On Yoga, Resistance and Letting Go

Content Note: Eating disorders, racism, harassment, objectification 

I don’t want to write this post. I have been turning the words over in my mind for two months, I have been holding these message deep in my body. I Sharing my struggles with anorexia, sharing my anger and frustration at social oppressions and whatever else I feel a pull to write about has helped me explore my own thoughts and reduce the self-imposed isolation that my eating disorder brings. I am writing a workshop on yoga and decolonial healing for a conference by and for women of colour, I’m also facilitating this workshop in a week at another event, so I should probably finish it, but before I can do that, I need to need to write these words.

 

I started casually practicing yoga midway through my undergrad, mostly through home practice and the occasional free class. As someone living with chronic pain, yoga was the go-to suggestion of health practitioners, and as annoying as that is, it has been a great coping mechanism for me. Yoga hasn’t taken away my chronic pain, but offers arguably more significant healing.

 

I was trying to remember a time where my body felt like it was consistently mine. Sure, I have had moments: making the decision to move out east, and 1,421km away from toxic relationships, the first time I went more than a month without purging or restricting, breaking up with a long-term love. My body has been exoticfied, objectified, controlled, shamed for being, but when has it been mine? My experiences are unique to me, but in no way unusual. Countless women will tell you how their first experience of a man objectifying and harassing them was when they were around 11 or 12. Thousands of people, of all genders, struggle with eating disorders, and pretty much every person of colour has felt othered and often exotified.

 

I recently realized how tired I am of explaining the colonial histories and diasporas that allow for my existence. I don’t feel like my body belongs to me in those moments. I don’t feel like my body belongs to me when men stand too close on the bus or a professional meeting ends when a hand on my lower back. I don’t feel like my body belongs to me because we live in a world that has consistently confirms this.

 

Since I was 13 years old, I have attempted to take control of my body back by destroying it, by trying to become invisible enough to fend off unwanted words and touch, to erase myself into whiteness. My eating disorder became a safe haven. My mother wanted me to eat pasta during the same time I was being told my anger was unwarranted (and unattractive), refusing dinner became my resistance. I destroyed myself as a form of misguided resistance. Women refusing to eat dates back centuries and is often connected religious sacrifice – the woman who is free from needs and wants is the most holy. My resistance was just what our patriarchal and white supremacist society demands of women. I detach from my body as a mode of survival. I stopped having desires because my desires to be heard were too much ™ I am still figuring out how to accept that being too much ™ is exactly what I should be.

 

Almost a decade after my eating disorder began, I started doing yoga. However, it wasn’t until my roommate invited me to try hot yoga with her that I truly began to connect with yoga, my inner self and finally my body. I lay on my mat after my first class feeling sweaty and giddy. I survived an hour long class in a hot room surrounded by strangers while wearing half the amount of clothes I normally do. I was thrilled, I was proud. I felt a little high. I joined the studio the next day and began a journey towards my body.

 

Eventually, as my body got stronger, I could move through asanas with ease and have fun trying (and falling out of) new poses. I lie on my mat before class and wait as the anxieties of my day slip away. I take a few cleansing breaths and take back my body and mind. I am not thinking of the dissatisfaction with my body (ok,sometimes I still am, but that’s why I’m doing all of this), I’m not thinking of body as the exoctic other, or as on inconvience,I am not thinking of my career or debt or anything but keeping my breath and settling into my body – as a whole, as mine.

 

Some of my teachers read a quote or tell a story at the end of the class, as their words float through the now quiet room, I lay on my mat and let them wash over me. I chose to come to my mat, I made choices in my body that felt right, I let myself breathe, and began to connect my body and mind. I have found the concept of decolonization confusing; I understand it on a political level, but when I would hear activists talk about decolonizing the self, I felt lost. It wasn’t until I surrendered myself to my practice that I began to understand. As I write this workshop, I realize that my work to decolonize my self will be ongoing, because the act of colonization is ongoing.
We speak of colonization, racism, and even sexism as things of the past. We’re colourblind now. The Canadian government pretends that their colonization of Indigenous peoples has ended. Women have jobs or something so we don’t need feminism. We speak of our body and mind in similarly disconnected terms. We were asked to write a letter to our body as part of my treatment program, I was viscerally uncomfortable for many reasons, but when I moved from “You” (my body) and “I” (my mind) to “We” (body/mind/soul), I felt as if I could breathe again, the lump in my throat grew smaller and I began to write. This is what we do when we practice yoga, this is what happens when we listen to the wisdom of our ancestors. This is where the healing begins.

