Why the Past Matters.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

I'm sick and tired of hearing people give their very ignorant opinions on social issues such as the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, so I'm about to go on a rant.  You've been warned.

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A lot of people seem to think that race doesn't matter, and they use the fact that race is socially constructed to do so.  People feel as though the protests in Baltimore are unecessarily violent, and though I could spend hours debating that point, I will stay silent.  I am focusing my anger on the general opinion that racism is not real, a thing of the past, and that we should "get over it".  Yes, race is a figment of some people's forefather's imaginations that they turned into a very real construct for their own benefit.  Yes, race is something that is only now upheld by the social practices that have formed race as a social construct.  No, race is not biologically founded.

But race still matters.  And more importantly, race still impacts the ways in which we see the world.

It is because of the racism of the past that African-Americans in American (and Canada) struggle to make it half as far as the average European-American.  It is because of the racism of that past that all Black people in America, regardless of where they come from, are mistreated on a daily basis.  It is because of the racism of the past that police officers learn to fear Black men, regardless of their skin colour. And it is because of the racism of the past that many people have lost their lives in the never ending battle for freedom.

The American dream was built on soil fertilized by the beaten and bruised bodies of Black slaves.  The reputation of us Canadians as peacekeepers distracts from the horrors that have, and are still being done to the Indigneous Peoples who initially occupied this land.  But this is not common knowledge.  This is not a part of the education of our young people.  We are raised to believe that slavery is a thing of the past, but the chains have moved from our wrists to our minds.

I am speaking on this matter from my very privileged position as a fair-skinned person of colour in Canada where race based issues do not get discussed as often as they do in the states.  I don't have to face the same reality as Freddie Gray's mother Gloria Darden or his sister Fredericka.  I do not have to live in fear that my father or brother will be gunned down in the street for no reason because in Canada, racism takes on other forms.  Their reality is not mine, therefore I have no right to judge.

If race doesn't matter to you, great.  If you have never experienced racism, great!  I'm happy that you have had that experience.  But that doesn't mean that race and racism are not very real concepts for other people.

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If you are so privileged to live in a body or a country where these things do not negatively impact your life, please do not feel as though you have the right to discriminate against those who do experience them.  In fact, even if you are at risk of facing racism, do not think that your lack of experiences with racism speak for other people who share your identity.  You cannot speak to another person's experiences of oppression.  If you are going to speak out against the protests, at least acknowledge your privilege so that people understand where you are coming from.

I could say a lot more but I will save the rage for later.

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