Day 5: Me and White Superiority

I am completing a 28 day writing challenge by Wild Mystic Women’s Layla Saad called You & White Supremacy. Follow the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy on Instagram, and check out Layla’s videos on YouTube outlining how to participate in the challenge.

Day 5: Me & White Superiority

I feel superior when I apply for jobs because I know that I interview very well with white interviewers. I present as a Pollyanna white girl, and they see me as articulate and non-threatening. It’s not that I think others who apply for the job aren’t capable, but I know that they will have to work harder to make a good impression. When I was younger I tried to actively maintain this image of white feminine purity for fear of not finding work. Now that I am beginning to reject some trappings of that identity instead of feeling more secure in myself I am feeling that I am unprepared to not be rewarded for my mediocre whiteness. So instead I lower my standards and continue to work in places where only being seen as agreeable and white is still valued like serving at hipster coffee shops.

I feel superior when I’m serving on a board of directors because I am pushing for better representation, and community outreach with marginalized groups while actively tokenizing their work and contributions. I feel superior because I am a “woke” white person pushing for community consultation, and hiring diversity, and other nice white buzzwords, but I still not so deep down want to be in charge of how these conversations happen and who is at the table. I feel like I need to be part of those conversations because I will be able to translate the needs of these groups into the mandates of the funders, as if the experts we are consulting are not already more aware of how these relationships work because they live with them everyday.

I feel superior when I apply for artist grants or otherwise playing the business game of a creative entrepreneur. It’s not that I think money and resources shouldn’t go to artists of colour, but I know how to work the system to my advantage and believe that will give me a superior edge. Even if I politically believe this edge is undeserved, I personally feel like it is my right to get all that I can. Because of this when I see artists of colour being more successful than me I feel like I am worthless as an artist. Because I have had more opportunities than them and have still been unable to create anything half as successful or meaningful.

When I was a teenager I sat on a panel of unschooled students at an home schooling conference, one of the people in the audience asked us if we thought that we were better than other students and I unequivocally answered yes, of course. I had read the studies on how unschooled students out performed their public school peers in almost every way. Within the literature on public school students there was further evidence that white students out performed other students except asian students. There was substantial evidence that the barriers marginalized students faced were usually institutionalized and not a reflection of their actual aptitude, but the bottom line for me was still yes, or course I am superior. The silence in the room afterwards told me I had said something wrong, but my views were not challenged, and so I learnt to be more modest in my answers.

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Day Two: Me & White Fragility

I am participating in the Me & White Supremacy 28 day writing challenge. Wild Mystic Woman has shared these writing prompts and guidelines for participation on her Instagram and YouTube. I am sharing my reflections here to hold myself accountable to completing the work as honestly and deeply as I can.

Day 2: Me & White Fragility

Online I regularly delete my posts & comments that get called out as racist, and those by other white people on my social feeds. Before Layla identified this as a form of white fragility I believed that I was helping by taking down the offending remark and giving everyone time to go away and think about what they said. I see now how erasing the comments is a form of white fragility by hiding my racist comments/friends and being afraid to process and learn out in the open. I use white fragility to call out and block white people that I believe are more racist than me. By getting angry and shutting them out I also shut out any opportunity for growth. I don’t have to have the hard conversations with them, or look at how they are like me, and can allow them to continue to hurt POC out of my sight and out of my mind while feeling like I did something good. I also enact white fragility when I claim “self care” in order to avoid going to the protest or showing up to the workshop on anti-racism work because I don’t want to face the ugly emotions it may dredge up. I tend to centre my own emotions as the truth in all situations regardless of whether they are relevant. I use white fragility to justify prefering to listen to POC speak about racism in videos and podcasts and lectures where I won’t be called upon to speak up. I avoid conversations on race that I do not feel well informed about because I am afraid of being embarrassed or acting embarrassingly. I want to have control in most situations which is why my white fragility tends to check me out of conversations. I would rather believe that the conversation doesn’t concern me, or that watching and supporting other people doing the work is enough, rather than challenge the defensive ugly feelings white fragility brings up in me. My white fragility screams “but it’s not my fault” internally while externally I smile and nod.

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Me & White Supremacy Day One

Wild Mystic Woman has posted a series of writing prompts on her Instagram for white people looking to unpack their relationship to white supremacy. I am beginning the 28 day journey today, although the work began 17 days ago. I will be sharing my daily reflections here to keep myself accountable to this important work.

