Acknowledging My Own Racism

Acknowledging one’s own racism is not something a middle-class, ‘liberal-minded’ person does.  Unless we’re applying the term to someone else, the word makes us feel uncomfortable, so much so that, in an effort to protect the ego, the mind is quick to bury any tentative foray into the consideration of our own racism.

A funny thing happens, though, if one allows oneself to consider how and in what manner one might be racist: once in the spotlight, once acknowledged and under scrutiny, the racism evaporates.   To acknowledge and examine one’s assumptions about a particular ‘race’ or group of people, leads to openness, to exploration, to understanding and new information.  Previously unacknowledged stereotypical thinking vanishes.

Prior to Monday night, I would never have considered applying the word racist to myself; however, this past Monday night, I watched the documentary “Unrepentant” by Kevin Annett and Louie Lawless.  This documentary chronicles Kevin Annett’s on-going attempts to bring to light Canada’s historical and continuing genocidal practices against aboriginal peoples.  In brief: over 50,000 aboriginal children died at the hands of the church and the state in Canada’s residential schools.  More than 50% of the students who attended residential schools died.  These are the official statistics, imagine what the real numbers are.  Stop for a moment and imagine sending your child to a school where they would have a greater than 50% chance of being killed, not to mention enduring physical, sexual and psychological abuse beyond our imagining.  This is not ancient history, the last residential school closed in 1996.  I would have been 26 years old at the time.

After having watched this documentary, after having had my very core shattered by the brutality and horror that aboriginal peoples have endured and continue to endure, I was forced to confront my own racism.  Yes, I had known that native children had been abused at residential schools, but how could I not have known the extent of this holocaust?  How could I have accepted government and church apology for this genocide simply as politics of the day and not delved deeper?  The truth is, I didn’t want to know; I didn’t need to know; it had nothing to do with me.  I now acknowledge this disinterest, this unquestioning acceptance of the official ‘storyline’ as a form of racism.