Actualités

WHITE FRAGILITY

Rachel Garber

A funny thing happened on our way to vote on a warm evening in Island Brook. As we entered the hall, someone I slightly knew greeted me with a smile. When he saw my son behind me, his smile froze.

I knew why. My son is black.
I recognized his discomfort because I’ve had many opportunities over my lifetime to see the difference between how I am treated when I am alone, white, and when I am with persons of colour, namely my son or my erstwhile husband. In cities, in rural areas, in the United States, in Canada, in other countries. In Quebec.
Now, racism is a huge topic, and it’s hard to know where to start. It is lifelong, it is life threatening, it is personal and it is systemic. (After all, it is persons who create and apply systems.) And yes, Premier Legault, it is systemic in Quebec. Perhaps not “systematic” or intentional, but certainly present in our systems of governance.

It’s easy to look across the border at flagrant hatred and violence, and to feel righteous by comparison. “But that’s an incredibly low bar,” observed Toula Drimonis on Cultmtl.com. “The cold-hard statistics reveal a different story.”

She cites the unwarranted arrests of black men, of police surveillance and violence that targets them. Indeed, a 2019 report on systemic bias in the Montreal police force found that black or indigenous persons were more than four times more likely to be stopped for a “street check” than a white person.
Drimonis also cites systemic discrimination that keeps black people from advancing into positions of authority. The flagrant lack of visible minorities in all levels of government and services. (Except, might I add, at the very lowest level, the cleaning staff, and the préposés in CHSLDs?)

“Now pay attention to the micro-aggressions black folks deal with, day in and day out; listen to their fatigue and worry and indignation.”

For white people, racism can be insidious. It’s easy not to see, until a sudden crisis. Poet Scott Woods wrote, “Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.

“So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe.”
Here we come to a book entitled White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by sociologist Robin DiAngelo. In a recent podcast, Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, she explains why white people are so often defensive about racism: We hear that we are seen as a bad person, so we need to defend our moral character.

But how can anyone be exempt from structural racism? We all have a role in perpetuating it. The bias against dark skin imbues our societal systems, and our being nice doesn’t interrupt it. “The only thing that interrupts it is strategic intentional action,” DiAngelo said.

She recommends listening to people of colour about their experiences. Speaking up at the dinner table when Uncle Bob makes a racist remark that makes you cringe. Learning that white is not the norm for humanity.

“There’s no way I don’t have a racist or white-supremacist world view,” DiAngelo said.

We all have this conditioning.
Which brings me back to that evening in Island Brook. Some weeks later, the person whose smile had frozen came to me. He said he didn’t like to think of himself as racist, but in that instant, he’d been taken aback upon seeing my son. He had spent some time reflecting on his reaction, and realized what it meant. He admitted his bias to himself, and to me. He apologized.
I will never forget his integrity and his courage. It was a moment of healing and learning. There is hope.

ARTHRITIS IN ISOLATION
Physiotherapist Myra Siminovitch offers a video-conference, Coping with Arthritis during Social Isolation, on Wednesday, June 17, at 10 to 11:30 a.m. via Zoom. It can be accessed by phone or by computer. Info and to register: Michelle Lepitre, ml@townshippers.org or leave a message at 819-566-5717. “Need help figuring out Zoom? Let us know and we’ll try to guide you through it,” says Michelle.

This session is part of the Community Health Education Program offered by the CHSSN, who describes it like this: “One in five Canadians live with arthritis, according to the Arthritis Society. Arthritis can cause pain, decrease mobility, and diminish quality of life. Learn how to manage your symptoms better and improve your functioning during these times of social isolation.”

LOOKING AHEAD
A series of virtual workshops to help prepare for the future are also offered by the CHSSN on Fridays, 10 to 11:30 a.m., during the month of June. On the 5th, living wills and mandates were discussed. Coming up are: Choosing a seniors’ residence (June 12), Estate planning (June 19), Funeral planning (June 26). The Zoom sessions can be accessed by phone or by computer. Info and to register: Michelle Lepitre, ml@townshippers.org or Marie-Lisa, mlj@townshippers.org, or leave a message at 819-566-5717.

MUSEUM CLOSED
The Eaton Corner Museum is cancelling its activities and closing its doors this season for reasons of public health safety, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CHURCHES
United. Written services are offered by email, mail, at the back door of Trinity United Chruch (via ramp) or at Sawyerville United Church (on freezer), or posted on Facebook: United Eaton Valley Pastoral Charge. Pastoral care: Rev. Tami, 819-452-3685. Info: 819-889-2838 (listen to the message).

Baptist. Contact Pastor Michel Houle at 819-239-8818.
Anglican. Bishop Bruce Myers offers Home Prayers on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. on Facebook, and at quebec.anglican.ca (see Worship Videos). Info: 819-887-6802, or quebec.anglican.ca.
Do you have news to share? Call 819-300-2374 or email rawrites@yahoo.com by June 12 for publication June 23 and by June 29 for July 8.

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