I hope you guys are safe and keeping well. I have some thoughts that I would like to share. I hope this post doesn’t offend you, if so I gently apologize in advance.
In the last few days, I have been reading Facebook posts, tweets etc. about what is happening in the U.S.. It’s beyond horrible, sad and infuriating. Aubrey, Christopher, George, Breonna are just a few casualties. I have also been thinking about all the countless others who have been erased over the years who never benefitted from the battle cry coming out of the U.S. in the moment.
I am not Black. I am not Indigenous. I would define myself as South Asian, able bodied, heterosexual woman, Catholic and yes, extremely privileged.
I cannot speak for Black and Indigenous people – nor should you. If you are a White person, I would gently ask that you do your research and make some time to understand the privileges you own. It’s not about just saying it in a Facebook post because you don’t want to be silent. Do the work and understand what disrupting White supremacist agendas really means. Yes, we are dealing with White supremacy here.
Some of my friends know the following story, but I thought I’d share it with you. I applied for my Masters two years ago and did not get in because my Undergraduate grades were too low. I completed my Undergraduate degree when I was 23. I was 44 when I applied for my Masters. When I received the letter of rejection, I made a decision to appeal the decision. No one tells me no. After weeks of back and forth emails, the university provided me with an interview with a panel of three scholars.
The interview date came and I was sat in front of three scholars, a Black male, a White woman and a South Asian woman whom were all Canadian. The questions they asked me consisted of, “What was happening to you at 23 for your grades to have been so low?”, “Are you sure you really want to do your Masters at 44?”, “You know, we just don’t give out spots for a Masters program” and “We can’t give you any funding.” I felt worn down, embarrassed and humiliated with the process but I leaned into it. I wanted to earn my Masters degree that bad. The university relented and gave me a spot. They also told me because I advocated for myself, they would be pulling all the other applications that didn’t get in because of their grades and re-evaluate them. I broke down. It was a powerful moment.
For the last two years, I worked full time as a Counsellor and taught part time at a local college so I could pay for my tuition and mortgage. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I am also keenly aware that even as a person of colour, I have profited from Black and Indigenous individuals whose activism in Canada paved the way for me to have a platform to advocate for myself. There are many Black and Indigenous individuals out there that are deserving of a Masters degree but because of oppressive systems, intergenerational trauma etc. they are unable to attain those goals. I have taken from them and I have to give it back to both of those communities.
Canada is extremely racist. Colonialism is embedded within child welfare, schools, the legal system and health care systems, which force assimilation into Euro-Western paradigms. We all benefit from systemic racism, yes even if you are a person of colour. All of us. Black and Indigenous people do not have those same privileges.
I don’t have all the answers. Racism affected me as a youth, it affected my graduate studies enrollment and it continues to affect me on the streets of Toronto. That said, I am able to weave my identity between White and coloured spaces and use it for my benefit while oppressing others. There it is, and I am a person of colour. Black and Indigenous people do not have that same privilege.
If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read up on anti-oppression and anti-racism in Canada.
Two books that I recommend as starting points are:
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present
Thanks for listening.