Saturday, October 11, 2008

Don't Give Me No Lies & Keep Your Racism To Yourself

We recently got to witness something historic & relatively exciting here in good ol' Dodge. First Nations Members from several bands sat in peaceful protest for 5 days, erecting teepees, participating in smoke circles & interrupting work on the new oil line that is being built through our illustrious community.

The bands were protesting their lack of involvement in the project, a lack of consultation, & yes, a lack of monetary consideration. They felt they were being excluded from a significant economic development opportunity, excluded from the process. According to the local rag, First Nations groups claimed they had an agreement with Enbridge Pipelines that they would be consulted prior to the beginning of the Alberta Clipper project, but were not.

The protesters were instructed to erect a blockade to prevent construction for 4-5 days on the pipeline. Their leaders insisted on:

  • peaceful demonstrations ~ no violence.

  • no alcohol or drugs.

  • no trace ~ everything cleaned up before they left.

These were followed to the letter. Three friends stopped by to chat with them, to join the circle, to understand & discuss what the issues were & what they hoped to accomplish. All were welcomed with open arms, with smokes, with coffee, with gratitude, with frank & open discussion. All came away glad they had made an effort to see for themselves what the protest was all about.

As I've been working a few days each week, I've been lucky {please note voice dripping with sarcasm} to be exposed to the public, the common man & their opinions on the protest. I won't repeat the comments I've heard here ~ I refuse to put that kind of trash out into the world where it can be subconsciously absorbed by others ~ but I can tell you I'm not impressed.

I am not fond of racism. that too vague? I hate racism. I try to judge people by their individual actions, by the way that they treat me & mine, & by the way they conduct themselves when faced with adversity. I try very hard not to generalize, to lump people into ethnic/nationality/religious groups. I try to see individuals, not groups. I may not always succeed, but I earnestly try.

This is not true of most of the people I've encountered in the last couple weeks.

Tell me, tell me now, what the hell is 5 days of protest & inconvenience compared to 400 years of oppression & cultural genocide? What is 5 days of missing work compared to 400 years of being treated first like sub-humans, then menial labourers, then a "project" to be trained & "civilized"?

Some people say, "When is enough enough? When will we be done paying for the actions of those who came before us?" To them, I ask: when would you be satisfied if someone took your home, your land, your yard, your little part of the world & gave you some crap place to live? What reparations would make up for that? How far would you go, & what would you insist on receiving in order to make things right in your world again?

I try to comprehend. I try to analyze where this attitude comes from. Racism is based on ignorance, lack of education, lack of understanding, fear of the unknown, & mostly from the crap handed down by those around who influence us. Racism is ugly. Racism is alive & well today not only in Dodge, but everywhere.

I had hoped that the people of Dodge had overcome their rather notorious past {this is not the place you wanted to be in the 60s & 70s if you were not white, or so I've heard}. My hopes were dashed.

Now boys & girls, I don't want to give the impression that the whole town was firing up crosses & forming lynch mobs. That simply was not the case. But there was grumbling, & discontent, & racist comments disguised as humour. There was the Pierre Trudeau salute for the protesters during their peaceful demonstration march through town.

The roots of racism run deep. We in Canada can no longer look to our neighbours to the south with righteous superiority. Our treatment of different races, especially our Aboriginal groups, was no better.

1 comment:

french panic said...

I'm with you on this, Wilma. Well said.