I just finished reading a book called White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism when all hell broke loose last week. I was reading this as part of an Indigenous Reads book club at work, where each month I get together with some of my colleagues and try to deconstruct our own privilege and move forward on our own journeys of reconciliation by reading the stories and listening to the voices of Indigenous writers that have gone so long unheard. It is uncomfortable but necessary inner work.
I have been trying to write about this journey for a while now mostly in the context of forgiveness and reconciliation, but I am having a hard time putting it into words. Mostly I struggle with the fear that I am going to say something wrong and offend someone. That I am going to inadvertently expose some hidden biases I didn’t even know I had and be called out on them.
In these tumultuous times, I do not want to showcase my own privilege but actively work to dismantle it. I don’t want to be adding my own voice to maintain the status quo; I want to offer it up in service as an ally.
I know my voice is not the important one right now. But I also can’t just say nothing. Because that’s the exact problem—liberal thinking, polite white people like me are too afraid to talk about their privilege and thus end up perpetuating it.
I don’t want to perpetuate my own privilege. I am not okay with a world where I can walk safely down the streets without harassment but another person can’t. Where I am taking seriously simply because of the colour of my skin and another person is not simply because the colour of theirs. I don’t want this privilege. The first step in dismantling it is to acknowledge that it exists and permeates my whole life.
As cities in America burn and justifiably angry people take to the streets and risk their lives (both due to police violence and an actual fucking pandemic which makes gathering even that much more dangerous), I want to do the one thing that is the most important thing to do which is acknowledge my own privilege and actively seek to deconstruct it. Here is what I have learned so far on this ongoing, lifelong journey to actively, consciously educate myself so I am not causing more harm than good in this world.
- I am a racist. I really don’t want to be one, I hate that I am, but I am. We all are, because we have grown up in a racist society. The more we admit this to ourselves, the more we can unearth our hidden biases and dismantle them.
- We live in a white supremacist state. I am a white person in a world ruled by white people. I have power and privilege just by being white that people of colour simply do not have. Though I may not have personally enslaved people or stolen people’s lands, I am the direct beneficiary of a system set up by those who did. This is unacceptable to me.
- It is up to me to dismantle this privilege. I can do this by actively seeking to deprogram myself by exposing myself to other voices, to alternative views than the one I grew up with where Indigenous peoples and people of colour were only a footnote in our white colonist history.
I have so much more to learn about my own biases, about how I can dismantle my own privilege. If I have said something that was offensive or wrong, I would be grateful for feedback. When I get it, I promise to not burst into tears (at least not in front of the person giving the critique), get defensive, or make it in anyway about me. I will thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me uncover my own biases and work to incorporate that new found knowledge into everything I do.
In the face of all that is going on in the world, I just wanted to do my very small part by acknowledging my own racism and own inadvertent complicity in a system that has for centuries only benefitted white people. And for whatever it is worth, loudly and for the record profess my wish to be an ally in building a more equitable world.