I Hope This Makes You Uncomfortable
Making The Journey From Triggered to Ally Through Discomfort
Authored by: Kate Weber May 13, 2020
For the longest time, I have avoided writing on this topic publicly. In my private life, those closest to me know how passionate and honest I am about using privilege to advocate for those on the margins. This article has formed in my heart and been dissolved many times. I do not consider my self an expert, but a person who is committed to trying to be better through a great unlearning and massive efforts to shift and reveal my own biases. I believe it is through self-exploration and self-reflection that true reconciliation in this country will happen. It has to start with me. If every single Canadian believed it their responsibility to educate and build their knowledge of racial disparity throughout our history, reconciliation could begin. Until all of us believe we play a role, and not a passive role but an active and engaged one, nothing will change. This article is as much as a call out of white Canadians as it is a call out to those who need it to wake up. It is time to step up and into the work that needs to be done. This article is meant to frustrate and I know it will trigger some but that is purposeful, and hopefully will call to action those who continue to deny there is an issue to begin with.
"I believe it is through self-exploration and self-reflection that true reconciliation in this country will happen. It has to start with me"
The term ‘white privilege’ is finding its way into our popular media streams and social media feeds on a more regular basis, but that doesn’t mean it is being used effectively or correctly. It is usually positioned to evoke a response but never to draw attention to the actual issue. White privilege posts are loaded with emotion and ego about how ‘we’ are in this together and how “I” need to defend my privilege as something I worked for and blah blah blah. This term, and conversations surrounding it, is likely one of the best ways to get uncomfortable quickly so that we become active allies in efforts towards decolonization and true actionable reconciliation. The idea of racial inequality is usually heaped as a heavy burden upon the heads of those that experience its negative effects daily, becoming their duty to solve and teach others about. White people get to pass off racial inequity as a non-issue because they do not deal with the real effects of it every waking hour, or worry about their day to day safety and well-being. White people get to pass off the work of great unlearning onto Indigenous people or people of colour. THAT right there, that passing of responsibility, is white privilege in action and is primarily what you and I need to face head-on.
"The idea of racial inequality is usually heaped as a heavy burden upon the heads of those that experience its negative effects daily, becoming their duty to solve and teach others about"
As a non-Indigenous white person residing in Treaty 8, my unlearning has been one of the greatest challenges and most illuminating experiences of my life. Looking back, it began in my formative teens years by asking questions and being curious enough to seek out answers (this generally meant fighting with my family members and teachers regularly). It has become one of the most continuous learning ventures of my life and I am currently navigating how to teach my children the things I am unlearning. Despite this being a challenge, I refuse to give up or shut down my pursuit of allyship. Many times, I am told by other white people, that they simply lack the knowledge to do anything or say anything meaningful to advocate. This becomes the stopping off point for privileged people to do nothing - I don't know enough so I can't help at all. This is a shameful lie you have been sold by those who continue to ignore and repress the people that need our support and voices, even if they are shaky and imperfect. It is not the purpose of this article to continually blame or shame, but that needs to be the beginning. You need to feel uncomfortable with the lack of action and knowledge you have because that is where any action will spark a wildfire of support and solidarity.
"As a non-Indigenous white person residing in Treaty 8, my unlearning has been one of the greatest challenges and most illuminating experiences of my life"
But where does a person start? And how can we invoke and invite others to get uncomfortable with us without feeling so much shame and guilt and blame we shut down? I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions that can guide all allies to do their work. No matter what work you are pursuing, or what knowledge you begin to seek out, it matters. It is okay if you do not know every single detail or have a degree in Indigenous Studies because IT ALL MATTERS. The underlying truth of this great unlearning you are doing is this: until all Canadians join in decolonizing efforts, reconciliation will continue to just be a lofty dream. Unless all Canadians, settlers and indigenous, see themselves as part of a solution, nothing will change. Here are five ideas to begin your journey from triggered discomfort to ally:
1) Do not expect Indigenous people to teach you anything. They owe you nothing. It is up to you to SEEK OUT knowledge from reputable sources. If you want to ask someone to teach you, offer to compensate them for their knowledge. Do not be offended if they tell you they do not want to engage with you. Remember: they owe you nothing. 2) Privilege is not the problem - it is what you do with it that matters. If you are continually wrapped up in the idea that you ‘earned’ anything by being born a white person in a colonial nation, you need to let that go. You did nothing to earn your privileged position, and if you did, gold star for you. But that is not the point of this great unlearning. To be an ally means to advocate for those who lack the privileged position to do so for themselves. 3) Be okay with not knowing everything. You do not need to be an expert. If you used the wrong word, term, or language be comfortable with the idea you are going to get this stuff wrong a lot and that others will likely correct you and that is okay. Be humble. All you can do is keep going because the cause is greater than your shame, frustration, and discomfort at not knowing things. 4) Actionable allyship can take many forms, but it all begins with personal reflection first. Sit down and figure out where your thought patterns and biases exist and come from. This way you can more easily attack them with what you are learning and unlearning. 5) Support, follow and lift up Indigenous peoples in your area and our country through advocacy and monetary support. Buy from local Indigenous artists, support their work and movements. Donate and give directly to organizations that will lift up those who need it. Posting about injustice on your social media feeds is a great step, but follow it with action that is purposefully aimed at changing the inequalities in the system. Intersectionality demands that unless all of us make it, none of us will make it. There is no one right way to approach allyship, but I urge you to transform your triggered responses through reflection and action and become part of a solution. It will only be when all Canadians step up to the task of reconciliation, that something will shift.
About the Author
Kate Weber is a passionate high school teacher, yoga teacher, writer and mindfulness enthusiast and life long learner who lives in Northern Alberta. She is deeply invested in the wellbeing of those who work in and along side the education system and is convinced that unless we dig deep and do the work ourselves, nothing will change. She is also a dedicated mom to two daughters, and married to Canadian landscape photographer and Travel Alberta creator, Tyler Weber. It is her hope that one day her students, colleagues and friends have educational experiences that seeks to bring about equality, justice, wellness and truth. It is her mission to leave anyone she meets feeling inspired, lit up, deeply loved and supported. You can find more of her writing and offerings at www.kateweber.ca and by following her on social media @rad.kate__weber on instagram and on twitter @kate__weber.
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