5x physical form

Our physical form. The inescapable vessel we navigate this life through. The easily perceived creative expression of ourselves as we exist in this moment.

I am very fortunate that I have had a peaceful relationship with my body from an early age. This was supported by the fact that society had a peaceful relationship with my body as a white, cis, able bodied, thin, traditionally feminine person. I have never had a serious injury or illness that has given me reason to doubt or mistrust my body. My gender identity, although sometimes limiting or discriminated against, is generally perceived to be aligned with my physical body which protects me from a lot of harm. I have experienced great pains and great pleasures but neither has caused me to lose my connection to this living breathing vessel. Because I have such a peaceful relationship to my body it does not seem fair for me to reflect on the limits of my relationship to it. There are others that struggle everyday for what I have. And yet it is precisely because of that I feel it is still important to reflect that I am not my body.

I am not body, and in a blink of an immortal eye my body will break down and fade to dust. All of its quirks, concerns, and candor are fleeting at best. This inherent flaw renders all else mute in its shadow.

So how to live a creative life in this temporal form? Here are a few things I have been contemplating.

1. Rae Spoon’s latest album Bodies of Water they explore how like bodies, water is heavily regulated and increasingly commodified, despite being fundamental to life.

2. Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong via one of my heroes Kimya Dawson who had this tender Instagram post on the subject

3.Our Sister Becky: What If The Doctors Had Listened to Her By Kate Beaton via The Cut

4. Shon Faye interviews Travis Alabanza about their new theatre piece BURGERZ via Alok Vaid-Menon

5. Music Video for Sea Dragon by Covet

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5x any good to act?

How can I act in accordance with the greatest and highest good for all beings? I am only one person so does it do any good at all to act? Will my actions speak louder than my words and are they in alignment with my values? Where do we go from here?

There are many things I would not like to read about in the news cycle today. Here are some things have stirred my desire to recommit to the power of creative transformation today. I hope you also find some time to rest and nourish your heart wherever today finds you.

1. This Interview with Allan Yu on The Great Discontent the title of this collection came from one of his Mars Maiers sketches #694 (above)

2. Louisiana is set to overturn their split jury law and the LA Times provides some context for the white supremacist roots and impact of the law via Myrtle May

3. Vulnerability, intimacy, and Spiritual Awakening Part One with Tara Brach

4. Wildlife (INIW) River Lot 11 Indigenous Art Park transforms the valley in Edmonton via David Garneau

5. Molly Burch – Wrong For You via Spotify

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Anti-Racism Reading List 2018/19

As part of my commitments made in the #meandwhitesupremacy challenge I created this reading list to re-educate myself on racism, white supremacy, and my colonial roots. This list is by necessity of time is incomplete, and represents only a stepping stone in a lifelong path of learning. I’ve done my best in the last two weeks to research books on anti-racism work that speak to my personal context of a spiritual white woman living as a settler in Saskatchewan as a self identified “progressive”. There are specific traps of thought, learned cultural beliefs and attitudes, and programmed behaviors that are related to this context that I have only just begun to explore. Therefore starting the reading list from this knowledge was a strategic choice on my part, and mileage may vary for others working from a different starting place. I’ve chosen to release the list as a monthly reading list in order to encourage others to join me on this journey. Because as Layla F. Saad pointed out at the beginning of the #meandwhitesupremacy challenge, it is much easier to do this hard self reflection work in community. I will be doing my own personal reflections related to the book each month here, but I also invite anyone moved to read along with me to join the conversation with their own reflections unpacking their relationship to the material in order to deepen our learning and hold each other accountable.

September 2018
raised somewhere else.jpegOhpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised somewhere else): A 60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home by Colleen Cardinal (available here)

Synopsis: During the 60s Scoop, over 20,000 Indigenous children in Canada were removed from their biological families, lands and culture and trafficked across provinces, borders and overseas to be raised in non-Indigenous households.

Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh delves into the personal and provocative narrative of Colleen Cardinal’s journey growing up in a non- Indigenous household as a 60s Scoop adoptee. Cardinal speaks frankly and intimately about instances of violence and abuse throughout her life, but this book is not a story of tragedy. It is a story of empowerment, reclamation and, ultimately, personal reconciliation. It is a form of Indigenous resistance through truth-telling, a story that informs the narrative on missing and murdered Indigenous women, colonial violence, racism and the Indigenous child welfare system.

October 2018
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (available here)

between the world and me.jpegSynopsis: In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

November 2018
The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter (available here)

the history of white people.jpgSynopsis: Telling perhaps the most important forgotten story in American history, eminent historian Nell Irvin Painter guides us through more than two thousand years of Western civilization, illuminating not only the invention of race but also the frequent praise of “whiteness” for economic, scientific, and political ends. A story filled with towering historical figures, The History of White People closes a huge gap in literature that has long focused on the non-white and forcefully reminds us that the concept of “race” is an all-too-human invention whose meaning, importance, and reality have changed as it has been driven by a long and rich history of events.

December 2018
Split Tsplit tooth.jpegooth by Tanya Tagaq (pre-order here)

Synopsis: From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you’ve ever read.

Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.

January 2019
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (available here)so you want to talk about race.jpg

Synopsis: In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.

February 2019
When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by asha bandele, Patrisse Khan-Cullors (available here)

Synopsis: Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in LosAngeles,

when they called you.jpg

 Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and pe

rsecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a

hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.

March 2019
Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis (available here)

women race and class.jpeg

 

Synopsis: A powerful study of the women’s liberation movement in the U.S.,from abolitionist days to the present, that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders. From the widely revered and legendary political activist and scholar Angela Davis.

