My heart is broken again. Is yours?
If you haven’t read the article “White Supremacy is as Old as Canada” in the Toronto Star, please do.
It centres the hate/Islamophobia-motivated murder of the Muslim family (Yumna Salman, Madiha Salman, Salman Afzaal and Talat Afzaal) last week in London Ontario, and provides some history about Canada’s white supremacy – particularly in Southern Ontario – that is important for every Canadian to know.
Here are a few thoughts, as I read.
- We don’t just have a history with white supremacy, it is part of our present.
- We have to acknowledge history – and we have to recognize that in the absence of acknowledgment (and in the presence of resistance to it), the energy that fueled that history continues. The sentiment of white supremacy lives on – sometimes overtly, and often hidden, until it is shown in actions like the murder of this family.
- When white supremacy shows itself overtly, we are horrified. And we should be horrified, but horrified doesn’t necessarily lead to action.
- We should have been speaking out against white supremacy all this time – loudly – as a country, as a people in a land that is supposed to be “welcoming” and “multicultural”. But where has Canada’s voice been, and how have we taken stock? We haven’t been. Not as a nation.
We have an identity problem.
When non-white Canadians speak about racism, they are often brushed off. (By the way, not accepting someone’s experience with racism as racism is a microaggression). We have long cultivated our history of human rights protector, defender, and welcoming nation to the world. However, in our made-up borders where nations of Indigenous People where killed and marginalized in their creation (and continue to do so through lack of Federal action – see last week’s blogpost) our non-white inhabitants have a very different reality.
The “Canada the good” identity we cling to makes it difficult to talk about, teach about, and shine a light on racism and xenophobia. And it’s hard to eradicate something people won’t see or acknowledge.
Consider our geography
In the Toronto Star article they particularly point out Southern Ontario as a hotbed for white supremacy. Is it a coincidence that the Underground Railroad ended in this region? Is it surprising that anti-Black and brown / pro-white sentiment is strong in an area of the province where Black people escaping enslavement “landed” and changed the cultural landscape?
It shouldn’t be.
It should also not be surprising that in a country where white is the dominant culture, that we haven’t been speaking about (or speaking out more openly) against white supremacy.
Accountability for change
Last week I had an interview with Sara Troy on her podcast Choose Positive Living. She was adamant that we need to take action against racism, and hold ourselves accountable. My question: “Who is going to hold white people accountable when the majority of our country’s leadership is white?”
The Toronto Star article quotes Jeff Bennet (former PC candidate) as noting that 80% of the leadership in Canada is white. Interestingly he doesn’t say white – he says non-diverse backgrounds. If we can’t use the words white, we surely can’t talk about whiteness. And talking about whiteness is often difficult for people who are white.
Language matters, and we have to talk about whiteness, white supremacy, racism and anti-black racism in this country – and use those terms.
Acknowledgment is the start of change
In the Toronto Star article, Jeff Bennet is also quoted as saying the following, which I agree with: ‘Canada’s major problem, he says is “lack of exposure, lack of empathy and lack of understanding about what other people’s lived experiences might be.”
We have floated on the myth of “Canada the good” which has allowed us to ignore and not learn about/be taught about our history OR our present (even in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Report we are not talking or teaching about our history well!)
This has allowed us to point fingers to the south and think we are better than our neighbours across the border when it comes to racism, which is not true (the Proud Boys were founded in Canada by the way).
- We have to know our history.
- We must see how it informs the present.
- We must make connect the dots to see and understand the impact of white supremacy and systemic racism (past and present) on communities, health, income and representation.
For all of these things to happen, the reality of non-white (plus non-English speaking and non-Christian) people living on this land that was stolen from Indigenous Peoples must be seen, heard and acknowledged.
Awareness is a crucial to creating change
It’s why it’s the foundation of our ABCs of Inclusion.
We have to know, in order to see the problems and move forward in a different (and meaningful) way.
Here are two resources that you can begin with, if you haven’t read them already.
Me & White Supremacy by Layla Saad
Un- Canadian Islamophobia in the True North by Greame Truelove