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Not All Bad

I think we can all agree that last week (or three months or year) has been surreal. If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to spiral into watching the news and reading articles for a few hours and focusing too much on negatives issues in the world. Yeah, there are lots of fucked up things happening right now, but there are so many wonderful, positive things and people. It can be hard to focus on the good, but I have been blessed to have some positive events and amazing humans in my life to remind me to shift my perspective.

 

I had a chronic pain-filled, anxiety-ridden week and took some time to practice some self-care that ranged from re-centring myself through yoga, a bougie bath, and wine with good friends. After all these lovely, and challenging points of self-care, I feel more like myself again. I was inspired to write this post for a couple of reasons. The first being that Trump officially became the president of the United States yesterday (definitely a cause of my week of anxiety) and I know a lot of people are feeling very overwhelmed with anxiety, anger, sadness and shock. The second reason is much more positive and much less complicated. I went to a friend’s birthday this weekend and had to head back to the city in the morning. After having coffee with my friend, I decided to pop into the farmer’s market before I caught the bus. I had a 5 dollar bill in my coat pocket. I was checking my phone just before I walked into the market and realized I dropped the $5 somewhere, I was a little annoyed but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I wandered around the market, bought a yummy af morning glory muffin and walked back the way I came. As I got closer to main street, I saw my $5 on the ground! It was only a little thing and because I have the privilege to be employed, I could have survived without the $5 but something about it struck me. There may be terrible things happening in the world, but we shouldn’t forget to celebrate the joys of life. Too often we focus all our energies on the various oppressions and tragedies of life and feel guilty when we fully enjoy and celebrate the beautiful things in life. It can be hard to remember what those are, so I’ve written up a couple of lists in case you need a little posi inspiration.  

 

5 Happy Thoughts

 

  1. Upwards of 4 million people marched across the United States yesterday. There were marches all over the world to show solidarity with those in the US who are resisting bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia and fear.
  2. Baby animals and baby humans exist. If you are ever sad, there are a million Insta accounts to overwhelm you with cuteness.
  3. It’s getting a little brighter (and a little closer to spring) each day. More sunlight = happier people.
  4. We live in a country where we have access to excellent healthcare. I have never once had to consider if I can afford a visit to my doctor due to financial constraints and find it hard to imagine not having access to safe and affordable healthcare.
  5. The internet: OK, HEAR ME OUT. Yes, the internet brings the grossest and most horrible parts of the human mind out in the open, but it allows us access to information, connection and opportunities that we never could have previously imagined. That’s pretty fucking great.

 

5 Positive Things to do for Yourself Today

 

  1. Take a nap. Naps aren’t an indulgence and taking a nap doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Give yourself the permission to rest. Improve your nap experience with soft blankets, taking off your pants and cuddling with a human and/or animal companion.
  2. Make safe-to-eat raw cookie dough: coconut oil/butter/margarine, maple syrup or sugar, flour, vanilla extract, chocolate chips. Blend, eat, congratulate yourself on being a great human and also avoiding salmonella.
  3. Compliment someone else. Tell a friend how you appreciate their insight, compliment your barista on those lattes that keep you alive, thank staff in the store you’re at or tell your coworker that their jokes make your day better. We can forget to express our appreciation for the little things, but you never know how much it may mean to someone. Appreciating others also makes you feel better. It’s a win-win for everyone.
  4. Say ‘No’. About three years ago, I decided to make a concerted effort to say no to things that I don’t want to do, or that I don’t have the time for. It’s a skill that I continually work on. I still find myself double-booked and feeling guilty for taking time for myself, however, since I started to try to say no to things, I feel happier and more centred in myself.
  5. Say ‘Yes’. This is a challenge of another kind. It can be hard to say yes to things that we need. Say yes to an offer of help from a pal, say yes to a road trip, apply to a job you don’t think you’re qualified for, say yes to taking a day (or even an hour) to yourself, say yes to trying something you have always wanted.