April 2019
Stolen Sisters by Emmanuelle Walter (available here)

stolen sisters.jpg

 

Synopsis: In 2014, the nation was rocked by the brutal violence against young

Aboriginal women Loretta Saunders, Tina Fontaine and Rinelle Harper. But tragically, they were not the only Aboriginal women to suffer that year. In fact, an official report revealed that since 1980, 1,200 Canadian Aboriginal women have been murdered or have gone missing. This alarming official figure reveals a national tragedy and the systemic failure of law enforcement and of all levels of government to address the issue.

May 2019
Contesting White Supremacy: School Segregation, Anti-Racism, and the Making of Chinese Canadians by Timothy J. Stanley (available here)

contesting white supremacy.jpeg

Synopsis: In 1922-23, Chinese students in Victoria, British Columbia, went on strike to protest a school board’s attempt to impose racial segregation. Their resistance was unexpected at the time, and it runs against the grain of mainstream accounts of Asian exclusion in Canada, which tend to ignore the agency of the excluded.

Contesting White Supremacy offers an alternative reading of the history of racism in British Columbia, one based on Chinese sources and perspectives. Employing an innovative theory of racism and anti-racism to explain the strike and document its antecedents, Timothy Stanley demonstrates that by the 1920s migrants from China and their BC-born children actively resisted policy makers’ efforts to organize white supremacy into the very texture of life. The education system in particular served as an arena where white supremacy confronted Chinese nationalist schooling and where parents and students rejected the idea of being either Chinese or Canadian and instead invented a new category – Chinese Canadian – to define their identity.

June 2019
Separate and Dominate: Feminism After the War on Terror by Christine Delphy (available here)

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Synopsis: An examination of how mainstream feminism has been mobilized in support of racist measures.

Feminist Christine Delphy co-founded the journal Nouvelles questions féministes with Simone de Beauvoir in the 1970s and became one of the most influential figures in French feminism. Today, Delphy remains a prominent and controversial feminist thinker, a rare public voice denouncing the racist motivations of the government’s 2011 ban of the Muslim veil. Castigating humanitarian liberals for demanding the cultural assimilation of the women they are purporting to “save,” Delphy shows how criminalizing Islam in the name of feminism is fundamentally paradoxical.

July 2019
Colorblind by Tim Wise (available here)

colorblind.jpg

Synopsis: Following the civil rights movement, race relations in the United States entered a new era. Legal gains were interpreted by some as ensuring equal treatment for all and that “colorblind” policies and programs would be the best way forward. Since then, many voices have called for an end to affirmative action and other color-conscious policies and programs, and even for a retreat from public discussion of racism itself.

Bolstered by the election of Barack Obama, proponents of colorblindness argue that the obstacles faced by blacks and people of color in the United States can no longer be attributed to racism but instead result from economic forces. Thus, they contend, programs meant to uplift working-class and poor people are the best means for overcoming any racial inequalities that might still persist. InColorblind, Tim Wise refutes these assertions and advocates that the best way forward is to become more, not less, conscious of race and its impact on equal opportunity.

September 2019
Structures of Indifference: An Indigenous Life and Death in a Canadian City by Adele Perry (available here)

structures of indifference.jpg

Synopsis: Structures of Indifference examines an Indigenous life and death in a Canadian city, and what it reveals about the ongoing history of colonialism. At the heart of this story is a thirty-four-hour period in September 2008. During that day and half, Brian Sinclair, a middle-aged, non-Status Anishinaabeg resident of Manitoba’s capital city, arrived in the emergency room of the Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg’s major downtown hospital, was left untreated and unattended to, and ultimately died from an easily treatable infection. His death reflects a particular structure of indifference born of and maintained by colonialism.

McCallum and Perry present the ways in which Sinclair, once erased and ignored, came to represent diffuse, yet singular and largely dehumanized ideas about Indigenous people, modernity, and decline in cities. This story tells us about ordinary indigeneity in the City of Winnipeg through Sinclair’s experience and restores the complex humanity denied him in his interactions with Canadian health and legal systems, both before and after
his death.

October 2019
The Good Immigrant Edited by Nikesh Shukla, Chimene Suleyman (available here)

the good immigrant.jpg

Synopsis: An urgent collection of essays by first and second-generation immigrants, exploring what it’s like to be othered in an increasingly divided America.

From Trump’s proposed border wall and travel ban to the marching of White Supremacists in Charlottesville, America is consumed by tensions over immigration and the question of which bodies are welcome. In this much-anticipated follow-up to the bestselling UK edition, hailed by Zadie Smith as “lively and vital,” editors Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman hand the microphone to an incredible range of writers whose humanity and right to be here is under attack.

November 2019
Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice by Paul Kivel (available here)

uprooting racism.jpg

Synopsis: In 2016, the president-elect of the United States openly called for segregation and deportation based on race and religion. Meanwhile, inequalities in education, housing, health care and the job market continue to prevail, while increased insecurity and fear have led to an epidemic of scapegoating and harassment of people of color. Yet recent polls show that only 31 percent of white people in the US believe racism is a major societal problem; at the same time, resistance is strong, as highlighted by Indigenous struggles for land and sovereignty and the Movement for Black Lives.

Completely revised and updated, this 4th edition of Uprooting Racism offers a framework around neoliberalism and interpersonal, institutional, and cultural racism, along with stories of resistance and white solidarity. It provides practical tools and advice on how white people can work as allies for racial justice, engaging the reader through questions, exercises, and suggestions for action, and includes a wealth of information about specific cultural groups such as Muslims, people with mixed-heritage, Native Americans, Jews, recent immigrants, Asian Americans, and Latino/as.

