Scared to write this column

I’m scared to write this column. But I must!

It’s easy to tell myself I should wait until I know or understand more before I leap in. Fearing I’ll say the wrong thing keeps me silent. This is a cop-out, and deep inside I know it.

It’s easy to pretend the problem isn’t here, that I’m not ‘like that,’ or I’m innocent. I also know that’s not true.

The chicken inside of me resists, because of the many bullies who feel free to criticize and spout hatred and cruel words. But I must get over my fear and do what’s right, because so many don’t have the option of hiding out. 

I must stand-up, as a white person, acknowledge I have privilege earned only because of genetics. I must be part of the solution to the pervasive racism in our society. It’s no longer OK to be non-racist, I must be anti-racist, and an ally. 

I used to think it was a virtue believing I was colour-blind, believing I didn’t see a person’s colour. I didn’t know this belief was absolute crap, and it only added to the problems faced by black, indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC). 

I need to see their race and colour, to consider their life history, and to acknowledge we aren’t on a level playing field. I must be curious about their experience of life, and that of their ancestors, and its impact on their lives. I imagine putting myself in the shoes of one who’s faced micro-aggression, racism and hatred, but I can’t because I’ve never lived their history. 

To be colour blind denies others’ lived experience and the systemic racism many people live with. It’s important I understand the impact years of racism and abuse have created and how it out pictures if I’m to make a difference.

In teaching at UBC Okanagan, I was blessed to be a participant in the Aboriginal Program, offered by the Aboriginal Elders. I was also blessed to sit in talking circles with wise elders, as they shared their painful stories and experiences.

My naiveté was stripped away as I listened. I experienced empathy as I witnessed the pain of their experiences. I deepened in my understanding of the effects of racism and genocide on their lives. 

So, I’ve started asking my friends of colour more questions about their life experiences. And, I listen to the stories and feel the outrage and the pain. It’s important for me to listen, and feel the outrage. This outrage is a mobilizing factor.

I take in the pain, and remember it on purpose. I no longer turn away as I read stories of what’s happening around us, as I take in the human impact of racism and hatred. I’m educating myself, my head and my heart, and I’ve got a long way to go.

I remember that, just like me, everyone wants to live in a world where they feel safe, and have the same freedom and opportunities I have, simply because of my race and the colour of my skin.

I was shocked when I took an online implicit bias test. It revealed I wasn’t’ colour-blind at all, I was just blind. 

I was so shocked at the results, I felt the test must be wrong or I hadn’t done it properly. Maybe I was tired, and so I took the test again the next day, after I was rested. It revealed the same thing. I have implicit bias, and so do we all.

The first step, and an important step, is recognizing I have implicit bias. When I’m aware of the lenses through which I’m viewing the world, I can become active in overcoming them. 

I’m going to make mistakes, and I have to risk this. Mistakes happen when we’re learning.

I can no longer say this is someone else’s problem to fix. It’s up to me, and it’s up to each and every one of us to take this personally, and be the change that’s needed in this world.

For me, the question is simple; what I would want for myself and my family if the roles were reversed. This clarifies matters pretty quickly. 

Taking each racist act personally, knowing it’s not someone else’s problem but mine, motivates me to do and be better. Silence is accord. I’ve got to get past my white comfort to stand up and make this a world that works for everyone. 

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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