Wednesday, 18 October 2017

White Privilege and its Existance: A Point from Someone Who 'Looks White'

It has almost been a year since I last wrote a blog entry. Whether it is from dismay and dissatisfaction with the political climate in the United States to whether Indigenous peoples are truly being listened to – I have been pondering many items. On top of this I have been busy with personal and academic items that have also taken up quite a lot of my time. However, recently I have been involved with many online discussions around the topics of racism, discrimination, privilege and, more specifically, white privilege.

The discussions I have become involved with regarding to privilege, racism, and discrimination have been actual debates over whether any or all of the terms mentioned truly exist. Low and behold, the common thread has been someone of European background denying that some, or any of them, even exist.

What is White Privilege?

White privilege, as outlined by Francis E. Kendall, reflects the fact that many of European ethnic background have benefits to being ‘ethnically white’ in societies where they have dominated for centuries. Additionally, it is a concept that is difficult for many who are ethnically white to fully comprehend, as Kendall mentions, because many white people tend not to feel they have the power that is associated with privilege. Kendall states in a 2002 academic article that the lack of comprehension by many white people to the concept of white privilege is “sort of liking asking fish to notice water or birds to discuss air. For those who have privileges based on race or gender or class or physical ability or sexual orientation, or age, it just is – it’s normal.” In other words, Kendall highlights that there is an inability for many to see it because it is something they have been accustomed to since birth. Furthermore Peggy McIntosh elaborates that for many white people, “the items that are privileges tend to be assumed by them to be privileges universally available to everybody.” McIntosh also further elaborates that for many white people, “one of [their] privileges is that [they] see themselves as individuals, just people, part of the human race.” What many on the ‘white side’ of the human race forget is that this has been an item they have been able to be conditioned to view – a view that has allowed them to look forward without reflecting the past. It has allowed many to also believe that by changing laws means all will be equal under them since they would be recognized as ‘human’ or ‘citizens.’ Unfortunately, equality does not necessarily mean equity. Nor does it reflect the reality for many who are not white – or especially who aren’t cis white males.

The reality is for many whom are of Westernized European background they have been fortunate enough to continue living in a more ‘equal’ world then those who are not. Unfortunately, what is becoming more frightening as some push back against the concept of White privilege, is also those feeling they can also claim there is no such thing as racism or discrimination today… a section that many are pulling out of a Trump play book it seems.

Debates on the Existence of Racism and Discrimination:

I cant even count the number of times since November 2016 that I have had to argue with people who claim racism and discrimination aren't real.  It is unbelievable to even fathom that we’re discussing the existence of racism and discrimination. Thus I wont go into detail on this because I will treat racism and discrimination as something that exists. However, I will share definitions with both because I think it is important to remind some people.

Racism: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherently superiority of a particular race.’

Discrimination: The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.

How does this relate to issues of white privilege? Well, many who argue against white privilege try and use a select few examples of non-white people with privilege to show how a) it doesn’t exist and b) that in comparison to them they have privilege and are thus doing better then the white individual arguing against white privilege. What they don’t realize is that it shows not only their glossing over of true and documented racism and discrimination but also bypassing the differences between what is called white privilege and privilege in general.

How Is It That I See White Privilege Regularly?

I would assume by now you would know I believe that white privilege does exist. But you may wonder why. Well, the reality is that, and especially for those of you who don’t know me in-person, I am an Indigenous person, who is also gay, but looks stereotypically white. I witness first-hand the change in attitude and approach people have with me specifically.

In my personal experiences, the attitude and approach people have with me is traditionally different when people assume I am a white straight male. I will be treated with respect amongst many who are white at first – I tend to still be treated well these days if and when the other person finds out I am LGBT (this was not necessarily always the case 10 years ago). I am also 6.3 and over 200lbs – that also has garnered respect. I can look like an educated white straight male and am usually respected for that … until… they find out I am also Indigenous. I have seen facial expressions change; body language shift; and so on. My opinions have gone from being listened to when they assume I am one of them to being considered conspiracy theorish or bias because I am Indigenous. The key point here is that I, as someone who looks like a white straight male at times, witness a complete change from some people when they discoverer I am actually a European/Indigenous mixed gay man. To further my points, please see a list of examples – some of which I have experienced myself, others from examples in studies.

