appear to be on the verge of losing their sh*t, to put it mildly. How many more are going to die over something as innocuous as the colour of ones’ skin? Heather Heyer was merely one more life that didn’t matter to those who feel threatened by people who are different from them. The disrespect of those who have expressed their feelings about her death is a low not seen publicly since the hatred by racists in the 60’s. I shudder to think of the evil that would have been said if she had been a person of colour, mind you I also dunno how it could get much worse… So yeah, if you aren’t outraged by it all, then you truly aren’t paying attention – or maybe yer racist.

* in hindsight, i see that the title ‘red like me’ could be interpreted as me having white skin tone as John Howard Griffin… i used it to point out that labels lead to descrimination.

No doubt about it, we humin beans done been here a long time now. So long, that it feels like racism should have passed its “best before date”. Since there’s still so much racism everywhere, there are obviously a lot of racists out there. So, what’s it like being racist? Like, if someone is basing their discrimination on a stereotype, how many people outside that stereotype would it take to prove the stereotype wrong? It’s not one or two, so how many? What if 70% of the First Nations one passed on any given day weren’t “drunk and lazy”, would that be enough to put that stereotype to rest? And if one passed ten First Nations’ people and two of them were drunk and one was lazy, is that all it takes to make a stereotype and get some hatred going?

It can’t be easy to be a racist… to be afraid of people simply because of the colour of their skin… to feel threatened and scared because someone in their vicinity is different from them… to always feel angry, to always feel a burning hatred in the belly of their brain… to basically feel like who they are and what they are is based on the colour of their skin. That’s gotta suck.

There was that one time I was on the cusp of being racist. And it did suck. It happened during second year of university when I was researching First Nations’ education and came across the Residential School System. At the time I was still learning about all things native after finding out I had official “Indian” status and could carry a card to prove it. Being adopted (**) by a non-native family at the age of 8mths, I grew up in “white” middle-class suburbia with three older brothers and spent my formative years pretending I was a little boy like them. Anyhow, learning about the residential schools was shocking, and the more I read about how the students were treated the angrier I became. I became angry with my parents as I associated them with the white ruling class who were responsible for what happened to my native ancestors. And before long I started feeling angry in general, towards every white person.

As luck would have it though, I ran into my high school history teacher one night while I was out. He was that one teacher who made school bearable, who made learning Canadian history fun and interesting at a time when I didn’t care to learn anything. We were ‘friends’, as much as a student and teacher could be ‘friends’. He knew my brothers, he had met my parents somehow, and he was funny. So when I saw him that night, I laid into him without so much as a hello. “You never taught us about the residential school system! You never taught us about what really happened to the First Nations! What kind of teacher are you?” I railed at him. I dunno what else I ranted but he finally put his hand up and said “Eh, oh. Lemme tell you a story.” And he proceeded to tell me about how he had been up for a Rhodes Scholarship back in the day. Only the most prestigious award one could get as a student. He was actually offered the scholarship by the Rhodes selection committee, “if”, they said, he would take out all the references of what really happened to the First Nations in the paper he had submitted with his application. He said no, so they threw his paper in the trashcan and he didn’t get the scholarship.

When he finished telling the story, he looked at me with sad droopy eyes and said that he had wanted to teach me the truth, but he had to teach the curriculum. And just like that, all the anger I had been projecting at a group of people based soley on the colour of their skin, dissipated. I was flooded with memories of how my family had shown again and again that they were not racist, and I knew they didn’t even know about the residential school system, and then I remembered Dr Bryce, and of course, the Underground Railroad. Dr Peter Bryce was a non-native guy, hired by the Department of Indian Affairs in 1907 to report on the health conditions of the Residential School System in western Canada. He was the first to report that First Nations’ children were dying at alarming rates from tuberculosis, amongst other things. He suggested a few easy and cheap ways to prevent the deaths but his report was not only ignored, it was suppressed. The government didn’t want anything to change as the First Nations children were dying off fast and this would help solve the ‘Indian problem’. As a civil servant of the Government, he was legally prevented from doing or saying anything publicly, thus Dr Bryce waited until his contract was over in 1922 and then published his report as a book, condemning the treatment of the First Nations by the government. So, yeah, I know that not every white person is racist and I knew it back then, but still I found myself confused by the overwhelming emotions that had me looking at everybody with scorn and anger and disdain.

Maybe it’s easy to ask “how can someone be racist?” with an incredulous tone, but the seeds are everywhere. I was lucky that in my vulnerable state I had a chance meeting with someone I respected who was able to understand and respect my anger. But not everyone is that lucky. I could easily have crossed paths with someone who could have fueled the feelings of discontent and might have ended up in a very different place. So, the problem is not just that there is racism, the problem is how do we get rid of it in a way that doesn’t cause chaos? And how do we live with what Nina Simone angrily lamented in Mississippi Goddam, that it’s going to be “too slow”?

Racism is like an illness that won’t disappear overnight. Realistically, it’s going to take years, like reconciliation with the First Nations. Buuut, we can help it along. We can keep looking to the arts and the artists, who have been breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes for years. We seem to be strongly influenced by our media and our arts, which is why movies like “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”, “Do The Right Thing” and “Straight Outta Compton” are so powerful and important. Along with television shows like Degrassi, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Dear White People, they make us uncomfortable; they push boundaries, create new status quos and force people to look at themselves introspectively. We need to see the so-called minorities in the mainstream media rather than just in the news, to see them on television shows, just doing what they do rather than being a designated stereotype. We need to stop the whitewashing.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. I think most racists have been denied the truth and that’s caused a lot of negative feelings that they didn’t have to be carrying around. It’s not their fault and they deserve a chance to know and see the truth, and if after that they still wanna be racist, well… But holy crap if there’s actually going to be a race war! Cuz there’s a whole lotta people out there who wouldn’t know which side to be on, like me. I’m Ojibwa, Cree, Norwegian and French. Plus I don’t wanna ‘fight’ anyone because of the colour of their skin or mine. I don’t want to fight, pointe finale… Reminds me of that saying, what if they held a war and nobody came?

** PS: my apologies as it is not clear… I am what some call a Native Adoptee – not one of the sixties/seventies scoop babies. Both my biological parents were of First Nations ancestry – one Ojibewa and one Cree, going back (many) generations there is French on one side and Norwegian on the other, and there is some Scottish in there as well but I’m not sure where… I was given up at the age of 6mths, and adopted by my parents at 8 mths. They were told I was either Cherokee or Blackfoot so I referred to myself as a Cherryfoot. It was only at the age of 18 yrs that I learned which nation I was and that I had ‘official’ Native Status.  – August 17