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Overcoming fear and racism

Thursday February 7, 2013

After everything that has happened here in the City of Thunder Bay regarding abductions, assaults, and middle-of-nowhere drop-off’s on cold winter nights, I don’t blame anyone from surrounding communities for fearing for their loved one’s safety.

Along with being a place where you can instantly connect with people around the world at the click of a mouse to share funny images and jokes, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter also serve as an outlet for reporting horror stories from across the nation and perpetuating this never ending fact/fable of Us vs. Them, Anishinabe vs. Non-Anishinabe. It is a place where racism is called out, talked about, and exposed by service users.

I know racism exists out there. I’ve experienced it my whole life. As I grow older, I will probably continue to experience racism because bigoted beliefs are so engrained into a person’s psyche that there is little to no chance of just forcing a change. That is what a belief is, it is something that someone accepts is true, that is fact. A belief, even a discriminatory one, is an unfaltering opinion.

I’ve stopped worrying about what other people believe because it’s a waste of time and energy. Anti-racism campaigns haven’t put much of a dent into the lasting history of dinner table-learned racism. I sometimes wonder, is it really possible to just STOP RACISM?

All I can really do is keep moving forward, show my child how to respect everyone regardless of their race, social-status, gender, or sexual-preference. All I can do is keep moving forward in my education, in the work force, and in life.

But what happens when those around you who refuse to live and let live, who refuse to learn the value of respecting others, who refuse to STOP BEING RACIST, actually start attacking you?

What if you are taken from the streets and assaulted simply because you are of a certain colour?

What if you are trying to browse through clothing stores at the local mall and mall security won’t leave you alone, what if they actually tell you “hey you better leave, we’re gonna call the cops!”

What if one of those same cops the guards will call is the one who took your friend off the street and drove her out to the middle of nowhere and made her walk back to the city simply because she was Anishinabe?

What do we do now?

Educate ourselves on our rights when it comes to encounters with law enforcement, know who to contact in case we are ever assaulted/mistreated by law enforcement, arm ourselves with personal safety devices when we want to go to the local store, always stay in pairs, carry a mobile phone…

It makes me wonder just who these people we are protecting ourselves from are.

Why do we have to “arm ourselves” at all just to live life normally?

Why do we have to accept the fact that this city and some of its people can be scary, and they can be violent, and we have to be prepared for it?

A few weeks ago, I came across a picture of a young woman online that still stands out to me. She was holding a sign that read, “I need feminism because my university teaches ‘How to Avoid Getting Raped’ instead of “Don’t Rape” at Freshmen orientation.”

As if getting raped is a fact of life we all must accept and we must learn how to avoid it.
I don’t want Anishinabe people walking around with their heads hung low, collars pulled up high, and trying to “avoid” potentially dangerous situations and armed with weapons of self defense. This is Thunder Bay, not Detroit or some war-torn country at constant conflict.

I do agree that it is frightening that there are still people out there who want to, and have already, hurt our brothers and sisters and haven’t been caught yet – but it is in no way to walk around in fear of what may happen.

Fear will stop you from going out at night, maybe even the day. Fear will cause you to lose faith in your fellow man, fear will bring doubt and denial, fear will eat at your heart and steal its happiness, and fear will change your beliefs and change your attitude.

Fear will turn you into someone you’re not supposed to be.

It’s okay to be educated on personal safety, it’s okay to be ready in case anything should ever happen to you, it’s okay to pray for your brothers and sisters – but don’t let fear snuff your light out.

If anything, the ones who do the hurting are the ones whose lives are dominated by fear – fear of you here, as an Anishinabe person, even after everything that has happened to you and your people. Still here. Still living. Still staying strong.

Pray for those people who want to hurt as well. They need the most help.

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I never heard my mom or dad

I never heard my mom or dad make racist remarks. Still as a white woman I feel it is everyone's responsibility to educate themselves. Keep informed by reading and speaking out. I will never stop talking and spreading stories of injustice.

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