December 2019
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde (available here)

sister outsider.jpg

Synopsis: Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature.

In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde-scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde’s philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published.

 

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5x eye on the world

I haven’t posted one of these lists in a while. I am preparing to take a three day social media cleanse, but wanted to collect some things rattling around in my brain first.

1. Rest In Power Esra al-Ghamgam via Shia Rights Watch

2.Mitski – Nobody music video

3. White Feminism is White Supremacy in Heels by Rachel Cargle

4. Dani B’s stunning neon artwork via @sighswoon on Instagram

5. Ghost of A Podcast Episode 7: Career, Feminism, and Agingby the ever insightful Jessica Lanyadoo

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Me & White Supremacy final days

My journey with the #meandwhitesupremacy challenge is complete. Of course this work is really just beginning. A deep bow to Layla F. Saad for shepherding us through this journey. Subscribe to her mailing list to find out when the book will become available.

Day 26: Me & My Values

What are my values?

I value self reflection and self study. Completing this challenge has been living in alignment with this value and desire to know myself. Devoting a dedicated amount of time to do the work and dig deep. However as is apparent from the past days I have not been regularly engaging in anti-racism work in this way. I’ve been guilty of spiritual bypassing, I’m already part of the choir so this work is not for me, I have other areas to work on right now so I dont need to show up for this work in this way. I have missed opportunities to know myself better because I was deflecting my energy into other concerns. Workaholism. Parties. Relationships. I always come back to my writing as the key back into myself and this value.

I value honesty and integrity. Living in alignment with this value one hundred percent of the time is impossible for a mere mortal like me. However it is a good measuring stick to come back to and hold my actions against. When I look at the writing from earlier in the challenge I am aware that my actions have not measured up. Radical truth speaking requires so much vulnerability to hold space for what is outside of the narratives I have created about the kind of person I am. Speaking truth to myself about what is in my mind is the first step to acting with integrity. I also acknowledge that my white silence is deadly, and to act with integrity means to speak to white power within each other not speaking over BIPOC as another white saviour.

I value compassion and loving kindness. I know that the actions, beliefs, bias, attitudes, and words described in this challenge are not in alignment with this value. I know that paralyzing guilt and excessive self flagellation is also not in alignment with this value. Kindness that come from a desire to appear good and not to spread love is not in alignment with this value. The desire to only see love and not look at the hard ugly truths is not in alignment with this value. The desire to center only self compassion, only my own experiences of compassion at the expense of others, is not in alignment with this value.

I value creativity. Living a creative life is the ability to look at how things are and imagine them differently. The difference between dreamers and artists is those that put actions behind their imagination. There is an incredible amount of responsibility as such for artists to spend time pushing the limits of our imagination and unpacking our unconscious bias. Because the narratives we tell collectively matter. The stories we repeat to each other. the jokes we tell. The songs we sing. They shape our collective conciousness, and without taking personal responsibility for the baggage that we are dragging into that creative realm. My creative practice has not always been engaged in anti oppression work. I have not done my due diligence to do my own anti racism work when working with BIPOC collaborators. I have not fully taken responsibility for my actions. Which relates to the next one…

I value justice. This is a value I have been personally grappling with of late. Justice looks at right versus wrong, good prevails over evil, fighting for what is fair and right always and absolutely is. This is an idea I have inherited in my blood. I can’t name where I learned about it or why it lights such a fiery ball of rage in my core. But I don’t think it is a helpful value. That much repressed anger leaks out in all the most ugly violent ways. The world has never been just. Mercy is the value I would like to welcome in its place. Mercy opens the door on forgiveness. Perhaps that is a selfish value to wish for in light of the writing I have done, the justice that should be dealt my way. I dont have an answer to that right now. Currently I still think I deserve that justice in my heart of hearts. And yet I pray for mercy.

I value selfless service. I believe we are on this planet to serve. A higher purpose. Survival of the species. Cosmic collision course in destiny. Doesn’t matter what it is attributed to. Acts of selfless service are love incarnate and are the motor beneath life itself. In the context of white supremacy I have not been of service to dismantling these powers of oppression. I have put my self interest ahead of the greater good. I long to do better.

I value community and accountability. Again writing these reflections has been in alignment with this value. I appreciate all of the people who have reached out to talk about the challenge with me. To hold me and each other accountable. Doing this work isnt about getting a cookie for having the right answer, but it is so rewarding to hold each other up in this hard process of learning and reprogramming.

I value respect for all beings. I have never lived fully in alignment with this value. Not in the context of white supremacy, not in the context of environmentalism, not in any context of life. But it is something to work towards. It is something to hold to be true to shine light in the darkness.

I value the interconnected web of life. This challenge has illuminated this so much more deeply for me. We are connected by years of socialization that I wasnt even aware of. That socialization has wide spread consequences and realities for all of us. I want to continue that work of understanding how deeply those connections run. The world is my classroom; learning all of the time.

Ultimately, I believe in the power of creative transformation. I have the power to transform these attitudes, behaviours, bias, and actions. You do too. Collectively we can evolve past this moment in time and write a new chapter together.

