Our Colonial Privilege

I’m usually good at avoiding Facebook melodrama. I post my personal opinions here, online, in a space curated for myself and for those who want to communicate with me. In that, I can mostly insulate myself from extremist hyperbole and filter in only the necessary news-bytes of the week. This week was slower than the past few, and I found myself with more time to mentally amble. The Devil makes use of idle hands, and he took possession of mine for typing replies to misguided folk who were defending the indefensible event of an unarmed indigenous boy being shot in the back of the head by a white farmer in a rural and purported bigoted community.

Context is everything, though especially in this case. And the anecdotes and allegories that people shared about how they “knew a white person once who was shot for trespassing” were as hollow and vapid as people who say that they “have a black friend at work”. How can people be so dense as to not see the gaps in their thinking? Race and issues of minority influence almost every human interaction; sometimes for the better, often for the worse. Even among those who consider themselves socially enlightened, those who talk and check others for their ‘white privilege’, you’ll find a certain ignorance. Because there’s a marginalization and viral racism that pervades past the culture wars that have ravaged every colonized landmass in the world. Look deeper and we will find the remnants of another war: one against the first peoples.

Andeans, Celts, indigenous people from all walks and cultures around the globe have been expunged from the history books of their present-era colonizers, reduced to anachronicities of language (Mississauga), and relics in museums. We speak so often of white privilege that we are able to mask our colonial privilege. No one wants to acknowledge that the identity and religious politics in which we are embattled are a secondary indecency to the systemic erasure and reduction of indigenous rights and culture. So when we hear indigenous voices cry out, we conjure up false equivalences about horrible things happening to people not of color, or we turn to the spectre that is Trump (or Hillary—politics depending), because those are easier monsters to face.

Taking into account the full range of debate on population figures pre colonization, experts mostly agree that there were once 50 to 100 million indigenous people living in North America. 90% of that figure was decimated by disease (intentionally spread or otherwise), environmental changes and war, and that number continues to atrophy. It’s a holocaust that no one discusses, because it trivializes many of today’s hot debates. White on black crime is bad, we all agree. Sexual predators must be stopped, hear hear. Women’s voices mustn’t be silenced. We have so many issues that when an indigenous youth is shot for next to nothing, we give a passing regard, say some commentary on Facebook and get back to our real arguments, the ones that matter to us—because Canada’s wound is so gangrenous and festering that it couldn’t possibly be treated and perhaps these ailments can.

Only it can, it should be treated, and Canada—and other countries like it—will continue to struggle with any and all identity politics until they look back to the past, to the first wars against culture and take accountability. Only then will healing spread, and echo, into our generation. Only then will we have a chance at reconciliation. But first, we need to talk about the ground beneath our feet that is soaked in blood.

All my love,