Tag Archives: racism

Blindspots

When I first got my car two years ago, I discovered something I’d missed during the test drive – there was a significant blindspot over my left shoulder. Uncomfortably so.

I was paranoid about that blindspot. Changing lanes, I’d twist and turn again and again, fearing I was missing an oncoming car. In all my twisting and turning I was a bit of a road hazard and had to consciously train myself to stop the paranoia and trust that I knew how to use my mirrors as aides.

And then one cloudy day when I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses, I realized the blindspot wasn’t there!

What? That’s when I realized it was the arm of my sunglasses, which was attached midway down the frame, that was blocking the view out of the corner of my left eye, not a blindspot in my car.

I bought new glasses, ones with the arms attached at the top of the frame and Voilá! Problem solved.

Blindspots are like that. We use the same set of eyes, with the frame we’re most comfortable with, to view the world. In our comfort, we cannot see the places where our view of reality is blinding us to the reality of others.

Like racism. It has always been amongst us. It’s just many of us were blind to its pervasive presence as well as our contribution to its presence, until the conversation could not be avoided any longer because it was marching right before our eyes and could not be denied.

For those of us for whom the colour of our skin has seldom given us cause to question or even talk about our privilege, nor our inherent biases, it can feel stressful, uncomfortable, disorienting to face our own, as Robin D’Angelo calls it in her same-named book, “White Fragility“.

What if we change our glasses?

What if instead of seeing our discomfort of our ‘white fragility’ as something to be ignored or pushed away or angrily denied, we decided to embrace it and say, “Bring it on. I’m willing to feel this so others do not feel ‘less than’ around me. I am willing to break open my privilege, along with my mind and heart, and be vulnerable to change because what’s happening in today’s reality for so many is not good for anyone. And I do not want my privilege to undermine the well-being of others any longer.”

As a person who fits within the context of being ‘white skinned’, it is easy for me to say, “I don’t see colour.” I haven’t had to. My life is founded on a cultural belief that has survived centuries of life on earth that insinuates (and at times blatantly states), ‘white has more value than black.’

In the world of colour, white actually has no value. It is the reflection of light and gains value through the reflection of other colours. Like rainbows. Sunlight shines through water molecules in the air after a rain and is refracted so that we can see it dancing in a rainbow of colour arcing across the sky.

Without voices of colour speaking up about their experiences, informing those of us without colour about what it means to be devalued in this world because of the colour of your skin, we would not understand the totality of our whiteness in today’s world.

We have that chance. Right now. To listen. To hear. To understand. To learn. To grow and to see the world in all its beautiful colours.

We have the chance to change our glasses.

For real, lasting change to happen, we must stop seeing racism as ‘someone else’s issue’ and see it as ours too, because our whiteness blinds us to the truth about colour. In that discomforting place of recognizing our own culpability in creating the world in which we live, we have the opportunity to refract light differently.

And when we do that, we get to see the world is not black and white. It is a beautiful dance of colour creating rainbows everywhere. And in that light, the world is a much kinder, equal and just place for everyone to shine for all their worth.

Namaste

Awaken And Dare

Her voice comes to me in a dream.

“You are dreaming,” she says. “Awaken and dare.”

Dare what? I wonder.

“When you awaken, there will be no need to ask.” she replies and vanishes from my sleeping mind.

…Only to return the next day as I unconsciously paint her into being as an ancient Egyptian goddess exhorting me to awaken.

Where did you come from, I wonder. What message do you carry?

I go in search of answers — because heck, good questions evoke curiosity. And not feeding my curiosity with searching for answers leaves my head brain way too full of pesky questions roaming around looking for places to upset my peace of mind.

I start with “What does seeing an ancient Egyptian goddess in my dream mean?

Dr. Google has many answers. One source states:

“A dream featuring Egypt is believed to represent the potential for change in your life.”

The wise woman within whispers lovingly, “To change the world around you, you must first create change within.”

Yesterday, I read a post by a writer I respect talking about his white privilege. He wrote that he was willing to revoke it in favour of simply being human.

It is not that easy.

My privilege is intricately entwined with how I live my life. How I think. What I do. Where I go. How I am in the world. It is embedded in everything that made me, me.

Privilege is not a thought. It is not a feeling. It is not a choice. It is integral to my life. I cannot discard it or erase it. Being born a white female, ancient, culturally codified privilege of what it means to be white in this world were invoked as my birthright.

My parents worked hard to instill in all four of their children the belief that we are all created equal. We are all deserving of being treated fairly, with kindness, compassion, honesty, respect. And we must always do our utmost to uphold those values and principles.

I do my best, everyday, to live by what my parents taught me about human worth.

And still, I cannot revoke my privilege. Nor can I say that my privilege didn’t help me on my journey. Just because I wasn’t racist, or I didn’t discriminate against others doesn’t mean I don’t use my privilege to my advantage. I naturally do. It is visibly part of me. Unfortunately, what is often to my advantage can create disadvantage for others when they do not have the same access or right to what I have.

It also means, that I can’t hold up all the work I’ve done for vulnerable people, the work I’ve done to create spaces for social justice and change to happen, as a testament as to how I am not racist. My work is a reflection of my belief in humanity, our human condition and connection. It is not about my being or not being racist. The fact is, that work was made easier because of my privilege. Everything I’ve done in my life has been made easier because I was born with the skin colour I have that lets me pass through life with relative ease.

Even in my darkest times, my privilege gave me an advantage. I was believed by the police when I finally spoke up. I gained access to supports I needed without jumping through additional hoops of having to verify my worthiness to those supports. Often, those who are racialized or ‘otherized’ must jump through hoops simply because they are forced to prove their worth first, before gaining access to what they need.

And so, this morning, heeding the call to DARE, I wrote to the individual whose comments about revoking his privilege caused me unease. ” I can’t change the colour of my skin and I fear that suggesting I am willing to revoke my privilege, to those who have experienced the indignities and inhumanity that comes with the different colour of their skin or circumstances in life, could risk minimizing their trauma, pain and reality.”

I wouldn’t have done that in the past.

I would have read the words they wrote, felt the unease, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Now I dare.

It is time we all dare to challenge one another. Sure, we’ll sometimes get things wrong. We’ll mess up. But, messing up is part of growth.

Doing nothing. Not challenging ourselves and one another will continue to mess up the lives of more, and ultimately, the world and all of humanity will pay the price for the mess we’ve created with our silence.

Namaste.