Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thoughtful Thursday

"What are white people willing to give up in a system that benefits and privileges them?"
-Desmond Cole, activist, journalist and author

I usually write my I Like/Love aka Thankful Thursday at the end of the month, and link up with LeeAnna and other like-minded peeps at Not Afraid of Color. This week is not going to be one of those. When I first started this blog, I used to muse regularly about life stuff, and I don't do that very much anymore, except for within my gratitude posts. We had a discussion amongst our group as to what/how to handle this week in view of all the unrest, shock, and horror going on wrt the murder of yet another person of colour, this time, George Floyd, by one police officer, aided by three others. Some of us are choosing to write our thoughts about it; others are choosing to write an uplifting post in these deeply troubling times.

As a white woman, I have no idea, truly, what people of colour face, have faced, every single day of their lives. I do not consider myself a racist, yet if I am totally honest, which I tend to be, I have some inherent preconceived notions that I didn't really realize were in me, until I noticed them.

It is possible to change our thoughts, but to do so we first have to pay attention to them.
Bernie Clark, The Complet Guide to Yin Yoga p. 271

I often say that when I'm teaching yoga. I invite you over the next day or two, for the rest of your life, hopefully, to pay attention to your thoughts. As Bernie says, changing our thoughts is not easy. But it is possible.

Here are some of my thoughts, with some things to watch/read.

I have not watched that video; I am not good with violence and gore in movies, even when I know it is faked, so a real life documentation I cannot do. However, I've seen stills and a few other videos. Videos of a young black couple on their way home 13 minutes after curfew, pulled over, windows smashed in, dragged out, tased, videos of peaceful demonstrators being sprayed with tear gas and rubber bullets (did that happen in the Women's Marches in DC?)  Stills of that knee and thigh, grinding into a human being's neck. Stills of a restaurant owner, shot outside his establishment. A heart/gut/soul-wrenching video taken in the back of a police cruiser of a 4-year-old comforting her distraught out of her mind handcuffed mother whose boyfriend has been shot point-blank in their car in front of them while reaching for his documentation. Stills of two RCMP officers holding a white suspect while a third is running towards them, (in the video, punches the suspect 10 times in the face). Stills of a vigil outside a 24th floor balcony where a 29-year-old black woman fell to her death with two police officers in her apartment, stills of a young black teacher, who had a video of him taken and posted by a neighbourhood watch group on FaceBook showing him 'breaking into' his own car (he used an app on his phone, but it didn't work so he used his keys) with a caption, part of which reads, "lock your doors!"

You are probably thinking how awful it is in the US, which it is. You may be thinking how glad you are that it isn't that bad here, ('here' for me is Canada) which is what I have been thinking, and have thought for a lot of years. Well, three of the above incidents, those with links, happened in Canada, all within the past 8 days. Let that sink in. RCMP officers in Kelowna, Saturday night. The death of Regis, in Toronto May 27. The racial profiling of the teacher in Saskatoon on Monday evening. There certainly is racism here. There certainly is police brutality here.  Here are three brief articles I found that may shock you.

1. These two, both from June 2, 2020, on shootings in the US:
Police kill far more people in the US than in most rich countries
worth noting: 1. that's only shootings, not death by other means, such as in George Floyd's case, and 2. In England and Wales roughly as many (22) were killed by police in the past DECADE as in the US in an average WEEK (19) (caps are my own)
1028 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year
and another short one from independent media source, The Tyee (thanks to my husband, who does not follow mainstream media at all): Canada Has Race-Based Violence Too

2. A powerful, eloquent speech by Kim Foxx, State Attorney for Cook County, Illinois

3. This brief but illuminating explanation of systemic racism in America. Redlining happened to a lesser degree here in Canada (see this brief article about the practice in Hamilton, Ontario, but segregation in schools was also very much a practice. 1965 in Colchester, mere kilometres from my home, the last racially segregated school in Ontario closed, and in 1983, in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia! Prejudice and unfair treatment didn't happen to blacks only; my uncle told us of being physically caned for speaking Ukrainian in school in Alberta. When he first arrived, in the 30s, escaping the pogroms, he couldn't speak any English. Imagine being virtually gagged, and then punished physically when, at age 10-12 years, your mother tongue comes out, especially when speaking with your own sibling!

4. Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, wrote an excellent post on Monday. One phrase that has really resonated with me is, "Listen to their heart with your heart." Lindsay at Pinch of Yum also wrote a very thought-provoking one.

5. Hearts
This is a human heart, image from Wikipedia. Did it come out of a white person? A black person? A brown person? An Asian? A Muslim? A Christian? An atheist? A rich person or a poor person?

