Hey white people, we need to talk

Originally posted on my Instagram (IGTV)

Transcript of video I originally posted to my Instagram on June 1, 2020.

Hey white people. This is for you. We need to have a little chat.

There is so much going on in the news right now in terms of the protests we are seeing. Not just in the US but also here in Canada.

As Canadians, I know that we like to think that racism is an American problem. It’s not. It’s our problem, too. We like to think that we are nice people and that we’re polite and you probably don’t think of yourself as a racist and you would probably be absolutely…. embarrassed beyond belief to be thought of as having behaved in a racist manner. We’re respectable white people, right?

Ok, so, now that we have established that, fellow white people, we need to talk about race. We really, really need to talk about race.

Because all of this stuff that we see happening, all of these protests about police brutality, we have a job to do.

If you think of society like a hockey game—and I don’t watch hockey but, you know, as a Canadian I have to pretend I like it—if you think of society like a hockey game, it’s like we’re playing a game where white people have one set of rules and black people have another set of rules. A set of rules that disadvantages them and advantages us.

Black folks have been trying to tell us, they have been fighting, for generations to tell us that this is not fair. That the game is not fair. That the rules are not fair.

Sometimes we slap a patch on things and we like to pat ourselves on the back and say that we’ve done something, but we haven’t changed to rules. We haven’t fixed the problem. Because we don’t see the problem.

We like to think that (I think, anyway), we like to think as white people that our experience is universal! It’s the default! Our experience going to the grocery store, or dealing with the government, or in school, or wherever, just living our lives, that that’s how everybody experiences it.

And it’s not. We need to quit kidding ourselves that our experience is the default Canadian experience.

As white people, we can call the police, and the police are our helpers and they’re coming to help us. Black people can’t do that. They call the police and they’re taking their lives in their hands. I mean, heck, they’re taking their neighbours lives in their hands, because goodness knows we’ve seen shootings of completely uninvolved folks situations.

We as white people need to take a long hard look at the rules. We need to start recognizing how white privilege works and how structural racism works.

Because it’s not just whether or not we’re nice to Black folks. It’s how our entire society is set up, how we as white people from the very beginning have set up a society that advantages us and disadvantages anybody who doesn’t look like us.

I think we can probably agree that’s not a good society. That’s probably not the society that we want to pass on, to keep passing on to our children. I know it’s note the society I want for anybody.

We sometimes like to think that, well, I didn’t create this problem, this isn’t my problem, it was dead white guys like a century, a couple of centuries ago that started this problem. And sure, we’ve inherited the problem. But if we’re not doing anything to actively fix the problems, if we’re not actively changing and improving our society for everybody, then we are perpetuating the problem and we are part of the problem.

Black people have been telling us for generations that there’s a problem. And we don’t want to hear it. And we want to focus instead on whether or not kneeling is right, or whether or not a burning building is the right way to do things. As Trevor Noah said in his Daily Show clip, which you need to watch, there is no right way, because protesting is about saying that things aren’t right and speaking up against the dominate white system.

We as white people cannot and should not expect people of colour to identify the problem and fix the system while they’re still having to play the game with a crappy set of rules.

It’s on us to figure out white privilege. Which basically means that yes, our life can be hard, but our life is not hard because we are white. That’s basically white privilege in a nutshell.

We need to look at structural racism. We need to look at the way our education systems, our medical systems, our businesses, our institutions, our day-to-day interactions perpetuate racism. How they continue to benefit us and nobody else.

It is not easy work. And I am by no means done the work, I’ve only just started on my own journey in the past couple of years of trying to become more aware of these things. A really influential book for me was So you want to talk about race. And I really, really recommend that book to absolutely every white person I know. It’s really really hard to read. I mean, the language is easy and the chapters are relatively short, but it’s really difficult because it calls us out on all of our crappy behaviour. On all of the ways we make assumptions and we set rules that benefit us and we don’t even notice it.

That’s the scary thing. We don’t even notice it. So we need to start noticing and we need to start calling these things out and we need to start supporting each other in this conversation and quite waiting for somebody else to fix the problem.

We created a mess and we need to take responsibility for that mess. Even if it’s a mess that we inherited. Even if it’s a mess that we don’t personally see— I mean, I don’t work for the police, so why is it my problem? Well, it is my problem because it’s a society I live in, it’s the a society I conform to and that you conform to. It’s a society that we live in and that socializes us that Black people are thugs and criminals simply because they’re black. And that’s not right. That is wrong. We need to start calling out the language, the “jokes” that friends make and that we laugh at, maybe uncomfortably maybe not.

We need to call those out and we need to start having hard conversations amongst ourselves. And like I said, this is really hard work, and it’s really really uncomfortable. I’m right there with you, I’m trying to do it, too. And it’s not easy. It’s really really hard sometimes but we need to do it.

Because if we don’t do it, nobody can do it for us and nothing is going to change. Life is not going to get better for other people if we don’t start listening to other people.

And that’s really they key thing that I think we as white people need to be doing right now, is listening.

Listening to Black experiences. Listening to Indigenous experiences, and experiences of people of colour and quit assuming that everybody experiences the world the same way we do.

Because they don’t.

We need to take advantage of the resources that are already out there—and there are tons of resources. I’ve been retweeting lots in my own Twitter feed, same user name as this Instagram, but you hardly have to scratch the surface and you’ll find lots of great books, websites, podcasts that deal with these really difficult issues.

So we need to take that step and actively seek out and start listening. We need to quit waiting for somebody to come around and knock on our door and ask us to participate. We need to take ownership of our part of the mess.

And we need to support each other in this conversation because it is scary and hard to do. It’s hard to call out your friends. It’s hard to make a video on Instagram about race! It’s hard. It’s really really uncomfortable.

It’s uncomfortable to know that I, simply because I was born white, I am benefitting from centuries of structures. I didn’t ask for it, but I have it. What do I do with it? Right? And we need to not expect ally cookies, as folks on Twitter call it, we need to take responsibility and not expect accolades and pats on the back when we do the right thing. Because that’s the other thing, the other trap we fall into. And I get it, because it’s hard, and you want recognition,.

I guess what I’m saying is that this has a lot more to do with us than you might think it does. It’s on us to make the world better and to quit kicking this problem down the road for somebody else to deal with and to see more lives lost, to see more people imprisoned and punished unfairly because of the colour of their skin.

That’s not the world that I want to leave behind me. I don’t think it’s the world that you want to leave behind, either.

So we need to do work, we need to support each other, and we need to lift up Black voices and Black experiences. We have to centre them and their experiences.

They’ve been telling us this for generations and they’re tired.

We need to help figure out our crap and do the right thing.

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Artist, writer, creator, teacher, researcher Twitter & Instagram @InnesAlison

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