Social justice served up with a dash of humour and anger

As mentioned throughout this website, at Spiritlink Communications we like to provide consulting, coaching and training services to people and organizations that align with our commitment to social responsibility.

 We believe that when all members of society - regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, level of physical or mental ability,  class/status level, and age - are recognized and celebrated for the ways in which they can contribute to healthy, balanced families and communities,
then we all will benefit.

Briefly, that means we think lots of people don't realize - or want to recognize - that they benefit from 'unfair' systems that keep other people down. 

As a White person proud to identify as an ally and advocate for social justice and Indigenous/Aboriginal control over Indigenous/Aboriginal education, community economic development and governance systems, I often notice grumblings about First Nations people. Sometimes I hear many blatantly racist, ignorant comments....and I usually gauge my response carefully to promote understanding and relationship building. Yet every now and then, my social justice voice (or is it my redhead streak?) flares up and I get furious at uneducated, lazy people.

The set up...

Here is my 'real life' example that played out in the summer of 2013. I posted the 'intro' on my Facebook page as:

"So after some phone chit-chat yesterday, this antique collector came by to see some of our parents' vintage 60's and 70's ...furniture this morning. As we're walking to unlock my garage, he asks where I got my silver jewelry; I say the wolf ring and eagle/raven pendant were carved by an amazing Haida artist, Gregory Williams.

He rubs his honking huge blood diamond/gold bling (subconsciously?) then suddenly launches into, "Well I don't know how things work in BC, but those Natives just have to get over the past and move forward." 

I smile sweetly and ask, "Oh brilliant stale, pale, male who basks in unearned privilege and ignorance, whatever do you mean? Share your stereotypes, prejudices and uneducated insights with me please just because I told you a bit about this REAL art made in Canada by REAL people with a REAL story behind it."

OK, OK, so that was my inner voice.

I actually said, 'Hmm, what do you mean?'

Before I go much further - I need to say that looking back now, I realize that I probably 'overdid it' in my verbal reaction.  But here's most of my response to the ignorant 'stale pale male' and his comments, copied from the post on my Facebook page in July, 2013. I made a only a few punctuation changes, and realize now there's important things I left out (words I would have changed, authors I could cite, etc.), but it came out like this....so I'm sharing it as is.

Take what you want from it, and be kind when you share your feedback with me.... I did react more aggressively than I usually do =)

My redhead rant/response to 'Why do they just get over it?"

WARNING - There are triggers and swear words in this post copied from my Facebook page:

Ok - so picking up at: I actually said, 'Hmm, what do you mean?'

And he launches into the whole 'not all of them, but there's lots of lazy Indians who gotta just get over the past, it happened so long ago, single moms and terrorists better get with Canada's program, don't they know they are getting left behind? bullsh*t that I've heard one too many times. 

I stop, catch my breath, and launch into a sweet-starting-but-sting-ending-rant that went something like this:

"You are probably about 65, so here's a bit of history you might wanna learn about before you make uneducated, insensitive statements like that. I know it's hard because I felt idiotic, too, realizing I'd only heard the White one-sided version of Canada's history...but with a bit of research - and maybe a few dinners or afternoons with a couple of First Nations or Metis people or even Human Rights activists  - it's pretty disturbing.

You would find out that the last residential school didn't close in Canada until 1996 - not that long ago! Because if you're 65, that means that there's a good chance YOU and YOUR children would have been stolen from your parents, forcibly removed from your family, maybe split up from your siblings as you got shipped to Anglican and Catholic boarding schools often far from home.

Don't worry, you were allowed to return home sometimes once or twice a year at YOUR own expense. Over 90% of YOU would be abused by people and systems that were set up to, and I quote, 'Kill the Indian in the child,' in you. You would most likely be punished - if not beaten - if you spoke your own language, talked about your religion, or refused to work for free for half of the day (instead of getting the underfunded education you were supposed to be getting).

So after about 100 years of UNEDUCATING people, abusing them and their children, and cutting them off from any real opportunity to participate in economic development on their traditional territories... there's probably lot of mistrust in our programs or in 'moving forward' .

I have talked with and LISTENED to well over 400 residential school survivors over the last 15 years, and believe me, the majority suffered repeated physical and sexual abuses that make me cry. But it infuriates me when they get disrespected over and over again by people who don't want to hear about it because they don't want to believe OUR CANADA could impose that shit on people.

WE yanked their kids out. starting at age frickin' 5, to make them 'better'??      How did that work out?"

(BY NOW, he closed his jaw, and idiot has turned away and was heading back to my gate to leave.  Do I need a copy of Lynda Gray's 'First Nations 101' every day for people?! sheesh!   But I'm not done yet...)

But don't worry, because if it was you or your kids, you'd probably never have to look your grandma in the eye with fear and shame and anger and disbelief even if you did make it back to your devastated families, because it's also documented that at least 25% of kids never made it home EVER from 'school.'

Meanwhile, your parents would've be thrown in jail if they refused to send you away, or if they wore traditional clothing regalia or sang your family songs in public, or went to their version of community and church gatherings which happened to be called potlatches or Sun Dances or Canoe Journeys.

And since WE made it illegal for Natives to vote or hire a lawyer, or even leave the reserve without a note from an Indian Agent in Ottawa (yes, really), it wasn't like they had power to fight the sickos dismantling their previously functioning governments - which often respected Women as equals and community leaders - and sustainable businesses and families.

 It's not a knock against all the struggles of our parents and grandparents in building their own lives here - it's just that we never gave them a chance to participate in building their own lives, too!"

(He's almost at his oversized monster truck adorned with silver bling everywhere - and I lowered my voice because the 'house for sale' sign is up and I don't want to scare the neighbours, lol)... but I continued ...

"I can send you some links if you want to learn more!  Anyhow, I'm sure THEY'LL GET OVER IT the moment that every abusive teacher, priest, nun, administrator and policy-maker from those schools apologizes to the HUMANS they hurt; every Red Cross worker who did nutrition experiments on children admits they were no better than other fascist regimes. 

Or when every doctor or nurse who forcefully sterilized young adults and kids comes clean about the harm they caused, and every corrupt politician or businessperson and consultant who KNOWS they are misusing much-needed funds, and polluting lands and waters to line their own pockets at the expense of all future CANADIANS - whether they are new immigrants and European descendants like you and me, First Nations, Metis, Inuit and rest of this connected world - gives back their excess and quits buying things instead of creating things.

(He's now closed the windows and pulling away. I dunno - I was enjoying our chat now!) I BURST OUT LAUGHING AS I WALKED BACK UP MY DRIVEWAY

Guess I forgot to have him tell me about the bird's eye maple table and Nana's hutch from 1945. 

Dang - bet he's not sending his grandson over later to look at Dad's hockey pin collection, either....

Yes, I was shaking a bit. My neighbour came over to ask what had happened.  Check out the amazing responses to my post that day on July 25th at www.facebook.com/kristin.kozuback