Day One: Me & White Privilege

I am a white settler Canadian in the bible belt of Western Canada. My mother unschooled me K through 12 in a community of mainly white peers. White privilege allowed me to study at home when the Canadian Government still regularly takes indigenous children from their families to be put into foster care. My white privilege allowed me to walk around unsupervised as a young person without being seen as a thug or a criminal. I learnt to expect that authority would be just, and that if I kept my nose clean (or appeared to) that law enforcement would protect me. Because of my white privilege I never felt like I didn’t belong. I learnt that my ideas were valuable, that people would listen to me, and that if I kept within the limits of modest femininity I would be compensated for my contributions adequately. I used my white privilege to appear more educated, competent, and trustworthy than I may have actually been. As a young person entering university I remember reading an article about professional conduct condemning black women’s natural hair and felt relieved that this would never concern me. My white privilege allowed me to secure work that I was unqualified for on paper. I used my white privilege to secure work at trendy establishments as a young unskilled labourer rather than in a field or a factory or a fast food chain. As a white artist I never felt like my work had to be a voice “for my people” or that it would be seen as political or controversial because of the colour of my skin. I acted with all white students at university, and then dropped out because I did not think I would need an education to find work in my field as a conventional white woman. I used my white privilege to avoid questioning why this was even after I self identified as a feminist in my 20s. I use my white privilege to access mentors, funding, and other resources that are held by other white gate keepers. When I became aware of the problematic nature of this instead of changing the way I worked I started hiring more WOC collaborators to keep my work from being criticized under the moniker of “inclusion” and “diversity”. My grandparents farmed and extracted oil from stolen lands, and vote for openly racist politicians. Despite talking back to their racist vitriol as a teenager, I now maintain relationships with them because it privileges me to do so rather than be cut off from my family. I use my white privilege to receive money from them in spite of the harm they cause. I grew up in a liberal household that didnt “see colour” which is a privileged position I held because I was white and most of my friends were white. My parents were fascinated with Eastern Phillosophy, and so I came to appropriate a lot of Buddhist, Taoist, and other yogic and indigenous ideas and practices as my own as suited me. I am still unpacking this history to understand how my continued practice effects harm. My mother encouraged me to identify as a Metis artist because my great grandmother on my father’s father side (whom I never met) was Metis so that I can access money and opportunities intended for Metis & Indigenous artists. My father encouraged me to see myself as a self made artist independent of the many people that helped me get here, and the many doors that were open to me as a white woman. I may not have used my white privilege to explicitly do as they ask, but I have not used it to dispute the underlying beliefs either of them hold. Surrounded by crunchy hippies to creative entrepreneurs to conservative farmers I learnt that with white privilege I could take what I liked and defend my right to do as I please “because it wasn’t harming anyone.” Recently I am trying to unlearn this mode of being to be a better local and global community member, but I also use my white privilege to drag my feet finding alternative ways to support myself because the systems of power benefit me.

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Happy Birthday Brittney

The first time I heard Britney Spears it was on a casette tape my newly appointed best friend played for me on my parents boom box in the backyard of my freshly minted childhood home. There were may flowers in bloom that dropped their lazy white petals all over the concrete, and my friend sat at the picnic table and coached me on all the dance moves which I had never seen. I was flattered by her interest in me and attention to detail as she corrected me, but I knew if my mom caught me acting this way and listening to this music it would be the end of our baby friendship. She liked boys, and she didn’t like her home. I’m not sure why she liked me because she was clearly quite a bit older than me although I hadn’t figured that out yet. She lived across the street in the row of three cement condos with the empty flower bed out front. I spotted her on the first day that we moved in playing in her front yard across the street. As soon as I had jumped out of the car I had waved at her enthusiastically and invited her over to play at my house. She had short curly hair and a brother that was mean to us sometimes but mostly left us alone.┬áTelevison had already taught me my best friend would be the one geographically most convenient to me since I wasn’t enrolled in school and didn’t yet have full run of the neighbourhood. She would bring over tapes of Brittney Spears and Spice Girls and teach me all the moves, but I wasn’t allowed to go over to her house to watch them on TV. Once she told me she had peed her pants because she couldn’t get to the bathroom in her house. She couldn’t quite explain to me why she couldn’t get there, but having only been potty trained for a few years myself it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. I reassured her and told her she could use my bathroom anytime. My parents started to ask a lot of questions about her, and my baby sitter wouldn’t let her come over to play at all. She did seem to cry and shout a lot, but I didn’t think that was unusual she just had a lot of feelings that she couldn’t explain. I don’t remember when she stopped being allowed to play in my house or why that happened. I do remember that someone explained to me that I didn’t have to be so nice to everyone. I didn’t find being nice to her a chore though. She would give me her undivided attention for hours at a time, and I would give her mine. It was a very mutual exchange from my young vantage point. Not long after that her family moved away from mine. Some time afterwards my family got a few months of cable as one of those internet bundle promotions. I remember watching all the moves my friend had taught me in real life on the television, and feeling a sense of pride over the hours we spent practicing our routine. My new friends scoffed at Brittney Spears and thought girls that liked that kind of music were stupid air head bimbos. I had to agree with them externally, but inside I remembered my friend asking the same questions that they were.

