I am a racist – a recovering racist. My workplace has helped me open my heart and mind to how racism shaped me. As editor of the At the Heart of Justice blog, I was pleased to uplift the theme of racial justice. What I came to understand was that my pleasure reflected my White privilege — I could choose to focus on this issue.
Canada became my home at the age of five. I entered the Canadian education system as a kindergarten student. Although I felt some racial tension throughout elementary school, it was not until I reached high school that racism became bluntly obvious. Upon my acceptance into high school I was immediately placed into general level courses. This meant that I would be prepared to go to college but not university. This practice is called “tracking.”
We stood in the hallway of a retreat centre and listened to our instructions. The animator would read us a question. If our answer was yes, we were to take a step forward. If our answer was no, we were to stay where we were.
The animator told us to move forward if this statement was true for us. “When I learn about our Canadian heritage or about ‘civilization’, I am shown that people of my colour made it what it is.” I stepped forward.
She read: “I can do well in a challenging position without being called ‘a credit to my race’.” I winced and stepped forward.
That our United Church of Canada is undergoing change goes without saying. As generational and demographic experiences of church have shifted, the church has been exploring many matters which centre on diversity and inclusivity.
What does home mean to you? Does it include a source of clean water? Perhaps a patch of grass or access to parkland? Does it include safety and security – it will be there day after day to help keep you safe and secure from the elements? Does it mean connection to larger community or neighbourhood? Does it include a source of livelihood? As people of faith we have affirmed that we live with respect IN creation, that “we cherish and respect the diversity of life and celebrate the beauty of the Earth.
These are my blessings: seven adopted First Nations children that have chosen me as their mom. Our family has included many children, including White, Asian, transgender, Two Spirit, and more. As a family we choose to celebrate our differences and learn from each other. Sadly, we have seen many who do not share our beliefs that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
Canada is often ranked as “the best place to live.” We often perceive Canada to be a friendly and accepting place. But for some it is a place where they experience racism.
Racism is a system of oppression. It is fed by individual and collective attitudes, and by actions that discriminate against, oppress, exclude, and limit ethnic groups based on their race and/or colour of their skin. It is also a system of privilege that gives White people in North America unearned economic, social, political, and cultural advantages.
For centuries an olive branch has symbolized peace.
Greek and Roman cultures used the symbol as early as 2,500 years ago. The dual image of a dove with an olive branch has been a Christian symbol of peace since the end of the first century CE. This comes (in part) from Genesis 8:11, which tells of a dove sent from Noah’s ark and returning with an olive branch.
The symbol continues today. In Palestine, olive oil is the primary source of income for about 75,000 farmers. Olive trees also produce olives for food, soap, jewelry, woodcarving, and firewood.