Day 27: Me & Losing Privilege

I am a white settler in the Western Canadian bible belt. I have been given many privileges directly, indirectly, inherited, and newly bestowed because of the skin I was born in and the way I was socialized. I have actively participated in protecting these privileges at the expense of BIPOC. The extent of which I was not fully aware of at the beginning of this challenge, and to which I may never be able to fully fathom. However I can begin by taking responsibility now to learn to let go of these unearned privileges. Even while making the decision to consciously act to lose privilege I must acknowledge that on some level it is going to be impossible to lose all white privilege. I can work towards dismantling the systems that make this true, but it also runs incredibly deep and will not disappear in my lifetime. I can still work towards that goal. Some privileges that I can begin giving up right away are the privilege of silence and apathy on matters of racism. These are both predicated on my own personal comfort inside of white supremacist society over the greater good. I can begin to let go of those privileges by knowingly stepping into the uncomfortable knowledge of how racism is implicated in daily life. I can begin by making more time to stay informed with current events and the hidden histories that have created these conditions, and reflect on my personal role in each. I can speak up when I am in white only spaces including family gatherings that are encouraging white solidarity and complacency. This is the bare minimum sort of effort to show up in conversations of race not just when people are watching (optical allyship) or to turn performing the bare minimum into a martyr situation where I’m here to save the helpless and be validated for my efforts. The small sacrafice of comfort and complacency is the easiest place to start. The second way in which I can step outside of my white privilege is in the access and accumulation of wealth and resources. I regularly make a point to donate to kickstarter campaigns, charities, and advocacy organizations. However I don’t feel that the occasional contribution is doing enough. I don’t lose any privilege, and a lot of the time it is a token gesture to assauge white guilt and for optical allyship points. I need to look more deeply at the ways in which I earn that money, what I prioritize spending it on, and how those things may be supporting white supremacy. Right away I can make more efforts to research and support small local businesses that are owned and operated by BIPOC, or at least not ones that are actively displacing or erasing BIPOC. I can seek out other ways to be materially of service to BIPOC activists and advocates in their work that accept more personal risk than financial contributions, although not to say I will stop contributing either. I will not apply for any further public funding as a white artist that has already been given a stable financial position to build my practice from. I will not accept sponsorship money from businesses and organizations that up hold white supremacist values. I will seek ways to support BIPOC collaborators better materially in my creative practice that doesn’t end in offering them a pay cheque to tokenize their work for my project or goals. This brings me to the third privilege that I want to step outside of, my assumed white superiority and white centering in leadership roles. I have seen myself as a leader and actively pursued leadership roles since a very young age. I need to reconsider my need to assume this role or what I think that means, and do the work to be leading by example not by leaning on white privileges. Affirmative action has most benefited cis white women like me, and I can’t ignore the impact that has had on me directly. I need to work harder to take responsibility for my actions in order to escape this sort of white feminism brand of equality. I’ve got by being a well spoken white person that understands Roberts rules of order and can lean on the existing dynamics of power to use to my advantage, but I want to A) unlearn these colonial principles of hierarchical management and B) make a point of following more BIPOC leaders rather than bemoaning they dont exist from where I stand. Following Layla’s leadership through this challenge taught me so much, and I know there are countless others like her including many local activists and advocate and teachers. Choosing to seek out their work and follow their lead instead of creating another project that I am at the centre of is not just a nice change of pace but an important part of letting go of privileges that centre my white experience.

Day 28: Me & My Commitments

3 concrete actions undertake in the next 2 weeks that will put me out of my comfort zone and continue the work started. I’m tagging Sarah as my accountability buddy but pls everyone is invited to check in with me if you are interested.

1) I’m committing to reading authors I’ve been “meaning to read” and get serious about learning more about the foundations of racism this country is built on. In the next two weeks I will be putting together a list of books (an unschoolers curriculum if you will) for the coming year. I invite white friends interested in reading along with me to join me book club style so we can discuss and hold each other accountable. If you have suggestions of books for the list lmk.

2) I’m going to support Layla, Leesna and Rachel on patron to continue to support their work financially in gratitude for the learning I have received from them. I’m going to continue to write once a week reflections to continue to hold myself accountable. I will continue to find ways to show up for the work that they share on their platforms.

3) I’m committing to visiting the Justice for Our Stollen Children camp and finding a way to materially support their work. I’ve been bystanding this work in my own backyard liking & sharing on Facebook, but this is not enough.

4) I’m going to follow up on the creative project that has left me feeling most uncomfortable with my colonial creative practice in light of this challenge. I’m going to write letters acknowledging and apologizing for any actions or words that may have done harm, and commit to changing how I approach this kind of work in the future.

5) finally I’m going to commit to re-reading what I wrote during the challenge. I took a long time to finish this work, and some of those earlier posts were over a month ago. As the second part of this prompt is about identifying how I can commit to change in a more on going way I want to revisit what I wrote to highlight the patterns.

These are the concreate goals that I am committed to completing by September 10th 2018. The other more on going commitments I am going to be meditating on and will share at the end of this 2 week digestion period. The first one is that I commit to not looking away from this work. I am committing to making anti-racism work a central pillar of my self development, and an on going practice. I can’t unsee what I have learnt about myself over this challenge, but it will be easy to slip back into old habits. I commit to the vigilance required to hold myself to higher standards, and to cultivate the support in my peers to do this work so that BIPOC do not need to bare the brunt of my ignorance. Along with the areas I have highlighted yesterday, I will continue to add to these commitments as a life long practice.

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Me and My Community

This writing represents days 22 though 25 of the You & White Supremacy challenge by Layla f. Saad aka Wild Mystic Woman. She has helped me go deeply into myself and look at some ugly truths about my relationship to White Supremacy. This challenge began on Instagram where you can follow the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy to see what others have wrote. Currently the challenge is closed and not accepting new joiners. However you can subscribe to Layla’s mailing list to find out when she publishes it into a workbook of the same name. For BIPOC that may be reading this there may be triggering things discussed here in, and so just be aware of prioritizing your own self care.

