Hello, my name is Terry. I’m a Canadian and I’m a racist.
During my working years, I was a manager with the electric utility and I’ve spent more time than many in cultural awareness sessions, in meetings with various First Nations bands, and in developing and promoting programs to improve the lot of First Nations people. Many of these experiences were educational and thought-provoking for me; some not so much. Often I’ve been raked over the coals for perceived provocations or violations of some protocol or other. For PC reasons, I’ve at times had to make business decisions that were not in the best interests of the ratepayers. Nevertheless, I truly tried to be teachable and to understand the culture.
Recent events have pretty much undone all that. I’ve listened with frustration as anyone’s ancestors who weren’t born on this continent a few thousand years ago were disparaged as colonials and characterized as criminals or worse. And only those born with the prerequisite DNA – birthright being everything, merit being nothing – can lay claim to this piece of earth. I’ve watched as politicians trip over themselves in an effort to gain favour by renaming lands, bodies of water, parks, and buildings. And today I listen to the rhetoric around the silver bullet of reconciliation, never being quite clear what it means, but pretty sure it involves getting out the cheque book.
In many of those meetings I attended in the past, the only one in the room who had actually set foot in a residential school was me. No, I’m not First Nations - I grew up in Port Alberni in the late 1950s/early 60s. A number of my childhood peers boarded at the residential school and they attended our public schools. We exchanged venues for ball games, I visited friends there, and the big sister of one of my friends (non-FN) worked there as a housekeeper and we would visit and help out on the weekends.
Many of these FN kids, just like me, wanted to be fireman/doctors/policeman/jet pilots, and needed the education to do it. They were unlikely to get it in their remote coastal community homes, and not all were enamoured with living in locations like that. Don’t get me wrong – I acknowledge and in no way condone the terrible things that happened in these schools and don’t pretend to compare my experience with those who were victims. While the concept may have been well intended, the methodology was obviously wrong. But I make these comments to add perspective, and ponder whether these institutions of evil that are blamed for so much were as totally Buchenwald-ian as portrayed in the current dialogue.
And now I watch as an angry few do their best to destroy the fabric of our society, and to literally disable the hands that feed them, all while denigrating my ancestors for authoring everything that’s wrong in the world and in North Korean fashion, persecuting all who came after as being equally responsible for the actions of their forefathers.
I can’t get past this, and do you know what? I no longer want to. So, sadly and without pride in the fact, I admit I’ve become a racist.