Good morning everyone,
Following up on the “An Open Letter to Lynn Beyak from a Privileged White Woman” post. First and most important, thank you all for sharing the post and getting the message out there, for sharing your stories, thoughts and wisdom and for sharing your encouragement.
I wanted to share more with you as well, in case anyone missed these in the last few days:
Here’s a brilliant letter from Aadita Chaudhury: An Open Letter to Lynn Beyak
Another that I have permission to share from an advocacy group and its founder, Johanne Cadorette. I’ve copied the letter in it’s full text at the end of this post.
Then there’s Mr. Angeconeb’s challenge to the senator: CBC news article
And an article from Mr. Fontaine which talks about why the residential school system is not defensible. It’s so important that this remains the story of the survivors and never is highjacked or otherwise edited by other interests: CBC news article
Finally, a challenge that I deal with daily, and I’m willing to be many others do to – why white folks can’t deal with it when you call them out on racism. Please don’t take any of this as excusing the behaviour, just providing some insight. It would do well for people who have these freak outs to read these. And dear white folks, who may already be sitting straight up and forward in their seats ready to say something like “but other races are racist too”, “but I’m not a racist”, “but there really were good intentions” and the like, know that it’s okay. Breathe. It’s all good. Talking about racism and privilege is so damned uncomfortable, the first impulse is to dissociate. But people are not listening, not contributing to the conversation when they are busy dissociating. Seriously. Dissociation is a distraction, like a dog seeing a squirrel it’s just really hard to get back on topic once it starts. So breathe and avoid the impulse to dissociate and just read:
On the idea of colourblindness: Psychology Today
On not acknowledging racism: Project MUSE article
And peace and love to all of you,
I’ll leave you with Ms. Cadorette’s letter, as promised:
Letter to Senator Beyak from Johanne Cadorette
I am writing to add to the voices that are asking for you to apologize for the comments you made in the Senate about residential schools and for your resignation.
Your said, “kindly and well-intentioned men and women… whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports.”
I think, what you meant is that individuals like priests, brothers and nuns who spent their lives devoted to religion and following what are called Christian values should not all be vilified, and that their day to day actions were not all horrific in nature. That surely there was kindness in their some of their intentions and behaviors.
History is not kind. Individuals, well-intentioned or not, get caught up in large-scale events that have widespread effects on entire generations. When those affected by these events come forward, at tremendous personal and emotional risk and cost, and say, this event destroyed us, this event harmed and killed thousands of us, broke our families, communities, spirits and hearts, and the pain it caused continues today, nothing, absolutely nothing else, matters. Those of us who did not live through the event, who were not affected by it and whose ancestors were either directly responsible for the event, complicit in it, or even ignorant of it do not get to play devil’s advocate. Our job is to listen, to acknowledge and to right the wrongs.
In the specific case of Canada’s residential schools, where our government has acknowledged that the function of the system was to destroy aboriginal culture, that this was a deliberate, state-sanctioned strategy, and where a Commission was held out of which came ninety-four recommendations that have barely begun to be implemented, there is no room for speaking of anything other than the horror and sadness, no room for anything other than sorrow.
The desire to look for good in this event is rooted in white privilege and racism. As white people, we have written history from the perspective that we experienced it, want it remembered and understood. We are profoundly uncomfortable when other stories and versions are inserted into our white narrative and alter our perspective of history. It feels bad to think that perhaps our great great uncle, about whom we have only heard good things and whom we looked at fondly in old photographs, was involved in something horrible. We either refuse to believe it, or we do and have a broken heart and feel lost because the story we always believed in is false. As white people, we are accustomed to having our story validated and at the center of history. Hearing other people’s stories threatens our understanding of the world and ourselves. What about me, we say? I suffered too! I tried to make it better! Don’t forget about me!
Me. Me. Me. That is what I heard when I listened to your comments. The spoiled, entitled white child saying me, me, me. That child has to be quiet now if she doesn’t have anything to say that will help right the wrongs. She has to let the hurt one be heard and taken care of. She will not die if the hurt one heals.
I know many people agree with what you said, and feel like that spoiled child. But they are not Senators. I would expect a Senator to have enough critical thought to understand the inappropriateness of trying to redirect this conversation, and to have the emotional depth to foresee the pain those comments would cause.
I demand that you apologize to the entire country for your misguided comments, to our First Nations and aboriginal people for undermining their truth and pain, and then resign from your seat.