We Need to Talk About Racism

Racism in Canada isn’t new. In fact, the genocide of this country’s First Nations is the foundation upon which the first immigrants to this land built the country we know today. And I will never forget the battles I waged as a child – internally and externally- as I found my place and my voice amidst a culture of ignorance, intolerance and fear that I knew was wrong, but that for many years, I was too young, too indoctrinated, and too disempowered to really understand.

I grew up. I learned and evolved. But I will never forget the friends I didn’t make; the connections I missed; the warmth, the love, the humanness I didn’t share.

Every time racism rears its ugly head, I face again, just how much work I, and we, still have to do. I face again, the reality that many of the people I know and love, despite the veneers they wear in polite company, are still drowning under the weight of beliefs that separate them from their fellow human beings. And I face again, that no matter how deeply held our beliefs; no matter how well researched, well reasoned, well thought out, or well stated; no matter how popular or unpopular – people will only change if and when they want to.

People will only change when they are motivated to do so because there is something in it for them. Shaming doesn’t work. Instilling fear doesn’t work. Even isolation doesn’t work, because there is always someone, somewhere who will support us in our beliefs – no matter how strange, or unkind.

I have to work to remember that these people are not ‘bad’ people. There is an awful lot of mis-information in the stuff we have been told. There is an awful lot of truth that has been manipulated or eliminated completely from view, so that we will not see the sides of the boxes we have all been placed in. There are an awful lot of ways in which the dynamics of power, marginalization and othering affect not just those being targeted, but the way all people understand each other, and the world as a whole.

I have to work to remember that these people believe, as I do – that what they are doing is right. I have to work to remember that in creating change, we have to focus on the places we connect, instead of the places we are divided. I have to work to remember that when our choices and beliefs are governed by fear, it is because we have lost touch with the deeper parts of ourselves – the places where integrity, kindness, decency, empowerment, and connection reside. I have to work to remember that it is only when each of us believes we are strong enough to face it, that we are able to look upon the darkness in ourselves; that we are able to embrace the unknown.

There is a story that like many others, has its origins in a culture much older and wiser than the one I was born into. I am told it is a Cherokee tale:

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said,

“My son, there is a battle raging between two wolves that live inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, e