Examples of White Privilege, Racism, Discrimination, and all Three Together:
  • White privilege is not having to defend your argument or point as hard because the methodology and scientific forms dominant amongst Western societal and education structure are assumed to not be biased to western/white societies…its assumed to be unbiased because its already established by your dominant society.
  • White privilege is not having to be asked to defend and prove a point relating to the structure or history of your peoples – for instance, not being asked to prove the fact that a specific Indigenous nation was a part of a specific confederation … despite the two people being asked to defend and prove it are 1) a PhD student who does political science and Indigenous politics + 2) a person who is from one of the nations in the confederacy being spoken of.
  •  White privilege is not having to identify or defend your right to exist every single day and multiple times in a day.
  • White privilege is having a diversity of choices for toys as a kid representing whiteness while those who are non-white have select few options...
  • White privilege is not having to have someone from another ethnicity say what you and many others of a specific ethnicity have said to either be taken seriously or be listened to (for Instance, White people dont need a black person to say if they are suffering from substandard policy; a White person doesnt need an Indigenous person to discuss if the Irish have been colonized or if past policies have further created problems.. yet in both cases, the black community and Indigenous peoples consistently are only listened to when a person of important stature in the dominant society (Western society) speaks up).
  • White privilege is not having to worry, sweat, or internally freak out when a police car begins to follow you – especially when you have done nothing wrong. I think its safe to say a majority of black and Indigenous peoples do not feel this way. Why do they worry, sweat or internally freak out? Pick up a history book or a paper: shooting, excessive force, the ‘starlight tours,’ residential schools, the Sixties Scoops, Wounded Knee, Ipperwash, Caledonia, Oka, and so on).
  • White privilege is not having to worry about your resume being cast aside because your name sounds ‘non-white.’
  •  White male privilege is being able to tell others to get over Trump being elected because its democracy… and not having to fear being targeted or suffering under his presidency because you are not LGBT, female, or a person of colour.
  •  White female privilege is claiming to be able to talk for all females because you are the same gender, while ignoring the problems many women of colour or Indigenous women face from white women not only today but historically (the famous five in Canada for instance weren’t all necessarily for the equality of all women – with some preferring only equality for white Christian women and, in one case, even arguing for forced sterilization of Indigenous women.
  • White privilege is being able to have better socio economic possibilities then someone of colour who is at the same level of education. For instance, a white straight male will do far better then anyone in the work force without a high school diploma… while a white female also will, not as good as a white man, have better opportunities then a black woman, or, say a black gay male...
  • The examples and stories of Rosa Parks and Viola Desmond? Racism.
  • ResidentialSchools and Sixties Scoop? Racism.
  • Expressing or calling someone who is LGBT a ‘Faggot’ – Discrimination.
  • Saying all Gays should be killed? Discrimination…. And in many countries NOT ILLEGAL
  • Calling an Indigenous person a Dirty Indian and parasite on society? A mix of Racism and Discrimination
  • Assuming an Indigenous person doesn’t need a job because ‘they get everything for free?’ A mix of racism and discrimination.
  • Not having to worry about where you travel in the world because you are white? White Privilege.
  •  When white people from European states or around the world are compensated for the territory or property they have lost because of upheaval and wars do not have to defend their compensation like that of many Indigenous peoples, other colonized peoples, etc? White Privilege (or even more specific – settler-colonial privilege in general).

These are specific – lets not get them mixed with generic privilege. Someone who is able to travel, that is a general privilege. Someone who is able to get an education is also a general privilege for some. But lets not forget that stats show a specific group of people can traditionally access both and they don’t tend to non-white peoples in western societies.


Now, as someone who grew up of humble means on a reservation and in a single parent family I have witnessed forms of discrimination but also garnered certain privileges over time. For instance, I acknowledge that I have the privilege of having a BA, an MA, and am currently working on my PhD. I, alongside my partner, are in a comfortable income bracket. I am able to travel to many places, albeit we are cautious with where we go because we risk being attacked or charged for being gay.

And, lastly, I acknowledge that I have the privilege of looking white – which, as long as I keep my mouth shut, opens doors for me that aren’t open to some of my friends and family who many look more ‘stereotypically’ Indigenous or whom look black.

My problem is I wont hide behind looking white when people say ignorant things. My other intersectionalities do not allow for such a thing. My other problem? Some will shrug this post off and refer to me as a biased Indigenous person who doesn’t know what it is like to have to work for everything... (sarcasm intended). Or, as said to me once: “you’re just a dirty Indian faggot.”

