In elementary school I learned a fair bit about prejudice and striving towards harmony and equality. I also went to a progressive school, in a special program that lumped grades 1-3 and 4-6 together that in retrospect seems like classroom socialism. It wasn’t a perfectly enlightening conversation and the classroom wasn’t as diverse as a representation of society would be, which kept the white liberal bias alive and well. After all, other kids of other backgrounds were predominant in other classrooms of other schools, in other parts of the city. But for me, it was an early start to an open ear that I’m always trying to improve upon. Continuing throughout my education and into real life, I’ve grown to appreciate being schooled by other people who weren’t present in my early classrooms.
This requires self-restraint on my own righteous rampages on general issues. The fight against prejudice isn’t a religion one converts to; there is no mandate for me to spread a zealous gospel on the struggles of other people. The struggles come from the colonial history that spans across the world – white people assuming control over other lands and insisting they know best.
That is what has put white people in privileged positions today, including that of wealth and of representation in governments. Beyond the obscenely wealthy, even those of us with middle class incomes have a greater advantage in life, in large part because of circumstances of birth, than non-white people. This is an institutional advantage. To attempt at narrowing the racial divide by extending institutional advantages to non-white people is a paradox. It is keeping power, but adding a splash of colour. The undercoat is still white.
That is just a tiny tip of the giant iceberg of why the solutions thrown about in public dialogue for race-based problems are generally useless. The “just work hard” solutions of going to school and getting a job are spoken from the perspective that society is shaped as it is out of objective truth, and the solution is in individual actions within that. It neglects to see the imperial roots and short history of the current way livings are made, and dismisses the perspectives of these marginalized people that object to it and its outcomes. Multi-culturalism and equality under the law are rugs to sweep things under, and they are blinders on the mainstream population to the perspective that things are not as equal as they seem.
The more aware of this I’m made – the more I see pushes back reacted to – the more on the sidelines I want to be. I don’t mean that in a withdrawing way. That would be staying at home. It would be watching and reading things from the white perspective, the one that insists “Canada is Canada” and “America is America” and “freedom hails from the West”. I want to watch indigenous groups stand up to colonial law enforcement. I want to see self-determination in civil wars, upheavels, and revolutions, not you’re-doing-it-wrong interventionism. I want to see schools built and run by locals to educate their children by their own cirriculum. I want to see women be listened to through what they say and not what they wear.
But this is all going to come with colourless commentary from the lens we don’t know we’re wearing. The way things ought to be will get laced into reporting without being said, because that’s how hegemony works. Being aware of that, and observing the differences between “news” and the individual accounts of non-white people, is at least an opportunity to personally see beyond the bias.
That’s where I’m trying to be.