These five things will not fix your problems or make you forget that a cheeto is now in charge of a powerful state, but they might make you a little happier and make your week a little easier. Take time to be kind to yourself and to those around you, I promise it’s worth it.

 

BONUS: photos of my stupid cats to brighten your day

The Fall of ‘Great’ Men

Yesterday, I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed and noticed an article on Bikram Choudhury – founder of a self-named hot yoga method and all-around creep. Choudhury recently paid about over $7 million US to  Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, who was wrongfully terminated after refusing to cover up the a rape committed by Choudhury. Jafa-Bodden was also sexually harassed by Choudhury and six other women have bravely come forward to accuse Choudhury of sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, Choudhury maintains his innocence. He also claims this lawsuit and another recent loss are sending him into bankruptcy. 2017 is only 4 days old and is already killin’ it.


As some of you may have noticed, American Apparel stores are shuttering their doors. Big signs waved by AA employees stating their American-made clothing is 50-80% off. I have always found AA clothing to be well-made and appreciate the fact that their factory workers are unionized and paid a living wage. It’s a shame that their founder, Dov Charney is a grade A(A) Creep™. Charney is no longer with American Apparel, but his legacy of sexual harassment poisoned the company. Of course, economic downturn and the fickleness of consumers may have something to do with AA’s downfall, but I like to think that Charney’s misdeeds and the implicit support of those around him in the company, contributed to the end of American Apparel. Of course, it is not Charney who will suffer the most loss, he moved on to another company and is probably still just as much of a pervert as before*. Those who will suffer  are the workers; AA’s intellectual property has been bought by another apparel company, Gilden Athletics,  and there is talk of moving the factory out of the US. The loss of skilled jobs and fair wages won’t hurt Charney. His misogynistic words and act will continue to haunt those around him as he prances (naked) on to his next business venture.

 

Charney and Choudhury may bounce back financially, but their wallets and reputations still took a hit. Prison sentences have been upheld as the ultimate justice for abusers and rapists, but it is so rare and does little to rehabilitate offenders, justice in the legal system seems mythical.

 

These two pieces of news may seem like hollow victories, as both these men will be able to walk free and start business’ and continue their lives trauma-free, but it also shows we are slowly learning to believe women. The women that came forward in both cases are incredibly brave, they stood up to public scrutiny, teams of lawyers, and their abusers. There are many forms of justice and healing that do not involve criminal courts, and the fall of great men is one of them.

 

As we move forward in 2017, we will no doubt continue to see ‘great’ men rise and fall. One of them is president-elect Donald Trump, who has publically admitted to sexual assault and has many, many accusers. Trump will become the next U.S. President on January 20th, 2017. His rise to power, despite rampant sexism, xenophobia, racism and implicit support of white supremacists, is a prime example of how far we still have to go. Our work is far from over, but the fall of Charney and Choudrey offer glimmers of hope for those working to end gender-based violence as well as survivors/victims themselves.

 

Money can buy freedom for many perpetrators, but there are rare (but ever increasing) instances of justice. Your paper got you this far, but you can’t buy your way out of your fall from grace. In 2017, let’s celebrate the fall of so-called great men and the rise of justice.

 

* I have no proof of this, don’t sue me.

 

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/bikram-yoga-lawsuit-1.3421547

https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/01/10/montreal-based-gildan-activewear-will-pay-88m-to-buy-american-apparel-brand.html

The Cult of Busy

If you ask me what I have been up to, I will tell you that I have been busy, same answer for what I will be doing. I – like many other people – am always busy. I am always on my way to an appointment, work or a meeting, coffee with a friend, or just running errands. When I’m not physically doing something, I’m thinking about it. Time for rest is rare and fleeting and I’m usually weighed down with a sense of guilt and anxiety of what I should be doing.

