I am at a dinner party. The people around the table are all successful by society’s norms. They have achieved status, good jobs, make contributions to their organizations, families, communities, society.
One of the guests states they know how to resolve the problem for Canada’s Indigenous people. “Give them goals,” they say with conviction, “and hold them to the outcomes.”
The other guests murmur in agreement. Yes. Yes. It’s what’s needed. They need to stop whining and start doing more to be productive members of society. Sure, we messed up, someone mentions, we treated them unfairly, but that’s in the past. It’s time to move on.
I chime in and ask if anyone around the table has read the Truth and Reconciliation Report. There’s a lot of head shaking, No.
So, we can sit here with answers when no one has read a report that provides clear directions on how to move forward in addressing the inequities and injustices that have created the trauma and crisis today.
Good point, someone says. But they still need to be held accountable to goals. They need to progress.
And who are we to say what that looks like I ask, when we don’t understand the people, culture, history and our role in creating the issues today?
I ask one man, the CEO of a large multi-national corporation how he would respond if a consultant, hired to help fix a problem in the organization, walked in and said, I know the answers. Here’s what you have to do. Yet, the consultant had not even looked at the organization’s balance sheet, annual report, strategic plan or interviewed leadership, etc.
The man laughed and replied, “I’d throw him out.”
Yet, it’s okay to act like that consultant about a situation you have not spent any time understanding.
There was a long silence and the conversation changed to another topic.
Yesterday, a reader commented on my post that education is vital. “… the answer is education. It lifts people, it lifts families, it lifts communities. And, while it is lifting people out of chronic cyclical poverty and its attendant problems, it lifts spirit, self-esteem/pride and empowers more accomplishment.”
But it’s not just those experiencing homelessness, or poverty, or other social injustices who need education. It is all of us.
Recently, a man told me of his experience looking for a place to live. He arranged for a viewing of an apartment and when he got there, it was mysteriously, suddenly, unavailable.
You can’t tell the colour of my skin on the phone, he told me. But I could see his [the landlord’s] revulsion by the look on his face when he opened the door.
The man is Blackfoot.
It happens all the time, he told me. Sometimes, people don’t even bother to pretend. They just say, “I don’t rent to Indians.”
It doesn’t just happen to indigenous people, but to immigrants too.
Someone sees the colour of their skin, and doors close in their face.
Education is needed.
Discrimination hurts all of us. It fosters resentment, disillusionment, despair; entitlement, injustice, disrespect.
It creates Us and Them communities where the ‘have’s’ deny the ‘have not’s’ access to the resources and supports they need to be able to live without feeling the burden of poverty pressing them down.
It is not up to those who are being discriminated against to prove to the rest of us that they are equal, worthy or deserving. It’s up to each of us to let go of our thinking that someone else is not equal, worthy or deserving of our consideration, fair treatment, justice, dignity.
When we tear down the barriers we have erected to keep ‘them’ out of where we live, work, play and create communities, we create a world where tolerance, understanding, justice, and consideration for all has room to flow in all directions.
And that requires a willingness to learn — about the impact of our thinking we have all the answers for those we judge to be less than, other than, outside of our human experience.
We need to educate ourselves on the injustices we create because of our privileged thinking and belief that ‘they’ are the one’s who need to educate themselves to do better.
We are a planet of diverse cultures, faith, traditions, ways of being on this earth.
What we share in common is our human condition. And that is all we need to be equal to one another.
The rest… it comes with educating ourselves about the beauty in our differences, and learning to become compassionate in our view of how those differences make us each unique and richer in the experience of sharing our world in ways that create better, not just for the few, but for everyone.