It’s odd that when I explain to my white friends or acquaintances examples of discrimination I have gone through in my life – it is down played or negated. They see it as my perception being off.
The subtlety of racism is that it can be interpreted differently depending on your life experiences. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hear what is being said by someone who’s suffered from it.
My experiences with racism have been so subverted that it’s led me to distrust my own feelings. Just because someone says something that doesn’t cross the line into hate speech, doesn’t mean it should be dismissed.
I remember my father telling me that when he first came to Canada in the 1950’s to go to university and was looking for a room to rent, he was often told the room was gone, even though the ‘For Rent’ sign was still in view. He told them to take the sign down.
In the 1960’s, when I was in elementary school, I was singled out for punishment even though white kids did the same thing with no repercussions.
In the 1970’s my parents joined a golf club where at one time our family was referred to as the “black” Websters. Whereas the other family was never called the “white” Websters.
In the 1980’s my mother went shopping during a grocery worker strike and when she crossed the line she was told to go back to where she came from. She told them to go back to where they came from.
As a privileged person of colour I’ve had less interaction with the police than most people of colour and that interaction has been positive. I’ve lived in mostly white neighborhoods where there is less of a police presence. That doesn’t mean that I don’t fear what could happen to me when I speak up for my rights or see examples of what could happen to someone like me when faced with someone who hates the colour of my skin. .
I’m followed in stores and have to listen silently while family members of all colours make racist comments or jokes regarding marginalized people, including their own.
When I worked with white people who never or rarely spoke to me and something happened to do with black people doing something they didn’t like, instead of educating themselves on why they felt this way, I was automatically singled out in order to reinforce their white view of the world. Not only did I have to do my job well – I also had to be the person who was responsible for making their white experience safer. I usually just kept my mouth shut and my head down in order not to be targeted.
Was it racism or just ignorance? There is no excuse for ignorance any more than there is an excuse for racism
When you are a person of colour in a society ruled by the race of another, colour is ALWAYS an issue.
These last couple of weeks has taught me a lot – like most people, I am still a work in progress and still learning. I’ve come to realize that I am also part of the problem, in my past re-telling of racist, sexist and gay jokes. No matter how harmless they may seem, they make a whole group of people the “other”.
As human beings we can choose to behave morally or not. All of us.
Peace and justice for all!