I am not alone in feeling like this, most of us feel like we must always be busy and occupied. Anything less must mean we are lazy.

I recently had a week off and for the first three days I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt bad for taking time off. I haven’t taken time off for anything other than a family emergency or medical reasons in years. I felt a bit lost at different times during the week – when I tried to think of what I should be doing or where I had to be, I realized I didn’t have to rush anywhere. The projects I’m working on are well underway, I would have plans to see a friend later, but there was no rush. It felt weird to not be stressed.

We equate being busy with being successful. If we are always busy, we must always being working and if we are always working, we are then viewed as successful. It may sound trite, but I blame capitalism for our obsession with busyness.

Under capitalism nothing is ever given. We trade labour for money; we trade money for things we need to live – food, shelter, coffee to keep us awake so we can keep working. Capitalism teaches us that nothing worthwhile comes for free. We must give something to get anything, but at the same time, we can’t expect anything in return. We often work – or stay busy – just for the sake of it. We have become so accustomed to working towards something – an education, a 15-minute break, money, or whatever else drives you – that we do not take the time to just be.

Halfway through writing this blog post, I came down with a cold. What I thought would be one or two days of sniffles and a headache turned into a full week of being sick and being sent home from work twice (thanks Nicole!) In my feverish state, I just went to work because that is what I always do. Taking a sick day, even though I was sick, felt like I was being lazy. Luckily, I have people in my life who are more sensible than me and made me go home.

During my forced time off, I had a lot of time to think, and since every time I moved I felt like I was going to fall over, I had to sit with my thoughts and let myself rest. It was uncomfortable, and needed.

Having a full life is not the same as always being busy. It is a hard lesson to learn, and one we will probably continue to forget. There is nothing wrong with having a lot going on in your life, but learning to focus more of what adds value to your life rather than being busy for the sake of being busy can lead to lessened anxiety, better sleep, and generally more enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life; we don’t have to punish ourselves to deserve a break or a self-care Saturday. Capitalism teaches us that our only value is our productivity – we are so much more than our ability to work. It is a lesson we must continually learn in a society that teaches us the opposite. Be gentle and patient, doing nothing takes time.

Labels and the discomfort of white liberals

I feel as if every so often I’m picked up by the wings like a insect to be examined. I’m pinned to a white board, magnified, studied, not identified. They can’t place me, so I’m pushed to the back, with all the other pinned creatures waiting for neat labels and museum displays.

But 

My wings are still fluttering. 

About a year ago, I moved to a new city. I had visited before and had a couple of friends here but hadn’t spent enough time here to get to know it. There have been many wonderful things about my time here so far: jobs, new friends, new loves, learning, unlearning, growing and settling.

As it happens when we leave our familiar places and people, we are challenged. Since being here, I have had four or five instances of my identity being questioned. That feels like a weird way to say it but I don’t know how else to. Racism and sexism are thing a I have experienced my whole life but these were different. Saying my identity feels so cold and impersonal, maybe I can edit this when I think of something that sounds more fitting.

The first time,  I was in cafe working on a summer and feeling very accomplished since I had my first post-grad job. I had also just got my first post-grad paycheque and of course spent it promptly. One of the things I had bought was a new packet of bindis. I wore one that day and felt a little more at home, in myself and in this new city. Like my ancestors were watching over me. I was also feeling cute as fuck. As I drank an iced americano and poured over some journal articles, I felt like I was in the place I was meant to be. It was short lived. I noticed a white-presenting young women with blonde dreads staring over at me. I didn’t give it too much thought, assuming she thought I looked familiar or had zoned out in my general direction. Then I heard it – the now familiar tone of the young white liberal calling out. “You know you really shouldn’t wear that. Bindis are really important to Indian people, it’s cultural appropriation.” Becky also said something about how I thought I looked cool.

I couldn’t respond. I looked at her, my mouth open to speak but no words came out. Her ripped jeans and flowy shirt, her blonde hair in tattered dreads. I couldn’t handle the misplaced judgement or the irony. I mumbled something about being Indian but she had already turned away.

It isn’t enough that y’all take our cultures, you now don’t even want us to have them. Unless we look like a fucking National geographical article.

