Opinion: White Canadians, We Have Some Serious Work to Do
Let me begin by saying this: I am going to get this article wrong. I just am, because I am a white person and I have the immense privilege and zero understanding of what it feels like to be “not white”, living in Canada. I am not going to say all of the right things and I will let you know right now, you might be offended. I ask you to reach further into yourself if you are. What I am about to write is for white people, because if I don’t write something for us white folks, then my silence is violence.
Guys: we have some serious soul-searching and painful work to do. Us. Right here, in Canada.
Racial Injustice at Home
It’s been something of a nice comforting blanket for white Canadians to look with shock and horror at the racial injustice of the United States and feel that we “don’t have that racism here”. As a white, middle-class, educated woman, I see the police as symbols of safety and protection. I am mostly comforted by institutions like universities, hospitals, and clinics. I am here today to tell you that the illusion that racism is a “them” problem needs to be shattered, and now. As Canadians, anyone who is white is racist. Like me. And, if you’re white, like you. We have been born into a racist world.
Realizing I was Racist
Do you feel outraged right now? I know. I did too when I realized that I was racist. It was my professor, Delores Mullings, a brilliant Black woman and social work educator that helped me see that I was inherently racist because as a white Canadian woman, I was born into a society that was built upon institutional racism. This means that the white gaze was the foundation upon which our whole society was built. It means that the opportunities, privileges, and beliefs I had were all born from the idea that being white is somehow just better. My ancestors came over and conquered Native land. My daughter, who is Black, had her ancestors captured and forced into slavery. Racism is more than attitudes – it is an institution and it is everywhere, and right here.
Indigenous People and Racism in Canada
Did you know that despite making up 5% of the population, Indigenous people are arrested at a rate that is 33 times higher than white people (making up 73% of the Canadian population)? Did you know that Black people make up almost 9% of our prison population, despite making up only 3% of our overall population? These numbers speak for themselves. The travesty of missing and murdered Indigenous women go on and on with seemingly no end. I have heard from Black people about the experience of being wrongly stopped by the police. As I write this, I vividly remember one story of an account like this that still makes me weep.
But my white tears aren’t going to fix this mess. Action is. The time has come, past due, for us white people to examine, re-assess, and challenge the ideals that we have been born into. We are not responsible for a society having been set up in this way before us, but we are 100% responsible for dismantling it now.
I implore us all to listen to Black educators, donate to causes that champion Black racial justice, Indigenous rights, and movements. I implore us to look around at our leadership tables and see who is in charge. To be aware of your own biases and then take direct steps (like enrolling in antiracism courses of which there are many – Google it) against it.
Break yourself down so we can rebuild this mess of a world we are living in. There has been a virus much stronger than any COVID, and that is white privilege.
Jordan Thomas is a registered social worker and the owner of Nourish Counselling Services.
Jordan works with women on improving their mental health and self-compassion. Follow along on IG @nourishcounselling.