Mine is a privileged voice. Mine is a privileged life.
It’s not that I didn’t know it. I think it’s that I didn’t really see it or believe it. Until recently.
I’m white. I’m male. I’m over 50. Born in Canada, I won the geographic birth lottery. I am the epitome of privilege. I have always had food and shelter. I have always had access to education and information. I have always had free healthcare, potable running, heated water and electricity.
It isn’t that I lived a particularly easy life. I mean, I grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive home. True love and support were absent much of the time. Parts of my life were hard. Harder than some but easier than most. However, none of these challenges were a result of the colour of my skin. My mere existence was not a risk factor in my life.
Now that I’m aware of my white privilege, it seems odd that I didn’t see it sooner. The recent healing and therapeutic work naming the abuse of my own past may have made me more sensitive to the far greater abuses faced by those without white privilege.
Maybe it’s my own effort to discover the writings and voices of people who don’t look like me. Maybe it’s my own journey into discovering the truths of Canada’s Aboriginal past and present. Maybe it’s the atrocities that occurred and continue to occur in the lives of people of colour. Maybe it’s the decision I have recently made to call it a career at the end of the 2020-21 school year. When that happens, I will never again have the influence in a school building that I have right now. Maybe it’s all of these things. Maybe it’s some of these things. Whatever it is, I seem to have been moved to action in a way that I have not yet experienced. So…
What will I do?
I will learn and listen. Many are speaking. Some loudly. Some softly. I will make sure I am hearing diverse voices. I will dismantle my echo chamber. I will add new voices to my mix. I will watch shows and documentaries. I will read. I will find podcasts and TED talks. I will sit with my own discomfort as a listen to new ideas and overwrite many of my own beliefs.
I will speak. I will stop worrying about saying the right thing and start saying something. I will use the voice which my white privilege has given me to amplify voices from peoples who have been and are still on the outside looking in. I will speak out in the face of racism, in big and small ways. I will call out a racist joke. I will engage in conversations, online and face-to-face. I will stop being quiet.
I will give. I have means. There is work being done that I can support with money and with time, in my own backyard and in the backyard of others. If you’re looking for ideas, I have chosen a monthly donation to the following:
A monthly donation ensures I continue to give consistently and will serve to remind me that this is an ongoing problem that requires ongoing support.
I will act. I am, after all, a school leader. I will provide our students with access to voices, people and cultures that better reflect the broader world in which we live. I will commit time each day, each week and each month to share voices that students need to hear and I will do so directly with students. I will support staff who are looking to do the same. I will encourage my staff to start asking themselves: “Whose voice I am amplifying when I select this for my classroom?” “Whose voice am I listening to?” I will reflect on my own actions with the same questions.
I will acknowledge that racism remains systemic in education. It is apparent in graduation rates, suspension statistics, and class placement decisions, to name but a few. I will acknowledge that the only viable response to racism is anti-racism.
This feels like it is just the beginning of a journey for me. I will travel along it with baby steps. I will learn. I will listen. I will speak. I will act. I will give. I will acknowledge.
Because I cannot unsee. I cannot unhear. I cannot unwatch.
Therefore, I choose to no longer stand still.
What will you choose?