We use we/us pronouns.
When trying to grasp the concept of white privilege in the United States and Canada, and even anti-racism as we see it, it might help to consider the colonization of the land and genocide against the indigenous inhabitants.
So much of colonial perspective is taken for granted by the colonizer, in this case whites. That is, white supremacy is baked into the dominant white culture. It’s how we are raised and habituated to see the world. Because it is a perspective, other perspectives can be learned, too.
But I’m not a white suprematist, says the fragile white person.
Let’s consider a genre of t-shirt that has become ubiquitous: “____” (insert name of city, university, etc.) with the text, “Established ___” (insert year said city or school was founded).
The date celebrated in this souvenir flex is the date the colonizer swindled the land from its occupants, bought the land from its occupants, or stole the land from its occupants—often by force (ie burning inhabitants’ dwellings and killing the inhabitants).
We are presenting two ways to view the situation. There are more ways. And we present no way as “correct.” There are sets of facts (maybe disputed) and lenses.
We looked through our t-shirts and found one: Taos, New Mexico. Established 1615.
1615 is when the Spanish conquered the Pueblo Indians. So the 1615 may be seen as celebrating non-native colonization of the town.
The Pueblo Natives of Taos have inhabited the dwelling called the Taos Pueblo since 1200 CE according to current residents of the Pueblo we spoke to when we visited many years ago. Wikipedia estimates theTaos Pueblo’s construction between 1000-1500.
It is not an immediate burden to all current inhabitants of the dominant culture to consider how their land was acquired. But the information is likely there.
Just as the information about the US and Canadian federal governments’ Red-lining programs to fund home ownership among whites to the exclusion of minorities, especially blacks and BIPOC peoples, is readily available.
To be anti-racist for us will be to study and acknowledge this information; to practice seeing from the oppressed peoples’ points of view how events might otherwise be interpreted; to challenge our own beliefs that assume a supremacy by the dominant culture (white culture); to make choices in life (whom we befriend, do business with, whose ideas we consume, what we talk about online and in-person) that dismantle the inherited and often invisible (to the dominant culture) supremacy of colonial culture.
We won’t tell anyone they have to do anything or they have to shame other people. This is more violence when we desire actions that are compassionate, even about previous violence. This is a core belief of ours—non-violence—and we will try to apply it to restorative justice, if such a concept exists.
Hatred never ceases hatred but by love alone is healed
We think financial reparations are necessary: we would like to see some government-owned lands transferred back to indigenous populations; we want to see funding to restore the great prairies of the continent’s mid-section; we want to see residents whose lineage is soaked in kidnapping across seas, slavery, genocide, and racial exclusion given compensation to build wealth—even though we think financial greed and consumer culture are anathema to restorative justice. We want oppressed parties to decide for themselves.
Some ecologically minded folks regard Buckthorn, House Sparrows, Asian Carp, and other nonnative species as “invasive.” Have you also considered that we, of European descent, are invasive species to these lands of the US and Canada? We consume resources, extinguish species, murder native inhabitants, and destroy the planet’s balance. How would you restore native balance in that case?
Some people view white Communication as progress or as inevitable. That is another way to view the situation. Some also say that we can’t go back now—back to Europe, back to letting American Bison roam the Great Plains by the millions, back to pre-agriculture—before the Dust Bowl.
Would a landowner in the Western US want to relocate to the desert of Monument Valley? No? Why not? Ask the Navajo Nation how verdant the land is.
It’s 2020. We can get creative in order to demonstrate to oppressed peoples their inherent value as human beings—a value no less than our own personal and our (white) culture’s values.
Institutions and social mechanisms are human inventions. It’s easier to see this when these institutions are disrupted or falter, such as by global pandemic and social uprisings like Black Lives Matter.
Whites privilege does not imply that all white peoples have had easy lives. It means that you get to see that the dominant culture reflects mostly your perspective: USA Established 1776. Canada Established 1867. Blacks kidnapped, enslaved, murdered by European-North Americans since 1500. Native North American victims of genocide since at least 1492.
Considering each group’s common perspective with compassion—and not judgment—is how we bridge the empathy gap.
As Rumi wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”