Day 22: Me & White Feminism

When I first learnt about feminism I was against the idea entirely. As I slowly opened my eyes to the fact that there might be some merit to a discussion of gender based discrimination I specifically only entertained the idea for white women. The goal was still to be as successful/powerful/rich as white men, so BIWOC just had to learn to assimilate into white culture properly to get to where I was then we could smash the patriarchy together. I didn’t consciously think I was better than BIWOC, but statistically I was better off so there must be some reason right? I hadn’t heard of white privilege yet. Today I am uncomfortable calling myself an intersectional feminist. Not because I dont believe in the importance of intersectional politics, but because I dont think I am informed on them. I still mainly learn about feminism based on what effects me and my friends. I have a wider social circle than I did as a teenager so the things that I learn about are also wider, but it is motivated by learning how to be a better friend not how to be an intersectional feminist. Why dont I want to put in the work to learn enough to call myself intersectional? Because I am afraid of getting it wrong and using a label that doesn’t actually reflect how I operate in the world. I organized a feminist arts festival in 2011, and although the event itself was a success, the politics behind the scenes were not. My collaborator called me out/in on having a shallow understanding of feminism. How she did not feel comfortable with some of the marketing messages I had been circulating. It’s been nearly a decade, and I dont remember the specifics of what either of us said, but it was the first time it occurred to me that different women experience feminism differently. I thought that by giving all women the opportunity to share their stories we could create more equal representation in media (one of my primary concerns as an actor), but I didn’t consider the different barriers preventing women from being heard and making art beyond just having the airtime to do so. There was one single mom in the festival who couldnt afford to have her pictures framed and wasnt sure how she was going to be able to show them. We didn’t have resources at the time to help her overcome the financial barriers to showing her work. There was another recently immigrated woman that approached me at work that wanted to apply, but she didn’t speak very much English and I wasn’t sure how to begin to help her get her access to materials and time to get her artwork into the festival. In the end the event felt unsatisfactory, and we did not continue. Organizing successful events is easy for me, but I didn’t have the skills to actually create meaningful change. So I gave up. I burnt out rather. I stopped working actively on anything feminist related for years. Today I am cautious about getting involved in activist circles and falling into those same blind spots. That caution is a safety net that prevents me from spending months worth of resources on projects with no tangible social benefit, but it also protects me from taking any risks or putting my neck on the line for anyone else. I’ve recognized for a while that racism and ableism are two of my biggest blind spots, and I’ve slowly been taking time to educate myself, but I am sure I still prioritize white feminism in more ways than I realize. Even in my decision to take a step back from collectively organizing to focus on getting my life together. I spoke about earlier using self care as an avoidance technique rather than a tool to repair and keep working on the deeper issues.

Day 23: Me & White Leaders

I try to vote for politicians that make promises about better relationships with indigenous peoples, refugees and new Canadians. But this is the first election where my vote has actually elected anyone. I dont feel like I have done due diligence following up to see if my picks are working for me. I just assume that anyone is better than Harper. I feel like the box checking approach to political platforms carries over to other kinds of white leaders. When I’ve heard white leaders that are currently employing me say misdirected and racist things I’ve generally swallowed it as a means of getting to the next pay cheque. But even when there are white leaders that I am paying to follow their teachings or leadership it’s hard to call out or educate because of the sunk cost investment. I’ve been in the situation where I know I can feel in my bones that what you are saying is incorrect and dehumanizing in some way, but think to myself that I can set that aside to take away the “other parts” of what they are saying. As if it is as simple as spitting out the watermelon seeds. It is hard to renounce one part of what they are saying but accept another part. Inevitably either I walk away from the whole thing silently distancing myself or smile and nod endorsing something that I know isnt right in my gut. When I’m looking for people to collaborate with or learn from politics is definitely one of the first things I look at, but usually through a white feminist lens like I discussed yesterday. If I’m only holding people up to the knowledge I already have that aligns with the beliefs I already hold I’m going to end up continuing to follow a lot of these behaviours I’ve outlined earlier in the challenge. When I am in positions of leadership I want to work with a diverse team, where everyone has creative control of their work and their narrative, but when push comes to shove I want to be in charge calling the shots. I’ve struggled with where that comes from, a desire to serve with the skills I have, or reinforcing colonial narratives of power and control. The desire to be the bitch in charge carrying a clipboard and long jacket is celebrated in white feminism, but is filled with loaded histories of nuns in residential schools, slavemasters and lady of the house, all manners of government agency workers just following orders. It’s a desire to be seen as competant in the eyes of patriarchal white supremacist ideas of order and civilization. Its beyond doing a good job for the sake of doing a good job, but subscribing to the sanctity of duty over human qualities of compassion, sharing, and mercy. Not that I always participate to that level, but that is what is intoxicating about that particular idea of leader. A leader that follows orders. Rather than carve a new path.

Day 24: Me & My Friends

I’ve noticed myself avoiding this prompt like the plague. I’ve also had a very busy week, but this is a hard one to answer. So lets look at that.

