Own Your Roots

When the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould was asked by her constituency youth council about how she overcame discrimination while working for the position that she holds today, she replied, “I was always taught to remember who I was and where I came from. When I say something in a room, I mean it, and I believe in my words completely.” Being proud of your culture can be extremely difficult when society often tells you not to be––whether this is directly, as I would assume it was in the Minister’s case, or indirectly, as I would say in mine, being a minority and owning your culture can be a feat.

Indigenous peoples have been treated atrociously by the Canadian government, and this has been translated into our society immensely. One example of this is the Colten Boushie case, where a young Indigenous boy was murdered at a farm in Saskatchewan in August of 2016, and the man charged with the murder was acquitted. I cannot even begin to comprehend the implications of being an Indigenous person in Canada, and knowing how privileged I am in my position, I am still inspired by the Minister’s words. I understand how difficult it can be to own your culture and background; there have many times in which the education I was receiving in school and through my peers, conflicted with the education I had been receiving from my culture. As I have grown up, I have been presented with the opportunity to build my own base of knowledge according to what I have been exposed to, and this process can easily be perceived as abandoning my culture, or not remembering where I come from.

Finding the balance between becoming an independent person and keeping in touch with cultural roots is something I constantly work on. However, through trial and error, I have noticed that it is a lot easier to own my roots than to resist them. Although I do not identify completely with what I have been taught in terms of my culture, I have learned that instead of pushing these aspects of how I’ve been brought up away, it is more empowering to acknowledge their existences, and to openly choose not to apply them in my way of life. This can seem impossible when familial pressures are present, and I understand that proclaiming a difference of opinion to family members is an unappealing and sometimes unsafe situation to be in. However, it is okay to take your time in finding who you are. It is okay to not explain why you choose to live your life the way you do. Owning where you come from and figuring out who you are today is a very personal journey, and it is one that has the ability to empower people to be their authentic selves, but there is nothing to gain by rushing the process. Slowly but surely, practice accepting who you were, and practice getting to know who you are.

the odds are against us;

the odds are against us;

it’s been nearly two years of near-constant fear,

just under a month since a heartbreaking choice.

we’re two degrees celsius from an ice-free arctic sea, and

on our way to silencing 1.4 million more voices.

each day takes a bravery unbeknownst to before,

every inaction adds to the core of our apathy,

which prevents us from seeing what’s right outside of our doors.

what they don’t understand—everything is connected,

when one group is neglected, another protects it.

a community grieves, but we will never leave.

if we truly believe in the power of each other,

and include everyone in the us, not the other,

showing up can get another elected.

we need to stick together and take care of everyone,

focus rather than fear, discuss not distrust,

share in despair, vote, lift up, and be fair.

hope is resistance when the odds are against us.

the past weeks may have been dismal, and the future’s not bright, but

in spite of it all we’re bonded in hope,

and we’ll fight.

• • •

We’ve been gone for so long that this is only a shout into the void. I hope you can hear it.

dear white people;

dear white people;

just as it is not our fault

that we are brown, yellow, black, or anything in between,

it is not your fault that your skin

is a reminder of years

of taking our lives,

taking our worlds,

and making them yours.

 

just as it is not our fault

that our skin tells policemen that we are ‘trouble’,

civilians that we are ‘danger’,

and society that we are ‘problems’,

it is not your fault that your skin

tells us that you are given much more.

 

and we get that it’s difficult

to walk the streets knowing that

so much of the world uses your skin

as a window to your soul.

we get that “ugh, white people”

and disgusted eye rolls

hurt.

 

believe me, we understand.

 

you wear a label

just as the rest of us do,

but while ours tells the world

of our “oppression and weakness”,

your “fault” is your strength.

 

of course, i’m generalizing, but

you can still tell your stories,

and that in itself

is more than the other colours can do.

 

dear white people;

it’s rough being white.

and brown.

and black.

and yellow.

and anything in between.

we learned this a long time ago.

 

but when you–

and please can you–

continue to learn,

recognize,

and do the work?

the power of your skin

can become something that begins

to make a change.

• • •

We pledge to understand our own privilege and to help provide a voice for those who are not given as much as we are. We have noticed on social media that many white people are discredited or invalidated just because they are white, similarly to how society always has treated people of colour differently because of their skin. We pledge to see the humanity in people regardless of their skin colours, as well as to always recognize systematic oppression and other forms of injustice.

because i can;

because i can;

i have decided

to do things

because i can.

i can watch netflix and stay in bed,

true,

but i can also go outside

and listen to music

and stop and smell the flowers.

i can skip rope

or skip class

if today, i will allow myself to take a breath.

i can drink a smoothie,

or perhaps a lemonade.

i can feel rain on my skin

or name a caterpillar.

(their name is wednesday)

i can connect,

and feel beautiful,

and get hurt,

and grow.

 

but,

 

i can also fight.

and make mistakes.

 

i can listen

and see

with my ears and eyes,

but forget to listen

and see

without them.

 

i can ask for help,

and only get it once or twice,

and i can keep asking

because i’m doing something for me.

 

i can be tired

and i can be awake.

 

i can be cheerful

or cry myself to sleep

and that’s okay.

 

i am letting myself

do things

because i can.

at the end of the day;

at the end of the day;

she wrote a poem and called it change.

about people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, stop our pain.

she wrote about the danger that comes with making things fair,

about how if we’d just dare to stop speaking in ‘ums’ and start ending warfare,

that the number of people lending a hand would become so much less rare.

instead of rendering teenagers into something that impairs, #teenvoices could be trending—

young people making waves, mending barriers, helping, defending.

yet of course, it’s true that people often do think change is too new.

it’s true that our stark reality

(of extinct species, and rising seas, and rising fees; more shut and locked doors than keys)

isn’t something to be pleased about, but please, listen to her, and accept this reality.

as she’s said before, we need more and more:

more voices, more caring, more hope, and more sharing.

this girl might be young, she might not be the same as you,

in fact, she might not even share the same view as you.

but at the end of the day, what really matters?

not who donated the most money, showed the most sympathy,

not who’s the least likely to give in and to boast, to presume and—

no, what matters is that we’re all human.

• • •

To be quite frank, making change is hard. Life happens, there are ups and downs, and we can’t control others. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that we do have some small bit of control over what happens to us as a collective. I’m determined to use that power to the extent that I can, no matter what the danger, the apathy, the naysayers, or the predicted, bleak future. Please join me in this. After all, we’re all human, and all deserve an equitable, just, and healthy world.