There have been a couple of other instances, like white folks telling me I can’t be upset about police brutality because I’m light-skinned, or worse assuming I am white because I’m well-educated (becky 2.0 actually said this).

I am lucky to have found support in white and poc pals and I feel a lot more at home and comfortable in my own skin. Yet, the feeling of unease hasn’t left me. I still feel as if the ground beneath my feet could shift at any time, not enough to knock me over just enough to shake me, change me.

My experiences are quiet and hard to explain. I don’t like to compare oppressions, however I have an acute understanding that I can walk in my neighbourhood without the police stopping me, I am not seen as a threat, people don’t cross the street when they see me.

I have privileges which I recognize and (try) to use to speak up for those who’s voices get drowned out. Like I said, what I have experienced is hard to place. It’s the recent tinder match, despite being POC, would not stop questing my race/ethnicity – “what’s that thing on your forehead?”, “I’m confused, what are you?”

It’s friends who say “don’t worry you look white” and “You’re English is even better than mine!” When I have said a thousand times I was born in Canada and embarrassingly can only speak English.

It’s that nagging feeling that someone I was dating and cared deeply about maybe stopped seeing me because I brought up the pain racism in our city was causing me. Because I told him to stop using word coloured and he said “you’re looking at me like I’m a racist” and I paused because I’m never sure. I hope he just stopped enjoying my company, but I can’t shake the feeling that if I had just stayed quiet, not challenged him, we may have continued to see each other. His whiteness lay heavy on him, covering him in guilt and defensiveness. I have see this in many white people I care about. For years, I would try to make them feel better. I won’t do that anymore. Not just for myself, but for other mixed people who feel shunned in poc spaces and just as alienated in white spaces. I will not stay quiet because I should not have to pick a side, I am a multitude of histories, cultures and traditions. I am the amalgam of my ancestors and my own convictions. I can exist outside raciam binaries and your discomfort will not stop me from celebrating my culture. My identity will never be listed in a census box and that is okay.

Insta-no

I was scrolling through Instagram this afternoon and Ambertheactivist’s account came up under ‘Explore’, I follow her Creatingconsentculture account and have great respect for the activism she does around sexual assault and rape culture. Amber is a survivour of sexual violence and uses her experience to create important dialogue and support other survivours. All rad things. However, I was upset to see her post on Ambertheactivist featured below:

I was so disappointed to see this kind of image and accompanying caption on an activists account that I have such respect for. Not only is it triggering for survivours of sexual assault, but for those who struggle with eating disorders.

Shaming people for their food choice is fucked up in any situation, but comparing the act of consuming cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, and milk to supporting sexual violence is disgusting, misleading and belittles rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Sexualized violence is a huge problem in our society and in recent years, we have finally begun confronting the effects of rape culture. There are many amazing activists and organizations that work tirelessly to make our culture safer for everyone. However, when activists use something as serious and traumatic as rape to further their cause (veganism), they are not only hurting survivors, but making it harder for those who are working towards ending rape culture to be taken seriously by the boarder population.

I have been a vegetarian for most of my life and have dabbled in veganism, but it was directly related to my ED and much too restrictive for me to be able to in recovery. Not everyone, even those who have/had eating disorders have this experience. I have a few friends who are recovered or in recovery and are vegan. They are healthy and happy, and I’m happy for them. I have other friends who were vegetarian or vegan pre-recovery and now happily eat meat. Both of these things are perfectly fine. The only thing that isn’t fine is trying to push a diet or shame anyone’s food choices. Food and body shaming are still big problems in activist communities – as much as they are in other communities. From shaming folks for not buying local or organic, to mocking the foods of a particular culture, to shaming veganism posts – it’s all fucked up.