Looking at the circles of friends I frequent they are very white, and I can say this is not intentional but there is also clearly an unconscious bias that causes me to seek out mainly white social spaces. When I am with my theatre peers there is a lot of head shaking about “diversity” and “inclusion” and “who gets to tell this story”, but I feel like very little action. I participate in these conversation with my theatre friends in efforts to try to unpack some of the very colonial patriarchal racist practices of theatre, however a lot of the conversations amount to nothing more than virtue signaling and tokenizing the work of companies like GTNT. Often repeating the same tired lines about how things should be without a very serious look at why they are how they are. This is a form of white solidarity by agreeing to talk about the problem of race in a certain way that codes the obvious lack of diversity on stage and shifts the blame onto the victims of the oppressive dynamics that me and my white peers are benefiting from. We celebrate white feminist productions as diversity even though our success is largely built by adhering to certain aspects of white patriarchal structures such as traditional white beauty standards or access to disposable income/family money. In my music circles of friends there are a lot more activists who have lots of things to say about the lack of diversity in the scene and seem more willing to engage in grassroots change. However I also see that small group of people making slow change if any, and I dont do anything to help beyond a like on Facebook and another white body at a show. I see their work and I think that is good they are doing it, but that it’s not for me because it doesn’t play to my skills which is a coded way for me to center my whiteness again by only getting involved in projects that I personally benefit from/impact me. I have rarely called out or in a friend or accquaitance in the music scene because I view myself as outside of it as a passive consumer rather than influencer or activist only here to have a good time. In my yoga and hippie circles the whiteness feels the most enforced. There seems to be the least willingness to openly discuss race or white privilege or appropriation. There tends to be more focus on individualism than community. There also tends to be more focus on profit and branding. When I am in these spaces sometimes I like to stir the pot and ask questions that are intentionally drawing attention to the whiteness of it all, but usually I lack the skill knowledge self awareness or willpower to follow it up with any kind of meaningful exchange. I have tended to escape the uncomfortable feeling these social spaces bring in me by practicing alone at home. However even if I pursue these things alone I am still part of a white culture that is fueled on cultural appropriation, genocide, and white privilege. The cognitive dissonance in this area is one of the main reasons that I began to seek out more information, but I have not reached out to local practitioners to learn and have these conversations. Online I am more likely to delete a racist comment and block that person from my online than take the teachable moment. Mainly because often I dont know that I have anything to teach them I just know saying that is wrong. When I do take the time to call a friend in online it usually goes well, so you would think the positive reinforcement would make it easier over time, but I also feel like most of the time it won’t do any good so I just don’t bother. When it doesn’t go well I blame the other person, and dont look at how my words may not be lining up with my actions. Face to face it is easier to fall into not wanting to rock the boat. We are already here present with each other if you dont take this call out well it is going to change that space into something awkward and uncomfortable where as online I can just scroll away unnoticed. I might make a mental note to distance myself from them socially, but I won’t actively cut them out unless it is very blatantly racist. Even with my very close friends I find it hard to talk to them about whiteness because most of the time it goes unnamed in our conversations. If we say something racially insensitive it’s usually assumed it is from ignorance and the call out will be taken well. But some of these bias are not so easily named, and sometimes they are coded into other privileges of access to education, family money, land, or social status. I find myself keeping quiet about things that dont sit right convincing myself I dont have the full story or I don’t really understand these issues. But mostly it is out of learned social white solidarity to not question the status quo so much. I find myself wondering if when I screw up and reiterate racist bias, beliefs, comments if I have a social network that will call me out or just validate my good intentions. I appreciate friends that keep sharing their words and processing in the open and hosting workshops and otherwise making social spaces to talk about and deconstruct these issues online and off because I learn so much from them. Because of one friend sharing a post on Facebook I found Layla’s work and this challenge, and I would not have begun this depth of work without their unknowing nudge.

Day 25: Me & My Family

I lost my writing from this day so I had to go back through Instagram for it.
I avoid talking politics with my family for the sake of keeping peace. I try to keep visits with my extended family short and sparse to minimize opportunity to get into a fight. I don’t keep my politics a secret, and there have been fights that have disrupted all manners of gatherings. When I was younger I cared more about standing up for what I believed in, speaking up to power, and trying to convince my family to see things my way or at least care about what I was saying. Now that I’m older I have the belief that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, and banging my head against the wall of their bigotry is not good for my wellbeing. Maintaining relationships with them in a perfunctory way is easier than completely cutting them off, but sometimes they function in the same way. The only people I talk openly and in depth about politics with in my family are my mother and my sister. Even though I know we can have these conversations without jeopardizing our overall relationship it still can devolve into a lot of white fragility or deflecting blame onto other branches of the family tree. I still appreciate that they usually listen, and actively call me in as well. The rest of my family does not appear to be interested in any type of anti-racism work. My mother’s side of the family is from rural Alberta, vote for the Wild Rose party, and fly Confederate flags. They blame immigrants for their problems, think indigenous people should not have access to health care or education, but think they are best friends with the family that runs the local Chinese restaurant because of friendly customer service. This is the side of the family I have fought with the most about their racism because it is do blatant and proud, but this is the side of the family that also always makes an effort to be part of my life at all important occasions which keeps me from cutting them off out right.

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A weeks worth of Me & White Supremacy writing

I’ve been very slowly working my way through Layla F. Saad’s Instagram challenge You & White Supremacy. I’m sharing my reflections here and on Instagram as outlined in her guidelines on YouTube. If you want to read other folks writing check out the hashtag, or sign up to her newsletter to find out when the workbook will be available. Some of this writing may be triggering if you are a BIPOC please prioritize your self care if reading.