How someone can look at that sentence and tell me there isn’t racism and discrimination is beyond me… how someone can look at examples I highlighted and don’t see white privilege also astounds me… but then again, as highlighted those who shrug this off help to show the extent that white privilege does go… as shown by the quotes from Kendall and McIntosh


(The most important article for those who are white and not of wealthy-elite status)

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I Support Betterment for Indigenous Youth; I Dont Support Using Them for Political Gain

As stated in the title of this entry, I support the betterment and proper treatment/funding for Indigenous youth. It has been continuous that provincial and federal governments have not held up their side of the settler/Indigenous relations - forcing us on to reserves, taking our youth away, 'trying to kill the 'Indian' in the Child,' and seeking provincial control over Indigenous peoples, especially First Nations. Thus, it is more then overdue for shifts in the relationship and time for the proper and dutiful consultation and working relationship needed with our communities to rectify and fix these problems.

There is another problem with how we fix these problems? How can a new and better/more dutiful form of consultation, relationship building, and nation-to-nation context be developed and implemented if a Canadian government does not properly do what it needs to in order to move towards such consultation etc - this requires consultation on what consultation and thus implementation would entail. Furthermore, to whom is the consultation on how consultation is to be implemented and developed to be discussed with?

Indian Act Chief and Councils? Traditional Governance/Clan Mothers/Clan Leaders where they still exist? The people - in-community and off-of community? The Numbered Treaties, or the Modern Treaties? The areas not treatied or the pre-confederation treaties? Or all of the treaty and non treatied areas which, in many cases, have various differences within them? The Indigenous organizations or the grassroots Indigenous Organizations? Or Both? The list could go on.

As complicated as it all seems, the conversation needs to happen. But what doesn’t need to happen? The NDP utilizing the plight of Indigenous youth to score political points in the western political system that Canada utilizes.'

I have strong issue with this, as it has been a consistent thing the NDP has done for years - with many forgetting the party's recent history and past. Charlie Angus, and others, have been excessively vocal (with him recently belittling Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux on twitter because she had been a past LPC-Candidate and thus her work is tainted because of this - because, it always looks good when a white man belittles an FN Woman who is a survivor, who comes from it all and worked damn hard to persevere through it - sarcasm intended).

But again - Charlie Angus and others loyal and supportive of the NDP have no issue with putting forth a motion that, if defeated, will still make them look like defenders of Indigenous peoples, especially FNs. They do this despite knowing that their motion is impossible to enact. Why? Canada's political structure has a hierarchy, it has checks and balances, it has systems in place, it has a bureaucracy, there are also laws - all of which need to then be reviewed, changed, supported and endorsed in the HOC etc - all in order to make come into effect (despite the fact the Liberal Government is working towards (aka: consulting) how best to make consultation better and more reflective of both sides as equal partners on these lands).

Again - Angus and others are doing this and pushing it because if it is defeated, especially since the Liberal government is working towards making the changes needed on welfare but there are so many processes and protocols to follow when making these changes on both the Canadian and Indigenous sides of this issue, then they can use it to make it look like they are tryng to save us Indigenous peoples and that it is only them who are listening to us ... which is not true at all. They rely on the fact that many, including many on the Indigenous side, do not fully know or understand the political and legal processes that must be followed to make something occur or enacted.

Angus and others also rely on the fact that many do not know or recall or know the NDP's own history and how they have assisted in making things worse for Indigenous peoples, whether supporting colonial legislation in the past when they were called the 'Progressives' or 'Labour;' enacting legislation and law at the provincial level that sought further control and jurisdiction over Indigenous peoples, such as in Saskatchewan when they were called the CCF, or the steamrolling of FN communities and rights as the NDP when governing BC; or the flooding of FN communities as well as the attack on Indigenous youth as the NDP when governing Manitoba.

Thus, I wonder Mr. Angus:

           Are you willing to call out your provincial wings (as in the NDP their provincial parties and federal party are tied together – if you are a member of one, you are a member of the other and in fact the provincial wings have much impact on the federal side and the federal side can impact the provincial parts greatly too), especially the Manitoba NDP, for their colonial history, and even their recent history, in what they have done to Indigenous rights, jurisdictions, autonomy, and sovereignty?
         Are you willing to call out your own party for its impact on the Kelowna Accord failing, when you and your NDP colleagues stood up and caused an election – effectively killing the accord that would have had a great and positive impact on Indigenous youth and their welfare?
         Will you call out your own party for its role in preventing the destruction of the MRP legislation in May 2009, when you guys didn’t want to let the Liberals look good in getting to push the motion first to kill it (killing the bill would have been far more beneficial to FN youth)?
         Will you also call out your own party for promising to not go into deficit if having been elected in October 2015, but somehow still paying for the much needed upgrades and fiscal disparities that exist for FNs, and thus probably failing at doing so, despite not showing and explaining your plan?
         Will you and your fellow NDP MPs and the party structure acknowledge its own colonial past (as has been being done within the Liberal party through the Indigenous Peoples Commission of the LPC)?

