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‘Your problems with me are not my problems’

Monday August 25, 2014

We are coming down to the last couple of weeks of summer.

With the return of fall comes the return of students.

Thousands of students will be making their way back into the classroom, some for the first time and others possibly for the last if this is their graduating year in post-secondary education.

This time of year was always my favourite as a child going back to elementary school.

High school was sort of a different story. My family was moving a lot so the scenery and schools always changed. I even chose to move to Thunder Bay when I was 14 as a boarding student and started yet again in a new school, but this time I was alone.

I didn’t have my family to go home to, and neither will many students who will be returning to school here in the city.

Things are different now, as they always are with each new generation.

But the one thing that stands out the most to me is how much more aggressive this city seems to have become, and how hostile it is towards First Nations people.

It’s nothing new to experience racism in this city, but what has made it seem much more apparent and brutal is the fact that you see it every day online.

Social media is a giant piece of most people’s lives, especially young people who are very active users.

There are recent events in this city that have seemingly ramped up prejudicial behaviour and racist comments online, comments that are screenshot and shared widely and cause outrage.
Several have outraged myself.

There was one comment that irked me in particular in which a non-Native woman listed all the horrible names she would never have to worry about being called because she wasn’t a First Nations person. She said she would “always be accepted.”

It made me sick to think what kind of person talks like that?

Who taught her to be so mean and vile?

What is wrong in her life, in her spirit, that she had to be so vicious? What was wrong in all of those other people’s lives whose comments upset others and me?

I started to think of all the hate I was reading constantly online in a particular manner that it was affecting my own mentality, my own self-esteem, in a negative way. I was walking around thinking everyone in this place hated me. I was nervous to use my status card for purchases.

I eventually stopped reading into it that way. I stopped looking at it as “this is how everyone feels” because that’s not the case.

I do not believe people are inherently volatile.

I believe hate can be such a strong motivator that it causes unhappy, discontent people to speak up and spread their vile remarks on any topic, including those about First Nations people.

Let’s face it; happy people who are content with their lives don’t go around saying mean, horrible stuff.

There is something wrong with that individual, not anyone who is a First Nations person. The same can be said for those who attack others who are Black, or Asian, or Jewish, or gay.

The main people I worry about the most are our First Nations youth who may see something online that is degrading and hurtful and then think, “Am I really what they say I am?”

Because I know what it’s like to be a youth and the struggle to find a place you fit in, to want an identity. If any young people are reading this, believe me those horrid insults and posts are not your identity. Those things that are sometimes being said online that turn up in your newsfeeds are not who you are.

And those things that sometimes come out of this city, the one some of you will be returning to, are not valid or truthful. They come from a place that is dark and painful inside the people who are saying it.

I saw a meme the other day on Tumblr, of all places, that had a quote from someone that read, “your problems with me are not my problems, those are your problems.”

And that is true for everyone who is saying nasty things online about those who are different from them.

I hope that every student who is returning to school stays safe, that they help keep each other safe.

I also hope that they attend classes and achieve their education in peace wherever they choose to go.

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