It just doesn't matter what it was wrapped in. It's a human heart. It pumped blood. It hurt. It loved.

This is basically the analogy I used with my grade 7 students when we did our English unit on Prejudice. Sidenote: We read The Eternal Spring of Mr. Ito by Sheila Garrigue, historical fiction about the internment of the Japanese in Canada.

6. After reading an article on CBC The Current, where Desmond Cole, a Canadian journalist and author, is speaking about police brutality continually being treated as a one-off in Canada, I now want to read his book, The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, and watch this CBC doc, sadly, only available in Canada right now, Firsthand: The Skin We're In.

7. The recognition of mental health's validity. Police need less funding and mental health needs more. Instead, the opposite happens these days. From the reading I have done and have been doing, it is clear that Canadian and American police officers do not get the de-escalation and mental health cases training that other countries, like Scotland, England, Wales, etc. do. Force is not the first response. Our Canadian police only started wearing bullet-proof vest and carrying handguns in the 90s; and brutality has gone up ever since. I am not saying their job is easy, far from it, but they need to have an outside and community-represented, from races to economic status, overseeing board, and it needs to be all public and accountable. I myself have started to learn more about mental health over the past two to three years. I have a lot to learn still.

8. We have come a long way in speaking out about sexual abuse by priests of young boys, of sexual abuse of women and men by persons, mostly men, in power, whether it's in the film industry, companies, government and so forth. We have spoken out about women's rights, LGBTQ rights. There have been many protests and marches, and now is time for speaking out. We white entitled people need to feel uncomfortable for a looooong time about racism and prejudice, inequality, white entitlement, and police brutality. Do I know people in all these communities? You betcha. Do I want them to be held accountable, and/or treated like humans? Yes. All of them. And let's not forget our Indigenous peoples. We have failed them miserably as well.
Speak out when you see/hear someone being racist. It is hard, but that is one small thing each of us white people can do that costs nothing and is a positive act in support of another human being. Investigate the party or candidate for whom you are voting. Find out their stance, their history on these issues. Do you know just a few months ago, before the Canadian election, that a yoga student of mine actually said to me when we were chatting after class, that although he supported the NDP, he didn't think they would win, 'with the leader of the party we currently have' and 'well, to be honest, I don't want someone like that representing Canada. That's not Canada."
Canada is multi-cultural. This policy was officially adopted in the 70s and 80s. Yes, I told him that, and, in as nice terms as I could, that I vehemently disagreed with his statement. Incidentally, he did support the former leader. A woman. So at least there's that...

9. Education is key. Be informed.
Books, whether fiction, historical fiction or non-fiction, can open one's eyes. Here are just a few I've read in all categories, that may shake up your beliefs/world view a little. Some of them are about racism, others about immigrants because that is something I've long spoken out about and given quilts to organizations who will give them to new immigrants, especially refugees. That is something you may choose to look into as well. One avenue I used was a mosque in Windsor, another was Children's Aid, both of whom knew families who would need and appreciate my quilts.

Honeymoon in Purdah by Alison Wearing
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
When All You Have is Hope by Frank O'Dea
The Soloist by Steve Lopez
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz
Threading My Prayer Rug by Sabeeha Rehman

If you know of more that deal with racism, immigrants, refugees, mental health, please let us know in the comments.

10. Brianne sent me this. I am sure there are similar posts out there for your specific country. The other thing both daughters have done is repost posts of black-owned businesses to support, another small way to help.

Lastly somewhere on Instagram I read, and I'm paraphrasing and adding on, that 2020 has been a shake-up year (and how many times have we heard people say, even said it ourselves, that we just want it to be over, all this crazy) but she said maybe this is the point. 2020 is the BEGINNING of crazy change and forcing us to be uncomfortable and to really look at ourselves and the shit we've been doing. Topsy-turvy, upside down, shake up your way of life from the pandemic, to the horrors, to the tragedies, to nature blossoming while we've (another Insta post) 'been sent to our rooms to think about what we've done.' And it's not just about the abuse of the planet, but the abuse of our sister and fellow humans.

It all seems overwhelming and huge (400 years huge), and we don't know where/how/what to do to help make this world better, but each person doing just one small thing, as often as one can, will change society.

To come full circle, in Desmond's words when asked what white people can do:

"Read about what we're doing.... and then get behind us and find the ways you can support these struggles in your own communities."
A stunning dogwood in my neighbourhood


  1. Thank you, Sandra, for an eloquent and thought provoking post. I am truly so sick over all that has been happening that I can barely think, much less express any coherent thoughts of my own. It is time, past time, for all of us to speak out and make this a better world for everyone.