Day 15: Me & White Apathy

I have been apathetic towards my role in racism by not beginning this challenge when I first came across it on day 3 or 4 back in June. I thought that I was too busy and that by following others doing the work that was enough until I had more time. Not having time is such a slippery method of white apathy. We all dont have the time to do everything we would like to do, yet we make decisions that effect what our priorities are – family, work, education, volunteering, etc. I realized that if I didn’t make time for this important work there would never be time. However I am forgetting it again already. 15 days into the challenge and my white apathy is creeping back in. The last 7 prompts were a lot of ugly work. They made me feel physically and emotionally sick. And sure enough when the work got hard, and the social rewards of sharing my writing went away, that apathy crept back in. Maybe it would be ok to just leave the work. I’ve done enough for now. I can pick it up again later when I “have more time”.

My white apathy also disguises itself as self care. I dont have time/energy to do the writing today because I need to rest to prepare for X. Yet I continue to avoid the root problems of my over scheduling complex and instead throw BIPOC under the bus in order to “rest”. The other word for this behaviour is laziness. Rest is radical, but there is nothing radical about laziness. Laziness is undermining my will power to address the root problems that allow racism to flourish in my life.

I have been apathetic towards racism when talking to my family. Because their racism is so blatant to me, and yet they are frequently kind and generous towards me, then they must just be putting on a show. Something they learned on Fox News. How dangerous can they actually be? Is a dangerous apathetic thought I have had.

I also see white apathy in my creative communities when there is little interest in learning about a social issue or another culture until we are working on a piece related to it. Our attention is only as long as our contract is paying us to care, or as long as we can take credit for “learning” from others work while repeating it into our own voice. “All artists steal from each other” but I observe that not all artists are rewarded equally for their theft.

I also see white apathy in my yoga communities that are only interested in how these poses or these chants can serve to simplify beautify our own life without paying mind to where these teachings came from, how we got here, or who is benefiting from the “teachings” we are consuming. The apathy here results in lazy uses of bite sized teachings that loose a more nuanced understanding of the human condition, and work as a shield against anyone that would ask us to reflect deeper.

I see this kind of white apathy in my white feminist circles. That are all for diversity as long as you agree with me, hate the same men I hate, and promise to reassure me I am one of the good ones. The apathy to talk about the issues that aren’t most pressing to you personally. The apathy to learn about the intersections of issues that do not personally effect us.

I practice white apathy when I block a racist friend, or skip the comment section, or ignore a white centering thing my friend says in conversation “because it’s just not worth it”. Its not worth it to me because I can choose to look away from the impacts of racism, and I can protect my own sense of white superiority while doing it.

Day 16: Me & White Centering

My whiteness has been centered in almost every play I have read, most media I consume from magazines to movies, in the history that is taught and celebrated, in beauty standards and depictions of goodness and saintliness. I have centered my whiteness when choosing what social justice issues to advocate for. Although I make more of an effort in the last couple of years to be informed on intersectional issues I often treat them as garnish issues to the main concerns. I have centered my whiteness when choosing what jobs to apply for by prioritizing working in hip atmospheres often directly related to gentrefication and displacement. I have centered my whiteness when asking for help or free education from BIPOC because “they are just better at this stuff”. I have learnt to center my feelings on racism over the lives of BIPOC which shows up as white fragility. I have centered my whiteness by not questioning what I have learnt (white apathy). Accepting the safety bubble that white supremacy has afforded me I have actively chosen to maintain that bubble. I have centered my whiteness when reporting crimes because I know my victimhood will be taken seriously and protected by institutionalized racism. I have centered my whiteness when I care more about how a perceived threat to my “good white person” status makes me feel rather than the actual harm I am causing. I centre my whiteness when I write, never having to think of my voice and experiences as anything but normal. I centre my whiteness when I audition never feeling like I will be a casting risk because of the colour of my skin. I centre my whiteness when I lead because it fits with how I have been taught to expect to get ahead and be at the head. I centre my whiteness mostly because I have rarely had to be in a space that sidelines it, and when I have I can reassure my ego that it is only temporary (white saviourism). Putting whiteness at the centre of my life has been the subconscious driving force behind many of my decisions and actions. Preserving that centre felt like preserving safety although I have not experienced real danger because of the colour of my skin.

Day 17: Me & Tokenism

I have tokenized collaborators by hiring to check diversity boxes on a grant application without thinking more deeply about what my motivation was to find “diverse” voices or what those people might want to say beyond my master vision. I have tokenized black people by using black reaction gifs and adopting online black face and slang. I have tokenized the anti-racism work of BIPOC by sharing it or quoting it without doing the deeper work myself in order to appear “woke”. I dressed up as Flavour Flav for a costume party when I was 16. Although not wearing black face paint I failed to understand how the costume was still offensive and tokenism. I grew up playing cowboys and Indians, and did not understand how pretending to be Pocahontas was offensive and tokenism. Even after learning about the actual Pocahontas I continued to play based on the character version “because it was more fun”. I grew up surrounded by sage burning hippies who “passed on” this sacred medicine that they had appropriated and then I appropriated. I have sage on my alter right now. I bought it in a trendy store that I believe is white owned. I have it juxtaposed with a statue of the Buddha that I got in a garage sale. These are literal tokens of cultures and peoples my white lady spiritualism has collected. When I started reflecting on how much white cis male media I have consumed in my lifetime I started collecting BIPOC (particularly WOC) to read, listen to, watch, and generally consume in a tokenized way to appear to have “diverse” taste. I learnt to associate “diverse” taste whether for kim chi or Taoism or rap music as being seen as more “worldly” and part of being accepted as a “good white person” by other progressive white people always looking for “authentic” and “unusual” tokens to appropriate.