I have seen a lot of shame-y vegan posts on Instagram and after a pang of guilt, I usually select “See fewer like this” and move on, but this one got to me. I am angry, really angry at this. I am all for animal welfare and ethical farming. I try to buy free range eggs and if a pal asks for suggestions of local meat, I’ll suggest a butcher who I know treats their animals well. I may not eat meat, but I would much rather support a local farmer who cares for their livestock over a factory farm. However, comparing dairy production to rape is SO WRONG. I wish I could put this more eloquently, but I can’t. Not right now. I am so disappointed to see an advocate of consent, feminism and ending sexualized violence post something so insensitive. Women are often compared to animals – cows, pigs, kittens – various kinds of non-human animals. It’s a way of dehumanizing and delegitimizes women and their experiences. Women/femme folks are disproportionately vicitimized through sexualized violence, so to call dairy production “Rape” is beyond ignorant; it is a deplorable, triggering, and false statement. It is ok to disagree with how dairy is produced, it is ok to choose not to eat it. Support vegan business, cook for your pals, do what makes you happy, but there is never a reason to shame another person for their food choice.

The meme is terrible (it was not made by ambertheactivist, just reposted), but it is the caption that really upset me. Amber writes: “…that delicious vanilla creamer you put in your coffee this morning? A cow was raped for that milk.” My stomach dropped and I felt like I might choke when I read that. I had just finished a coffee after running some errands and enjoying the beautiful day. It took me 3 years to put cream in my coffee and not having a breakdown. I don’t always put in my coffee and I still feel guilty, but a little cream in coffee won’t cause my to cry or engage in behaviours anymore. I have the day off and really enjoyed my coffee, and as soon as I saw that post, guilt crashed down on me. I felt sick thinking of the comparison between dairy and a violent crime. I closed instagram and put my phone down. My mind was racing, but then it hit me: why should I let a stranger who posted this (probably without thinking) to control my choices? Through my involvement in  food activism, feminism and recovery advocacy, I have been slowly learning that my body is my own. It doesn’t belong to any man, to my eating disorder, to shame or guilt. I have been blessed with being able to access treatment a few years ago, to be surrounded by loving, supportive, rad people who validate my experiences, I have the educational background to understand  rape culture, feminist theory, food production and environmental issues. I am incredibly privilege to have the tools and support system that I do, but not everyone does. This post triggered me, but I can blog about it. I can rant to a friend about later if I want. Thousands of people will see that post, they may currently be in a violent situation, be a recent victim/survivour of assault, they could have an eating disorder, or a combination. They may not have the tools to deal with triggering and shaming posts like that. I am writing this less-than-stellar blog post to deal with it, I’ll probably call my Mum later, but it will still affect me. If we want to fully support survivours and anyone who is effected by sexualized violence, we have to be conscious is all of our actions and words. We all fuck up sometimes, and I hope the original poster/creator of that meme, Amber and others who repost, can take a step back and rethink their actions. There are many way to positively support animal welfare that do not capitalize on the trauma of those who have experience rape and sexual assault. I do not think this was the creator of the meme or Amber’s intention. I honestly think they are passionate about animal welfare and it was a terrible choice of words and way of writing. We need to be ok with calling-in our fellow activists. We need to acknowledge our mistakes and realize that we can reinforce aspects of rape culture without even realizing it. I hold great respect for animals and their welfare, but comparing dairy production a violent act that is predominately perpetrated against women is harmful to survivours and to our goal of ending sexualized violence.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Shut the Fuck Up

 

I am angry. These three little words make many people very uncomfortable. I have been thinking of writing this for a few weeks now but I couldn’t get up the courage to do so. It is true. I am angry. Not at one person in particular but at events, and the systems and frameworks that serve to oppress over half the worlds population.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the events in Baltimore, and before that in Ferguson. As much as we hear we now live in a “post-racial” society, we do not. The only people who try to claim this are the ones that do not have to deal with racism or other forms of ethnicity-based oppression. For purposes of clarity, I will give a definition of racism.

Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Now this is important: racism is systematic.

Let me say this again: racism is systematic. There is no racism against white people. This seems to be a point of contention among many white people, which still confuses me. I have never understood why so many people wish to experience racism. I understand that it isn’t that simple; it’s not racism these people wish to experience, but an alleviation of guilt/knowledge/responsibility of their participation in systematic racism.

