I am racist and that is not okay.
It is not something I am proud of. Now, I am not a foul-mouthed bigot. I believe in equality and justice for all. I do not think anyone should be advantaged or disadvantaged in society based on race.
Nonetheless, I am racist, for it is virtually impossible to exist in our world as a white person today and not be.
Our system struggles when it comes to educating on racial injustice. The full scope of how prevalent it is today is rarely highlighted and the bad parts of our history get downplayed. But we cannot erase that history, nor can we ignore the racism of today. This fight may seem far from Haliburton, but it is everywhere.
We learn racism from a young age. From the disproportionate abundance of whiteness in our stories and media, and how they neglect colour. From others, passing it along in a never-ending chain. From social media, where vile rhetoric is always two clicks away. From our rules and laws, made by overwhelmingly white people, to benefit white over all.
Privilege is a word that has become scary and charged because of how frightening it is to whites. It is not easy to recognize our advantages. We tell ourselves we worked hard to get ourselves through all the open doors of our lives, even if they are closed to so many others. Nonetheless, we must recognize it, call it out, fight against it and ourselves. We are the upholders of racism. We must join in tearing it down.
Racism can disguise itself, but it is always there. Maybe it appears in a cognitive bias we are not fully conscious of, which makes minds overvalue whiteness. Maybe it is in how willing we are to be complacent with these ongoing injustices when they are not in the news because they do not impact us regularly. Maybe it is an error in this opinion, where we can pursue truth but not reach it, for we will never fully experience racism.
Maybe it is in reading something like this and rejecting it, or thinking it does not apply, to protect a fragile ego.
Maybe it is in a call for justice and unity that falls short of calling out the police. We must do better and say it: police killed George Floyd because of his race. Police brutality on both sides of the border against Black, Indigenous and other peoples of colour must end.
There is hope. It is a myth that Canada is woven with a beautiful, equal, multicoloured fabric. But it is a myth we may be slowly working towards. It may not be a real tapestry yet, but perhaps we have a few pieces.
We have seen local organizations recognize this moment in time and sincerely reflect. Trillium Lakelands District School Board, the Haliburton County Youth Hub, even a small restaurant like Nourished. This is positive and we need more of it.
There is no magic divide between being a racist and “not racist.” It is a spectrum – and our privilege pushes us away from the right side. I want to be anti-racist and that must be a constant fight against me, and the society that made me.
So, I am racist. That is not okay. But I am working on it. Listening. Learning. I always will be.
How about you?