Day 18: White Saviourism

I have expressed white saviourism as an artistic producer seeing myself as the one that is securing paid positions for BIWOC to create, learn, and express themselves. As if they would not be able to do this for themselves and are in fact doing me a favour taking part in my primarily white project/event/festival. I have leaned into white saviourism post Charlottesville and Gerard Stanley trial looking for a way to re-brand my whiteness as “helpful” rather than “dangerous”. In spite of whatever good intentions may have guided me to seek helpful ways of speaking out about my growing concern over the prevalence of white supremacy it was ultimately pointless and toxic as I either spoke over BIPOC or co-opted their words and their struggle. I only felt empowered to speak to blatantly racist white friends about their harassment rather than unpack all the ways my progressive friends and myself have upheld white supremacy. By engaging with the more violent comments in my circles I could feel like I was defending the helpless or being a voice for the voiceless without having to give up any of my own privilege in the conversation including intersecting privileges of class and education. Engaging in this kind of extremism “debates” may be emotionally satisfying, but rarely create real lasting changes. And may in fact work to add fuel to the fire further inciting violence against those I think need my “help” or “protection”. The more work I put into “white knighting” through these conversations on racism the less time I spend actually dismantling my prejudices.

Other ways I have expressed white saviourism that did not originally come to mind… when I advocate for better social security nets as an expectation for my government to be able to legislate out racism. As if that racism is not deeply in grained in the very letter of the law and policy they govern by. When I promote BIWOC by emphasizing how smart or well spoken they are while silently implying for their race. Volunteering to serve meals with my white colleagues at an establishment that mainly serves indigenous people. Calling it community building even though we don’t speak to each other and my presence is actively displacing them in the neighborhood.

Day 19: Me & Optical Allyship

I think the only kind of ally I am is an optical one. I never considered myself an activist, but at some point I got labeled one because I share so many SJW posts online. Layla taught me that there is a name for that – virtue signaling. “Look at me, I am a good white person, no need to talk to me about anti-racism work, I’m already part of the choir”. I never consciously intended to cultivate an image as a socially engaged person, but I definitely continue to do so because of the emotional and social pay off. I get to feel good about “staying informed” and “speaking up” while changing nothing in the world or more importantly myself. I have never put my neck on the line for someone else, or sought out anti-racism resources that were not made readily available to me for free usually by BIWOC. And even then sometimes I pass it over either tokenizing their work or succumbing to white apathy. I experienced how hard it is to get away from only being interested in doing the work when it is in view in this challenge. The mixed feelings of satisfaction, disgust, self loathing, and smugness when someone comments on these posts to validate what I’m doing. I can repeat that I’m here doing this work because it is mine to do, but it’s hard to escape those feelings that want to be the center of attention all the time. It’s hard to imagine what comes after this when the challenge ends. Without Layla’s posts to give me guidance on how to do this work will it fade into the background again? How can I go back to just absently sharing anything that sparks those old righteous feelings? How can I go deeper without reverting to white saviourism? Optical allyship to me is about safety. Wanting everyone to feel safe, but not wanting to risk my own to get there. Assuming that it is possible to feel safe while dismantling violent oppressive systems. Dismantling violent oppressive beliefs in myself. That my idea of safety would feel safe to everyone. That my idea of safe is not a threat to someone else’s safety.

Day 20: Me & Being Called Out

I am not regularly called out (or in) which after completing this many days of the challenge is obvious to me that it is not because I’m “good” but because I’m dangerous, and I’m not likely to take it well. Even if I’m not violently dangerous if I’m not looking at the white supremacist violence that lives through me then I cant expect to be held accountable by other people doing their work. Last week I was listening to Sarah Jones on Oh Boy by Man Repeller. I was trying to explain how amazing it is to watch her perform as all of these characters transitioning right before your eyes like magic to Aron, and he asked “but is she Latina” and I said “no I don’t think so” and he said “that’s racist”. And it wasn’t even a direct call out about my actions but I still felt angry like it was a direct attack. I watched myself respond in my head, wanting to defend her on grounds of the artistry involved (exceptionalism), and grounds of we are all one people in the human condition (denial), on that it wasnt intended to be racist (fragility), on the fact Obama had her perform at the white house (tokenizing), on the grounds that there were different rules for theatre than other art forms (exceptionalism), on the grounds that she is black so it’s fine (tokenizing/denial). He was just pointing out a fairly obvious fact about her performance, but his comments directly challenged my sense of self as someone that supports representation on stage. As a “good white person”. And as is to be expected I responded with anger. Actually I responded with silence because I knew my anger was misplaced, but anger was still present. We did talk about it later and each conceded on some points, but I never apologized for my response. To my own partner. So you can certainly imagine that I have never apologized to anyone else for my toxic whiteness.

Day 21: Me & White Supremacy

I am feeling consumed by hopelessness. There are so many ways I have participated in upholding white supremacy that I was not aware of. Even to try to unlearn one behavior related to that could take years, and obviously this is what is meant by a lifetime of work, but how do I even begin in one lifetime? I feel on edge when I notice patterns I have named in daily interactions, but i haven’t found anything to replace them with other than new self conciousness and renewed self loathing. These feelings are not productive either slipping into white fragility, centering, apathy. Hyper focus without a clear goal. I know that I have to change the criteria I use to make decisions about what is good and correct and safe, but to say how I’m going to achieve that feels impossible right now. Impossible is such a lazy answer. Throw up my hands in despair. If I cant deny my role in white supremacy then I can accept that this is just how things are, they are too hard to change. That’s garbage. I’ve changed things that felt impossible repeatedly, and accepting that uncomfortable feeling is the first part. I need to find what the second part is. Today I’m just tired.

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