I would have far more faith in your actions Mr. Angus – if there was an acknowledgement of your own party’s colonial past – federally and provincially. But because there is an unwillingness to even acknowledge the NDP’s only colonial past and the fact that such a motion will not bring change over night, it is hard for me to not see your actions as one for political points rather then true decolonization.

And because of that, I want to express to you, the NDP, and all of Canadian politics: My rights and well-being are not a pawn in a political chess-game; the rights and well-being of our elders and seniors are not a pawn in a political chess-game; our treaty rights are not a pawn in a political chess-game; the well-being of my nephews, niece, and all Indigenous children are not a pawn in a political chess game; decolonization, reconciliation, consultation, and nation-to-nation relations are not a pawn in a political chess-game. So stop using us as your pawns!

Deconstructing colonialism and settler-colonialism is not a game either and you cannot decolonize 300+ years in 13 months, let alone a motion that is more of a poison pill for political points rather then for true action and support. 

Thus I ask,  and I'd love to hear some feasible answers on how the Canadian government can move more quickly on all of thus while also working their the tons of other responsibilities they have and the encorachment of provinces on Indigenous nations and our rights?

Please see the following past blogs that also have the sources I used:

For Further Information, see what Joshua Fraser wrote as well (including his links highlighting many of the points I also made):

           The provincial Manitoba NDP under the leadership of Wab Kinew has passed a motion condemning federal inaction/spending on First Nations children. I have respect for a lot of good work Wab has done for Indigenous people. But it must be known that the NDP party that he was elected to, who just recently got booted from office, was known for the amount of First Nations children put into CFS (care).
         Manitoba First Nations child advocate says [NDP govt] province is muzzling her
         Manitoba has more than 10,000 kids in care and the vast majority are indigenous
         NDP provincial politicians such as Kinew and federal politicians such as Niki Ashton don’t want to acknowledge their party’s history and record on Indigenous children in care
          We also must keep in mind the federal NDP campaigned on a zero-deficit/balanced budget agenda. Considering that commitment and the books the Liberals inherited, there would be no money to fund many of their election promised, let alone fund new and emergency priorities, particularly for Indigenous peoples and communities.
         The NDP bring up important Indigenous issues, they are not always wrong, but they have to check their smugness and look into their own action/in-action and commitments. I for one, believe when Minister Bennett states that the federal government is committed to fixing this issue, starting with the record budget allocation, Canada Child Benefit and the recent commitments made by the federal government.

Government of Canada Focused on Making a Difference for First Nations Children and Families:

            Liberal Government priority continues to be first and foremost the wellbeing of children. Our government welcomes, accepts and is complying with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings and orders regarding Child and Family Services on reserve and Jordan’s Principle.
         Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux appointed as the Minister’s Special Representative (MSR) responsible for leading a national engagement process and providing advice on the reform of the on-reserve First Nations Child and Family Services program. Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux’s work will reflect renewed Nation-to-Nation relationships with First Nations communities, through engagement with a number of key partners, including First Nations youth and leadership, national and regional organizations, services providers and the provinces and Yukon Territory. This is a concrete step in our commitment to engage with partners to develop options for full-scale reform.
         For Jordan’s Principle, we have introduced a new approach, integrated with provinces and territories, with an expanded scope to make sure no child falls through the cracks, and have provided an additional $382 million over three years in new funding. As a result of this new approach, we have confirmed coverage for almost 900 First Nations children to receive services and supports through Canada’s expanded definition of Jordan’s Principle. A great proportion of these children are receiving support for respite care, and funding has also been provided for supports such as specialized medical equipment and supplies; medical transportation; specialized day programs; and addiction treatment programs. Our government has also committed to enhancing service coordination and to working with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure that First Nations children have access to the same publicly funded health and social services available to other children where they live.
         Budget 2016 also made historic investments in First Nations child welfare, with nearly $635 million over five years in new funding. This includes $71 million this year for immediate relief for additional prevention services to address the most pressing concerns.

         When the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners wrote the Calls to Action they wisely began with child welfare. In the same manner, our government is committed to reforming child and family services and ensuring we are putting the needs of Indigenous children first. Through working in genuine partnership we will truly be able to change the status quo.”