July 4, 2012 § 5 Comments
Click on the images to enlarge them:
Editors Note: The following post is in response to a conversation held on the editors Facebook wall.
First of all, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut or ask questions!
Secondly, if you at all want to speak to First Nations issues, you have to realize them in all of their complexities; complexities that come with the fact that the whole continent has been REpopulated after the decimation of millions of people, and that the people who survived attempted genocide still live here and want to do some housekeeping.
I am not reverse-racist. I’m very much a victim of racism, and I have been my whole life. I think I will continue to be a victim of racism my whole life. However, I have many white friends, South Asian friends, Nigerian friends, Canadian and American friends, but they’re all friends because we all agree to some baseline respectful principles that define our relationships. I am voicing my recent concern that the status quo in Canada has not been educated to the level that they can responsibly make comments, judgements, or decisions on the current status of First Nations-Crown relations, or the future of the First Nations peoples when it comes to matters of rights and title, privilege, power, and strategy, and that this creates racism in this day and age in 2012. This is not a mistake; this was manufactured intentionally.
What Drew Hayden Taylor, the author responsible for creating this satirical apology to white Canadians, aimed to do with his article was to directly call out members of the dominant society in a power-based relationship on their lack of knowledge, insight, and compassion when observing and participating in their relationship with First Nations peoples.
The relationship in question has been cultivated over time to benefit certain members of society over others. This was and is a racist system, of which all white Canadians are beneficiaries, every single day. There are reasons behind the saying that this continent was built on the genocide of one, and the enslavement of others; reasons like historical truths, evidence, coverups, church records, parliamentary minutes, etc. Can’t get out of that one. The most obvious source of fuckery comes from assumptions stemming from lack of knowledge on these exact issues. This is when things can get ugly fast.
It is false to assume that Canada does not have a colonial history including attempted genocide, despite the blatant lie told by Stephen Harper. It was not always perpetrated with guns in Canada, as was a popular method in the USA for dealing with the “Indian Problem.” Here, smallpox blankets were given out as a sign of friendship, among other actions undertaken by the Dominion of Canada. There is irrefutable evidence of this. Parliament democratically voted in the Indian Act, a system that was designed with the sole intention of separating Indigenous peoples from their right to live unfettered by settler presence, as they saw fit, on the land. The only reason there was outcry in opposition to the White Paper of 1969? It is the only document that officially acknowledges the existence of First Nations peoples to this day.
It is false to assume that canada is a superior country in comparison to the USA. Both actively worked (and work) to diminish Indigenous populations so that there may be more room to settle. There is no moral superiority. It’s all stolen land.
This type of misinformation (both omitted and spread throughout young Canadians’ curriculum) was and still is a directly employed tactic of people who came before us – but not limited to those who came before us. There are people who are aware, and do nothing. This is called complicity. It’s actually punishable by Canadian law in the criminal code, like if you were to house a fugitive or drive a getaway car for a heist.
Then, there are those people who are unaware of the vast array of complexities of this colonial relationship, yet unknowingly reinforce institutions designed to suppress dissent among people being suppressed. You may recognize them by the term, “Get over it.” These people, when they act and vocalize from a place of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, are largely seen as stupid.
Then, there are people who are aware of all the complexities of the historical and ongoing attempted genocide of First Nations peoples through poisoning, underfunding of baseline institutions providing healthcare and education, failure to provide basic infrastructure for clean water and housing as was agreed upon in original treaties, resource extraction agreements which take advantage of weakened bargaining stances resulting in the poisoning of (communal) air and water sources and food sources, assimilation tactics like residential schools and the idea of multiculturalism (which is problematic and opens the door to more racism) that only legitimize the Canadian occupation of stolen native land, and actively work to protect the advantages won by these crimes against people who are still alive and would-be-well-otherwise today.
There’s a few things with the first comment at the top that I want to point out:
It is not my right to tell someone how to interpret something. This is how the residential school system worked. If it were my right, your children could be in Canadian residential schools designed to ‘cure the whiteness’ in the children, though, in 1904 or something the term used against First Nations was, “beating the Indian out of the child.”
I don’t always have time to hold people gently. Sometimes, it’s just too much patience required to hold someone’s hand through the process of approaching their own whiteness, because that’s their work to do. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable when your white privilege is challenged, as long as you can let that awkward place be one from which learning can happen. The problems arise when that awkward place is one from which fear, anger and resentment come. Lashing out in defense of racist ideals is… well, racist.
