It seems self serving to say I’m not racist, but given the climate right now, I need to. But at the same time, I was naive.
Naive in that I don’t treat anyone different based on their gender, colour, or sexual preference. You judge others as you judge yourself. The first wake up call for me was when Trump was elected president. How could there be so many people who feel that he was the best option? God Bless the Electoral College.
Now, in the wake of the disaster that was the Charlottesville demonstrations, I get it. There is a segment of the American population that is feeling threatened. They see there has been a shift in society and they want things the way they used to be. Like 150 years ago. A demonstration to preserve a statue erected for General Robert Lee, one of the losing generals of the Civil War, was purported to be a stand for history, for the fabric of the American culture.
Except, that history was white washed.
There are countless web pages devoted to the “real” (fill in the blank general, politician, founding father). They were human, they were flawed, and many of them agreed to the accepted norm of the time; that owning another human was not just legal, but their God-given Right because they were born the whitest shade of pale.
The insult to the injury of these statues is that most were not erected at the end of the Civil War, in fact, the last monument, built in Arizona (not even a state during the war) was installed in 1975!?!?!? This was a conscious effort to remind African Americans that in spite of perceived advancements in their station in life (voting, non-segregated education, not being owned) the shade of the past was a literal and figurative presence.
The next realize for me was one it was pointed out that following World War II, there were no statues erected in Germany in honour of Adolf Hitler nor any of his evil cohorts. No schools are named after them. No bridges. No parks. The horror of the Nazis was erased from the country with only history books and the memories of the Holocaust survivors to give voice to the madness. That is why there was such shock when the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust Memorial was opened; you had to see it to comprehend the nightmare.
Imagine being an African American child who walks to school every day, past the eternal monument giving tribute a man, who fought a war to separate your country, over his desire to own your ancestors, which he had the right to torture, rape and kill. Now imagine knowing that this same marker is a meeting place for racists TODAY, who still subscribe to such asinine theories as intellectual superiority based on skin colour.
Can you imagine that child’s frustration to open a history book and learn that not only is his community white-washed of any reality regarding what slavery was actually about, but also his education. White students beside him are taught the same thing, which perpetuates the Myth. White is good. White brought advancements. White is right.
We know differently now. Stories, movies, books, memories all tell of a different reality. This one involves fear, prejudice, assault, abuse, torture and a facing the reality that in the 21st Century that the first black man elected to the highest office in the land will be followed by another white man, who incites hate and fans the flames of the KKK and Neo-Nazis. Two steps forward, sixty years backward.
I turn my gaze to my own country. How easy it is to judge, but, those in glass houses…..
What of the pain of a Japanese child, separated from family and placed in housing in B.C. during the Second World War? What of the ongoing profound injustices done to aboriginals from the time the first European settlers stepped on dry land – not the least of which involved church and residential schools. Just two samples of wrongs that didn’t make into my history book, not sure about yours. Don’t understand why the Aboriginal Community is outraged? Because we still aren’t teaching what happened, so we can stop perpetuating our own Myth.
Many feel the reparations the Federal Government has attempted are a waste of time; after all, why should we make amends, WE weren’t the ones who offended. But actually, we are. As long as we force these minority groups to feel the white washing of the past lives on today, we continue to injury them. We need to see history for what it was. – a one-sided account. Recognize the imbalance and injustice, and fix it so that they are not bleeding today from the wounds of our forefathers. We need to own the mistakes of the past to not repeat them. I think that’s someone elses’ quote, but since we are talking about appropriation here….
I seriously debated writing this column on this topic, not because I’m worried about backlash, frankly, I don’t give a shit. If you don’t agree with my position, and identify with the morons who showed up with torches, chants and starched and ironed golf shirts on Friday night, keep rolling pal, ain’t nothing for you here.
But I was given pause because there is already so much talk about this topic. I feel we need action. I have family and loved ones who are Gay, Jewish, Black. The chants from Virginia felt like stabs into everyone of my people’s souls.
That’s when I realized, it might be the first step to actually do more with my white privilege than to yell at a TV screen. We’ve had several talks around the dinner table about what this all means and what our role in this humanity can be. We won’t be standing by in tense silence when there is a slur, a sign, a posting. We will not be ok thinking that we are the silent majority, and that most of “us” don’t think that way. Even one person spewing this kind of filth is one too many. We must speak up. We must push back.
Trump felt justified in saying that, and I’m paraphrasing here, “two wrongs don’t make a right” with regard to the riots in the Charlottesville park. Hmmm. If we were talking about a shoving match in the kitchen about the last cookie in the jar, I’d be onboard with it. But we are talking about the exact opposite extreme – an attach on humanity, and you cannot judge the motives of Anti-protests trying to stop hate with force, using the same stick as the Protesters who came to the park chanting Nazi slogans and instilling fear in anyone who wasn’t one of “them”. If the suggestion is that Good lowers itself when it fights Evil, then why the Hell did we have World War II? The Allies should have stood back and said, “Gosh, Mr. Hitler, we’d really like it if you pull your armies back from Western Europe, and when you are done, COULD YOU STOP PUSHING PEOPLE INTO GAS CHAMBERS?”
I think we all know what that response would have been.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~ used by lots of white guys