  2. These musing and reflections mirror a lot of my own thoughts. Thank you for sharing so many articles and resources.

  3. Beautifully said. Unfortunate that we find ourselves here, in this time. I am heartbroken and worried about those I love (and those who I don’t know) who are subjected to this injustice daily. We must do better. This is 2020 and it sucks in so many ways - we need love, respect, justice for all. Thank you for your words and actions.

  4. Wow - what a great, comprehensive post. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Well said. Thank you for writing it! We have a long way to go for racial equality it's past time we did something about it.

  6. It's so important to speak up about racism and you have done so admirably. I have a 2 year old granddaughter who would be identified as black and to think that she might have to face discrimination because of her colour is upsetting and frightening. You are so right to point out that we are all the same inside. We share a common humanity.

  7. Thank you Sandra for this heartfelt post. You went so much further than I did - thank you for the links and suggested reading. I would add another book that is on my current reading list: Black Like Me, the story of a journalist in the '60's who went undercover as a black man in the South.

  8. Thank you so much for this. I think it is necessary for those of us who have spent lives privileged by skin color to acknowledge that we have work to do to understand that, and then to get busy doing that work. And be humbled by it, which is not comfortable but is proper.

  9. Thank you for this! Thank you for the links and the brave statements and the calls to action.

  10. Since I live in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul, staying the same isn’t an option. A coworker told me about Latasha Morrison’s racial reconciliation group, education, and book Be the Bridge. New members of the group must commit two three months of listening and education, and my daughter and I are going to do it together. It’s a step. We’re better together.

  11. Hi Sandra! Enough. I hope we have all had enough. Together we can make a change. A real change. {{Hugs}} ~smile~ Roseanne

  12. Thank you for using your platform to speak up! The more people who do this, the better our chances of making real change this time. - Sandy

  13. I left Nova Scotia when I was 15 and moved to Ontario. I remember being told to learn to speak english. I was speaking english but with my Nova Scotia accent. I was very hurt but I did lose my accent. It always comes back after a couple of days back home. There’s lots of hurtful words and actions in our world. Hopefully things will get better.

  14. Thank you for speaking out while also providing resources and suggestions. I feel I've received some very mixed messages this week on what I, as a privileged white person, am supposed to do. I'm sorry that people who thought they were responding correctly have been harassed and bullied. The world is a depressing place right now.

  15. It's been so easy to be smug that racism doesn't live where I am. Clearly, it's been easy to be smug and ignorant. Please God, George Floyd and others like him, will not have died in vain, and the knees will be lifted off the necks of everyone as a result. thanks for your reality check.

  16. Thank you, Sandra. I appreciate you writing this on your quilting blog. The personal is political as this teacher who studied Women's Studies in university has known but been silent about for too long. As a fellow Canadian, I would like to suggest that you add reading about and learning about the racism encountered by Indigenous people here as well. Your family's story of not being allowed to speak their language at school is a similar to story of First Nations children sent to residential schools. Speaking my Truth is a good book for this - it was the book we read as a university when I was at teachers college. Again, thank you!

  17. Thank you for the very thoughtful post Sandra. We've had some mindful and eye opening conversations in our household this week. It was startling to realize that we work with only one African American PhD who has been with the company 33 years. There are other African American employees, but only one PhD out of 100+ PhDs. The SIT related how during an interview about her undergraduate research advisor she asked if she had ever considered it odd to be working with an African American (the only non-white faculty member in the department, she's the only white person in his group). It wasn't anything she had ever consciously thought about.

  18. Sandra, thank you so much for doing the research and addressing so much that is on our hearts and minds, but difficult to express. You must have been a awesome teacher. You still are! Today we are seeing some tiny steps forward. I hope it can be sustained.

  19. This is a great post, Sandra. It is rather sickening to realize how complacent and blind we've been, isn't it? I know I always thought that being not-racist (ie, treating people the same regardless of, well, anything) was enough. I never once thought about the systemic, institutional level. If you're looking for more reading material, I shared a post on IG that is a picture of a bunch of books, all of them recommended reading.

  20. Sandra, your post made me think, and I had to think for awhile before I could comment. Thank you for all this information, horrifying as it is. I'm working hard to listen and learn. I appreciated the list of books, and will read at least one new book on this topic, to learn more. Small Great Things really affected me and I definitely learned from it! I appreciate your very thoughtful post!

  21. Thank you for this very thought provoking post.