As a person of colour, I don’t need to be gentle with people if I don’t have patience. It may not speed things up for you, but it may slow me down in fixing my own community which is an onerous task. It is fair to say that when you, as a white Canadian, come into contact with someone who resents what your country stands for, the responsibility is in your court to change that perception. Becoming an ally and a good neighbor might not be easy, you might not like how it makes you feel to hear the anger and dissent of people still suffering today because of a relationship formed before you were born, and that’s the way it is. Get over it.
People throw around the term ‘oppression’ way too loosely, as well. Someone on the thread that these images were taken from said that they’re tired of Christians being oppressed – no joke! Christianity is the single most powerful religion or corporate institution on the planet today, so when people voice outrage or “hate on” Christianity, it’s not ‘oppression,’ it’s called ‘dissent.’ Oppression is a great deal more serious than someone not liking what happens when a monotheistic society drafts documents decreeing the murder of hundreds of millions of people over different eras of human history. Might I add in the name of a story book. There’s nothing wrong with cultural pluralism – but it’s hard to find a nice monotheism that doesn’t require you to convert or die.
What Bernerner, above, is arguing is that I am labeling him as racist based on his skin colour. This isn’t true. I’m labeling him as a racist because of his repeated use of racist slurs, derogatory and blatant use of stereotyping and harmful imagery of a vulnerable community. What the post attempts to say is that I’m a reverse-racist, when in actuality the post illuminates a racist tendency to defend racist ideals and institutions.
A racist ideal today would be for First Nations to “get over it,” and to “catch up,” with mainstream, contemporary canada; to abandon the struggle for justice leading to peace, and to adopt the morals, principles, religions, worldviews and customs of the dominant society, without the racism-supporting person having to give up anything in this tremendous compromise, let alone imagine a new relationship with First Nations peoples than what exists today. First Nations don’t want that; that being neo-liberal, unregulated capitalism (wealth at any cost to whom and whatever), materialism, and elitism.
What is being asked is not much (for starters). Keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself unless you are of the awareness and education to speak to such complex issues because you can actually do harm through speaking out against peace activists fighting uphill by reinforcing racist notions and ideals; take some of the time out of your day to learn about what is not being told to mainstream Canadian society; ask questions about your own identity (what does it mean to be a Canadian person 50 years ago? What does it mean today?); explore your own personal biases and ask yourself why they exist; and, before being a critical asshole, maybe have some suggested alternative solutions to our many shared problems ready to go (constructive criticism).
To answer Bernerner’s question above – First Nations want good neighbours. They want understanding, and they want to be seen as sovereign nations independent of Canada. They don’t want to be absorbed by Canada because they were here first and are still here. They want cultural pluralism, not multi-culturalism. The original agreement – the contract created during contact – was a two-row wampum belt that illustrated the intended relationship: you stay in your canoe, we’ll stay in ours, and we can be friends going down the river together. This is what First Nations still want.
First Nations want environmental sustainability. This entails no pipelines, no supertankers, no tar sands, no none of that shit. That stuff is so old school, people know that the industries are corrupt, the industries know that the jig is up, and environmentalists the world over are starting to freak out. Scientists lose sleep at night worrying about the environment. Why not imagine new sectors, new green industries built on harnessing clean energy through cooperation and collaboration? First Nations want economic stability. They want jobs for their kids, and their grandkids. They want to make sure that there will be something left for their grandkids and not at the expense of white kids.
“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
First Nations want to share the land. They want to stop being stigmatized for this vocalization as “greedy Indians.” They want real equity, real peace (which can not be acquired without real justice), and real harmony with all things. Land, spirits, people, animals. First Nations want to build a utopia built on true peace and understanding, with the people who live here now. That truly is one of the most boiled down versions of what I understand as fundamental principles of the diverse array of culturally, historically, politically, and socio-economically sovereign First Nations out there. I say that last statement because I’m not able to speak for the First Nations; I can’t represent over 600 sovereign nations with my article. It’s just an observation.
First Nations seem to want acknowledgement – OFFICIAL acknowledgement of what happened, of how Canada and the USA were formed, right down into the grade 4 social studies books in public schools. They want their story honored before they can begin the work of creating a new country with the people who are here now.
And First Nations are fixing their own problems. Look at me writing here today – Canadian by default, Sahtugotine Dene first.