In the dark hours before sunrise, United Church minister Rev. Al drives through downtown Victoria greeting the city’s street community. He welcomes them with hot coffee, breakfast, and other necessities. The morning run lets Rev. Al and his team at the Dandelion Society plan their response to individual needs.
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.