In the last few weeks, I have heard or been told that I (or other people of colour) “make too big of a deal” about racism or are “too sensitive” about racist comments. I have heard countless excuses for the behaviour of police officers in the United States or the refusal to do anything about the thousands of missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada. I saw countless, I mean that I stopped counting because I couldn’t keep track: the excuses for racism were too numerous and too upsetting to keep counting.

Often times, when the conversation turns to race, people get visibly uncomfortable. That makes sense, especially if they are not used to this kind of conversation or are suddenly aware of their own racism. Here’s the thing: It is ok to be uncomfortable. It is ok to realize that you have been wrong and to feel bad about that. What is not ok is continually excuse and reinforce racist attitudes and behaviours.

When I, or another person of colour, says that they are angry with white people, it is does not mean that we hate you. It means that we are pissed off, hurt, and tired because of the hundreds, thousands, of years of oppression that we have experienced at the hands of white people.

I remember reading years ago that during the Civil Rights movement in the US, white people were panicking at the thought of black people getting rights. Their fear was, of course, loss of domination. One thing that stuck out to me, was how many people stated that they fear black people/people of colour would turn the tables and begin to treat white people as they had treated them. Nowadays, this irrational fear is heard in arguments of gender equality, and still sadly, of race.

I want to make one thing clear to all my white readers: oppressed people do not want to recreate the system of oppression and racism that is in place now. We want to tear down this system and create one that is equitable and free of violence. Let me put that even more clearly (just in case). People of colour, women (included in the first as well) and LGBTQ+ communities demanding and taking rights does not mean the loss of rights for white people, men and heterosexuals.

I am obviously not the first person to say this, and certainly not the last. I do not understand why it is so difficult to accept. I wonder if it is because those living with the most privilege are so bound to their ideas, structures and norms that they can not imagine a world where one is not given power through the oppression of the other.

I am mixed race. I have respect for both of my cultures. I don’t feel more white or more brown, yet I have been told for most of my life that I should choose. It seems that the only thing people hate more than a different culture, is when two cultures unite.

The first time I remember someone telling me to choose was in high school. A “friend” told me I didn’t seem “black, because [I] didn’t listen to rap.” I was shocked. It never occurred to be that my love of punk music would completely discount my ethnicity! Thankfully, some white teenager told me or I would have lived in ignorant bliss my entire life! I mentioned this to a black friend of mine, and she suggested I “just choose a side” to make things easier. I wanted to tell her this was impossible. I am a whole, not two pieces I can separate. I had one mixed race friend in high school and luckily she understood what I was going through, as she was experiencing the same thing. When you are mixed race, it seems like there is not safe place to land.

I grew up in a rural community that was predominately white. Although I have experienced racism my whole life, I didn’t begin to notice it until I got older and more aware. When I was younger I assumed racism was racial slurs, not being served at a store or racial profiling by police. I did not realize there were more subtle forms.

Just recently, I was very upset about the violence against black men and women in the United States and was talking about this with a group of friends. I said something about being a woman of colour, and one of the people there responded with, “but you’re so light, it’s not like you can even really call yourself brown.” I was so angry and taken aback that I couldn’t respond. Yes, I have lighter skin. But that doesn’t mean I am white, or that half of my race ceases to exist because I’m looking a little pale. My race is something I am proud of. I come from a long line of farmers, travellers, and fighters. My mother’s side (Irish) were expelled from their land by English colonizers and had to begin a new life in a harsh environment. My father’s ancestors were conned into coming to the ‘new world’, where they were enslaved on sugar cane plantations. They survived. My grandparents brought my parents to Canada for a better life, and now I am trying to create a better world, not just for myself, but also for all people of colour.

I have been told many times that it is shameful to be mixed race, to be a woman of colour, but I refuse to believe this and I refuse to be quiet. My anger may make you uncomfortable, but I have the right to express it. I have the right to work for a better, more equitable, future. I do not need your permission to move, to speak or to be. I will not be limited by stereotypes of submissive Asian women or sassy black women (who aren’t taken seriously). I will express my anger, my joy, my sadness and my strength.

Yes, it’s easier for you to ignore racism, sexism and other forms of oppression, but do you wan to live in a world where your freedom relies on the oppression of others?