As I move further along my journey, self reflection for me as a person and as a Social Worker is important. Why? Because the way I relate to the world isn’t how others relate to the world.
I am not talking about shared human experiences right now. I am talking about privilege.
Being able to move within the world without thinking twice. Just doing. Because I can.
Reflecting back. Way back. I was always surrounded by whiteness. Not much diversity in small town Southwestern Ontario. I was always surrounded by the Catholic faith. Side note: Jesus is brown? Mind blown.
I didn’t feel uncomfortable at the Pow Wow. I felt uncomfortable in Gr. 2. The first black boy in my class. I remember his name. I remember he was on the spectrum (but I didn’t know that then). He was weird. He was in foster care. And then he was gone.
I think I unconsciously became aware of my whiteness then. Around the age 8.
But life went on and I seldom experienced feeling uncomfortable around someone that didn’t look like me.
It was hard to put a finger on the discomfort. I didn’t have enough self-awareness.
The thing that hit me. That woke my white ass up. I was newly graduated with my undergraduate in Social Work work and working on a First Nation. In child welfare. (Another post, another day).
I was the minority. I was hated. I was uncomfortable. My job and my skin were one. I had to drive over a bridge to get there. I would hold my breath and when I was done for the day I would fly so fast over the bridge. I couldn’t wait to get onto familiar ground.
It’s been just over 10 years since that experience. I reflect a lot on it. What it meant to me. What it meant to them. How I made them feel, just by having white skin. I was the outlier. And uncomfortable as fuck.
It humbled me. It made me sad. It made me ugly cry. You mean to tell me that racialized people feel like this everyday. In our society? How utterly ignorant of me.
And then I learned that race was socially constructed. Mind blown. Again. It made sense. Of course it made sense. Fuckin’ white people. We need to do better. All of us.
What can I do to stop this? There has to be something. I can start by acknowledging my own privilege and the ways that I’ve messed up.
I can try to bring awareness…without taking away from the words and voices and the pain of my fellow human beings. I can listen. I can help. I can acknowledge my whiteness.