We all want to be woke. We all want to do the right thing, say the right thing or call out the bad guys. But what happens when the we mess up? It happens all the time. We all rush headlong into the void, carrying our protest signs and wearing our “pussy hats” hoping we can change the world. Then, when the media comes rushing in to report on what’s going on, they take pictures of white people protesting for black lives matter, men protesting at the women’s march, straight people marching for gay pride. We want to help, but are we?
I do this kind of thing all the time, even if I don’t realize it. I have made mistakes and so have you. Realizing those mistakes and growing from them are the only way those of us in positions of privilege can grow and even come close to being the amazing people that our Facebook likes say we are. This is a journey and we are not at the end.
I’m not looking for a pat on the back here. I know that I have contributed, even unknowingly, to the oppression of others, just as others have, sometimes unknowingly, contributed to my own oppression.
I can think of a dozen examples of this. That Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner deescalating some cops with a can of cola is one. Liberal men weighing in on women’s reproductive issues is another. Good intentions, bad outcomes.
Last week I made a mistake. I wasn’t on top of my game at all and because of my mistakes I made someone feel pretty terrible. Jane Theriault-Norman wrote an article for this column about missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada and the REDress project. Somewhere in the editing process, what we published became something quite different than what she wrote. While I did not make those changes myself, the changes that were made took her voice away and I am responsible for what was published. It’s easy to say that it doesn’t matter, it’s just an article in a student newspaper, but of course I can say that. It has no negative effect on me. I’m a white woman. It isn’t possible for me to fully understand all of the reasons it matters. (Read the original article, unedited, at brockpress.com).
It was always my intention with this column to highlight the issues that marginalized groups experience. As a member of a marginalized group myself (I am a gay woman) I have tried to amplify the voices of others who have been oppressed. As they say, don’t just drop the mic, pass it. Use whatever power you have to help others find their place to be heard. I had such good intentions. I, however, did not check my privilege. I am in a position to assume that everyone is on the same page as me.
To err is human, as they say. We all make mistakes and that is never going to change. I am not asking to be forgiven for those mistakes. It is not responsibility of someone I have hurt or offended to make me feel better about that. I am asking that you, dear reader, learn from them. Good intentions do not always end in good results. Get on top of your own stuff the best you can, and I will do my best to get on top of mine. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, and this time we will know better, do better and be better.
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