Featuring an opinion piece written by Jack Guest, Grade 3
I have been taking the past few weeks to personally reflect, better educate and discuss the topic of racialization of people of colour in our society within the confines of our home. It has been uncomfortable, challenging, shameful and frustrating. And so it should be.
It is also profoundly important to do so as we raise our 8-year-old white son, who has lived a life of privilege. It is not shame we wish for him to experience for this privilege but rather a spark of recognition. A spark that has caught fire and spread globally. We wish for him to understand his life circumstances and respond accordingly to the quickly transforming world around him. That black, brown and yellow lives matter and as a white family of privilege, we believe that our work is not done as white people until we see POC also experiencing a life of quality health, safety, education and mutual respect.
This is not our first goround on the topic of race. My maternal grandparents were Chinese immigrants. My Mother married a white Englishman, much to his Mother’s dismay. My brother and I were born mixed-race and lived in this weird inbetween place…mostly identifying as white; except for when…mmmmm…or maybe even moreso when, we were with our Chinese family.
I appeared to most as white, even fairer than I am now, as a child. When I would walk the streets of Chinatown in Calgary with my Grandma and Grandpa is when I felt most sorethumbish. Acquaintances asking who this little white girl was? My Grandma always proudly expressing I was her eldest granddaughter. There were moments in my life growing up where I was called a ‘chink’ by a white person. I remember verbally and publicly eviscerating a boy in highschool for doing so, lashing back at his ignorant redneck garbage. I remember bystanders raising eyebrows at my reaction to him, likely thinking, geesh…he was just joking!
As I grew older, I began to look more like my Mom, and so then I was most commonly asked, what are you anyway? like my ethnicity was some sidenote to people’s curiosity. I didn’t mind the attention for my appearance, as long as it was favourable. I learned to deal with the asian comments by deflecting and humour, often beating people to the punch with I’m 3/8ths Chinese so I’m 3/8ths good at math…dumb shit like that.
But it was in moments of overt racism towards people of colour, where my white privilege shone through. I could sit quietly and listen to debates about Asian economical takeovers, or Aboriginal land protests, or police brutality toward the black community, or racial slurs and well, basically eat shit about it. Sometimes I could find the words to meet unjust views of white people, sometimes I feared I wasn’t asian enough to stand up against racism and that is where my shame is. It doesn’t matter that I am mixed race and have watched my own family members be racialized, what matters is I “pass”. I pass as white and therefore now understand my responsibility to no longer tolerate the systemic racism that I encounter. Every moment of injustice (which is often because of my perceivable whiteness) that arises in my life is meant to give me opportunity to do better.
Today, my son’s teacher gave the class an assignment. He was to read the book Let’s Talk About Race by black author, Julius Lester and write about the importance of respecting all people. At home, we have been actively watching the news and engaging in discussion around police brutality and the death of George Floyd and more recently, BC’s own aboriginal woman and young mother, Chantel Moore. After 2 weeks of discussion and his assignment today this is what he wrote about his connections, feelings and questions in relation to racism (shared with his permission):
‘Let’s Talk About Race’ Reflection
By Jack Guest
It is important to have respect for others because no one is better than someone else because of how they act or how they look. Those stories are not true. I saw ancient human remains at the Natural History Museum in London, England. We couldn’t tell what race they were. When we die all bodies turn to dust anyway. When I talk to my Great Grandma who is Chinese, I have a hard time understanding her because she has a strong accent. But I still love her and she loves me because she always laughs, smiles & hugs me. I feel angry, sad and frustrated. I feel angry because people of colour are treated less than white people because of their skin colour. For example, just like people’s eye colour and hair colour are different or they behave differently, they are still all people. I feel sad because black kid’s parents are being taken from them and then the kids are being forced into foster care or having to live with other family members when they should be with their Mom’s and Dad’s. I feel frustrated because it is not right to take away anyone’s home, family or life. I wonder why some policemen are killing black people just because they’re black? It’s just not right. I wonder when the protests will stop and I wonder if people of colour will be treated equal to white people? I hope the violence will stop and all people will be treated with human rights, like me.
An 8-year-old. A fucking white, male child wrote this. I believe he gets it or at the very least, has the empathy in his only 8 years of this lifetime to apply what is simply right and wrong to a very horrible history that will hopefully come to an end in his lifetime.
It is my job, it is your job to talk about racialization respectfully. Lean into the fear or apprehension of being or saying something wrong. It is this exact reflection of wrongness that has been projected on people of colour, that white people must be willing to wade into. Because at this point I’d rather live in a world where I can be wrong (as in ignorant or a misinformed passing white person) and be openly called out for it and still stand in my own knowing that at least I am trying. At least I am trying to lift up marginalized people, because by birthright I was given the platform to do so.
To donate to Chantel Moore’s young daughter Grace and Chantel’s mother Martha please go to https://gf.me/u/x656jt
Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter resource Canadians.org