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work in progress

I’ve been having a hard time sitting down to write lately. Not because I lack time, but because I lack empathy for my own process therefore how could I hope to have empathy for anyone else’s. There are a lot of things I could say about depression and creativity and in fact I already have said some here, but I don’t have the strength to go there right now. I am writing to here now to give the smallest of updates and the smallest of motivation to myself to keep going, to keep writing. Because in my experience writing helps put a frame around my experience to be able to look at it from that place in the mind that does not experience pain of living, the essence of being if you will. I promised you two books of poetry exactly a year ago, and truth be told I’m scared to release them. These poems were written in a very dark period of my life, and at the time they gave me a reason to keep on going, to keep on writing, but reading them now is painful. Painful that I hurt so much, and painful that I would wish to share that sort of hurt on the world that is suffering so much already. It’s a hard thing for me to reconcile with myself in my current black disposition. I have made a promise to finish them by the end of this year regardless because people have directly asked me to, people I respect, and people that have paid me money in order that I might keep going, keep writing. If it weren’t for these people that have invested their good faith in me I would probably give up on the project entirely. Which is depressing in itself. There is this idea that the only kind of pure art is art for art’s sake that the artist creates in this vacuum regardless of who will appreciate it, but I also believe that the creative experience is not complete without someone to receive the expression of the soul. It’s like trying to have a conversation while no one is listening. Between these two beliefs I feel a little lost about how to feel about the release of this body of work. It is coming though regardless if only so I can practice having empathy for the parts of myself and my work I do not like.

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30 day commitment

I am beginning a 30 day yoga commitment as I settle into my new home in Montreal. Fall is decidedly in the air which means letting go, accepting change of pace as days grow shorter, and harvesting for the winter ahead. This is a commitment to dedicating my days to the divine, and surrendering to what is as the seasons change in my heart & home.

October 30 day commitment:

  • Reflection on dreams
  • Divine Light Invocation in the morning
  • 4 sides of sun salutations in the morning
  • Karma yoga 1-2 hours minimum
  • Reflection on Swami Sivananda's Daily Readings
  • 108 Divine Mother prayers/mantras
  • Thich Nhat Hanh visualization exercise before bed
  • Reflection on days actions before bed
  • Media black out before bed & before yoga practice
  • Practice single pointed focus, no blame, compassionate listening, and mindful breathing in daily actions.

Hari Om Tat Sat

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5x rest in power

The events in Charlottesville are still reverberating around the world, and the legacy of white supremacist violence lives on unchallenged by the state. At home I am thinking about the anti racism billboard campaign that managed to enrage local white supremacists and "law abiding" racists alike. At the time of the release every public forum seemed to be flooded with a rage fuelled by fear of self reflection. Neighbours openly argued for racism (and against the campaign) unmasked and unashamed. Often with inconspicuous statements like "the city has better things to spend tax payer money on" moving the financial burden of education, let alone reparations, from the white public benefiting from the system to the individuals affected and their allies. As far as I know no direct violence erupted because of the ideological clash of the billboards, however I may be one of the last to know if there were as a white woman living and working in white neighbourhoods. Without obvious flair ups of violence such as the one in Charlottesville it's easy to fail to adequately comprehend the daily violence of white supremacy and everyday "casual" racism. I know that I have failed when I feel my "shock" in spite of reading daily about the worsening conditions in the U.S. and at home. I know that I have failed when I feel "afraid" for my future because of violence and prejudices that have effected other folks for generations. I know that I have failed when I feel "hopeless" in the face of dismantling 500 odd years of systematic violence from my relative position of power. I know that I have failed when I let my empathy for my fellow human's pain immobilize my body in "sadness" rather than extend a hand in loving service. I know that I have failed many times over, and yet I am here dedicated to the perseverance of love over hate, of knowledge over ignorance, of action over reaction, of peace over suffering. Today I share a few things that I am reading and considering as I face the shadows of myself betwixt the eclipses darkened sight. Rest in power to those fallen in service of compassion, peace, love, and justice.

  1. The Case for Reparations via The Atlantic
  2. Dear White People: I Want You to Understand Yourselves Better via The Establishment
  3. The Similarities Between Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Slavery via Huffington Post
  4. Indigenous Perspectives of Canada's 150 via APTN
  5. A Seat At The Table by Solange
  6. Donate to Support Charlottesville
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