My social circle is multi-ethnic and therefore includes some individuals who would identify as White. They are all, as the saying goes, ‘nice people’. We hang out. We socialize. We talk and text by phone with each other. Yet, every single person in my social circle who is White holds some aspect of the White-way-is-the-right-way (W-w-i-t-r way) mindset that rests on implicit preeminence of White culture and history and conversely imbedded anti-Black perceptions.
How can that be?
The scale and depth of race affectation that constitutes the foundation of modern Western culture means there would hardly be any person who has not been influenced by and inculcated with the W-w-i-t-r way. It pervades our way of life from the standard measurements for off-the-rack clothing to the demographics of prison populations to the quality of healthcare, and education curriculum content. Systemic, as the social scientists like to say.
More intimately, there are configurations of one-to-one racism:
- There are the overts. Wrong and strong, the overts make other White persons uncomfortable as well.
- There are the coverts – the subtle ones. The ones who, after an encounter with them, leave you asking yourself, ‘Did what I think just happened actually happen?’
- Finally, there are the unaware, of which there are basic categories.
- — Those who never have to give the matter a single thought; perhaps that comes with living in a part of the Western world where one never encounters diverse social groups.
- — The other group is where I locate my friends. These are people who would earnestly declare themselves anti-racist, march alongside in a protest, agree that policing has to change. Yet, because of the scale and subtle layers of the W-w-i-t-r way, they cannot escape being inadvertent functionaries. Again, multilayered and complex.
So, how do we awaken friends who are asleep to racism by circumstance – having been born into a social-psychological ecosystem that leans away from universal human equity in form and function.
Imagine an everyday situation: You are out in public and the tag of your shirt is sticking out. You can’t see it, but the person next to you can. They say, “Hey buddy, your shirt tag is sticking out.’ You don’t say, ‘No, I don’t even have a shirt tag, get away from me you shirt tag pedant.’
You reach around to the back of the shirt feel the tag and adjust it. Perhaps thank the person for their considerateness. Maybe the next time you wear the shirt, you would check for the tag first. Or, for better freedom of movement, remove it entirely.
As we are indoctrinated with the W-w-i-t-r way and can’t see it (yet engage in actions or words of which observant witnesses are aware), we may reflexively deny any such behavior.
It can be personally alarming and embarrassing to hear, ‘Hey, buddy that thing you just said or that thing you just did is racist.’ Being called to account for actions we are inured to can suddenly feel like a shaming experience.
But, as with the unseen shirt tag scenario, try using, ‘Oh, I didn’t even realize that, I couldn’t see it. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll look into it.’
With any luck, you will then have a keyhole into other previously unaware behavior. Or, ask a ‘Black friend’. If they are as the saying goes ‘woke’, they could provide some insight.
The result is that we will have grown in awareness somewhat, and more comfortably wear the mantle of a person who wants to be in a world where we greet one another more equitably and with healthy human regard.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens available through Amazon. Twitter @patprose.
Living Illusions, Craving Truth
We are, most of us anyway, under an illusion that our life is our own. Yet, what evidence is there is to support this presumtion? We are informed — and ignorance contributes to this — to take ownership of an intangible something which we could not in any way possess. We do not possess life. Rather we are possessed by life. We say life, or vie, or vida… . Whatever the language, there is a sound we make that represents this thing we call life. My life. Your life. There really is no such thing.
Here is the evidence: Who among us writes the story of how his or her life will be such that the life specifically follows that script? Who is it that writes his own path, step for step; the roadmap of a life laid out exactly and then followed exactly?
If you exist, show yourself. Tell the rest of us what we have been missing.
It takes a lifetime to know a scintilla of what is real and true. And, every time we encounter some part of what is real and true, it changes everything that we know that came before it. Isn’t that so?
Now, some of us in this Earth paradigm have no care or concern with such matters. Why bother with these awarenesses if it makes no difference? For whatever reason, we are here. However we got here, we are nevertheless here. So, why not get on with the busyness of the experience as it is laid out here on Earth?
That makes sense, doesn’t it? Sure, it is a fair approach.
But, some of us want nothing better than to peek behind the curtain. We are driven to ask those age old questions regarding our very existence: Who am I really? Why am I here?
Do you ever think that perhaps our so-called real life is some cosmic rollout not unlike The Sims game, which engages players in a simulacrum of life? Oxford University philosophy professor Nick Bostrom makes the argument for this.
If we were to truly know the answer, we would have to be the game player and not the players in the game.
Why wars? Why killings for sport? Why hatred of others? Why insert all that chaos with awareness of Love? What reality is this that lays before us in dichotomies and paradoxes?
Yet, we know only a little. Another piece of the truth is just around the corner. But, we may only have a taste of it, for it is elusive. Nevertheless, in among the Mystery — and many mysteries — of Life is the desire to look behind the curtain.
By PAT WATSON
There is a solution floating out there that promises to be a revolution against poverty. First, an analogy: If you all agree that shelter is a condition for healthy living and a human right, then we should also agree that we must provide the means for ensuring that standard. That means we mutually ensure the universal provisions for shelter. There is no sense in saying, ‘Well, we all must have shelter as a right, but regarding procurement of the means then you’re on your bro.’
Which brings up the recent discussion coming from the provincial government on running a pilot project on ‘mincome’. That’s the term being used to refer to the idea that every household be provided with a guaranteed basic income.
The Ontario Liberal government is now doing a search for the right community in which to proceed with a pilot project on mincome payments.
This wouldn’t be the first time such a social experiment has been done. A similar pilot project took place in
By PAT WATSON
Mould, leaking ceilings, broken windows covered with cardboard, leaking rusty plumbing. Any of these could be describing housing conditions on any one of the poorly supported reserves where indigenous people live in Northern Ontario. But they also describe conditions crying out for attention within the properties managed by the City of Toronto.
The list of problems would also have to include the rate of violent crime that occurs on or in the vicinity of public housing property, which exceeds the rate in other parts of the city.
Is it too far a stretch to characterize City management as a slumlord?
Here is what the mayor’s Task Force looking into the crisis we call Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) came back with: “TCHC is an organization that, because of its history and structure, is unsustainable financially, socially and from an operating and governance perspective.”
Yet, rather than do away with this whole enterprise, the Task Force has come back with two main recommendations about the structure of the organization, both of which would mean keeping TCHC in existence in one form or another.
The Task Force has recommended changing the name of TCHC to NewHome. NewHome, old home, what’s the difference if it looks and functions no differently?
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through a Coloured Lens.