Monday, July 4, 2016

Toronto Pride 2016 Equality for all...wait....

*Phone rings*

"Oh hey, establishment, I'm glad I caught you, how are you?

Oh wow, that's great! Glad to hear everyone is doing well, listen, I'm afraid my group of people aren't too happy with the way you are treating us, we've discussed it, and we've decided we need to protest.

So I wanted to try to book in a time where it would be convenient for you. How about next You've a Scrabble tournament? Wednesday...oh, that would indeed interrupt you. 

Next Saturday? That sounds good, thank you so much for allowing us to protest!"


So in my lovely hometown of Toronto, we have had our Pride celebrations. To commemorate those who have protested for rights, those who still do, those who have died and to provide an opportunity to celebrate your identity within the LGBTQ community. It's wonderful right? I'm lucky enough to live in a place where not only the Mayor of Toronto, the Premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister of Canada come out to support Pride. It sends a messages to millions that this is a place where we continually working on and pushing forward on rights and safeties for people of this community. It's far from perfect and there is still a long way to go, but compared to other parts of the world, it's pretty groovy.

So festivities in full tilt, the parade is halted by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Shortly after people lost their shit. Some of the comments when along the lines of "how dare you! I had to wait in the sun for the parade!!" "You should have protested this earlier!" (Behind closed doors). “You are only allowed here as invited guests!” “ALL LIVES MATTER!!!!” “What a disgrace to your people!” “Go fight black on black crime!” “You’re racists” “We all know that black people hate homosexuals” “You guys are thugs” “I used to support Black Lives Matter, but not anymore!” “How can we take you seriously when you are using slang” All of these are paraphrased things I’ve seen on my newsfeed this morning.

So here’s the thing, LGBTQ community, as far as equality for non-white people in this community, you need to step it up. Like big time, and what sucks about that big time is that it has to be said. Shortly after the Orlando massacre, I cannot tell you how many white LGBT people took to the Internet to condemn Muslims and “their way of life” Meanwhile, as usual, Muslim groups went into hyper drive to prove they’re not evil and showed solidarity in so many gracious acts despite the vile things being thrown their way.

People of colour are regularly erased from LGBTQ spaces. It’s happened with this protest! all people see is black people protesting, but has it occurred to them that they may be LGBTQ black people? And they may have some grievances inside the community? Is that allowed? I mean, it would be hilarious illustration of POC erasure in the community if it weren't so sad.

See, if you are part of a community and pride yourself as being inclusive, that means you’re going to have to include people of colour more regularly. You have to examine boards of directors and supervisors and ask yourself, why they are largely white in a city where people of colour are the majority. You’re going to have to answer tough questions about why you think the established way is the best way. You’re going to be asked to examine your alliances with groups long criticized for being racist. And much to Pride Toronto’s credit, they were asked and they answered.

There is this thing called intersectionality, it’s a wild concept, it outlines the possibility that even if you are from a marginalized community, you still may have power, and you may be marginalizing other communities. Many people are shocked to hear this, many people push back against the idea, but it happens, regularly! You have a white gay male and a black straight male punch a police officer, guess which one is more likely to be seriously hurt? You have a male straight south Asian dude and a white lesbian women competing for a job, guess who is more likely to get paid roughly 25% less, but then that dude may have a harder time getting his foot in the door because the name on his resume may be "too ethnic". You can be a minority and still benefit from a system in place that marginalizes people based on race, gender, class, religion, ethnicity, immigration status and so many more AND sexual orientation.

Repeat after me, because you are a marginalized group, you do not get a free pass in marginalizing others and still be considered inclusive.  

I’m sorry your parade was marred by people wanting equal rights within the community, what a terrible thing to do! Sorry that this interruption for equality disturbs you so much, (in a parade for equality). I get it, we can only march for certain people’s equality and not look within our own borders.  

Protests are never convenient, they’re not supposed to be. They’re there to draw attention to a problem, they’re there to be controversial, to say that there is something wrong with the status quo and if you’re going to let the fact that you were inconvenienced by what? A half hour, you need to think back ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago when people were criticizing Pride for the exact same reasons you are criticizing Black Lives Matter.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Parenting while being non-white

So I'm about to piss a lot of people off. However I've been thinking about it and discussing it in circles with various friends from different backgrounds and we've had similar observations. In the past year I've been doing my university diligence on Indigenous kids in care, and how they represent nearly half the kids in care in Canada and how this is alarming since the Indigenous population as a whole in itself represents a little piece (I think 4.3%). Likewise, a friend of mine has been researching black kids in care in the Greater Toronto Area and had similar findings. I did a quick looksee into American stats, and not surprisingly, they were similar.
So, I've been reflecting on the tragic death of the little boy in Florida due to an alligator and the almost tragedy of that little boy in Cinncinati. Both are terrible accidents the result of a choice of parents who at the time were doing their very best I'm sure. I think both are accidents, they may have been preventable, but as a parent, shit happens and I get that, a decision was made and it snowballed into horrible consequences. I guess what I'm saying is that I view them both equally in terms of accountability.
However, the media had painted these families in two different lights. (I'm not talking about comments sections) One family was pretty much vilified, the other garnered sympathy. One family has the past dug up on dad's criminal background, the other has not.
I sit back and reflect upon how much society views black and Indigenous parents as inferior and how it goes so much beyond two stories. These kids are over represented in care, not because they are more abused, but many of them are apprehended for "neglect" as their parents are living in poverty and may leave them unsupervised to go to work, or they're wearing super hand me downs. In many cases, agencies and advocates of marginalized people across Canada and the US are calling out these agencies and why they have such disproportionate kids in care. A poor kid living with a loving family doesn't need a foster home, they need resources, which these care agencies can either provide or facilitate, but time and again, these children are removed from their homes, communities and placed hundreds of miles away from people who love them, because "well-meaning" workers still view these families through a lens of superiority.
But the bottom line is, that people belonging to black and Indigenous communities are seen as inferior parents, and the minute they slip up, it's because they have a criminal background, or drugs, or abuse. The fact is that two families had terrible accidents but one family is largely given the benefit of the doubt and the other was not is indicative of a larger problem.
I welcome comments, but please keep them in the framework of we are discussing how the MEDIA is handling this and how society at large thinks of families from racialized backgrounds. If you think there is no such thing as racism or how dare I bring race into this, just don't, I didn't create the system, I'm pointing out how two families were treated differently by it. If you're tempted to tell me now is not the time to talk about this, I'm asking when? Is there ever a good time? People are being killed because the colour of their skin is different, it's never going to be a comfortable conversation. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How does it come to this?

So I woke up from a lovely sleep after being up north recovering from an insane week. I woke up in the morning to enjoy a rare cup of coffee while my children were still asleep, signed on to read the news and like make woke up to the fact that a massacre occurred in a nightclub in Orlando. The people committing these horrible crimes usually have some sort of hateful justification, in this case, the targets and victims were gay. As the day goes on I have tasks to carry out, but check in when I can and see the death count rise, honestly though, one is too many.

We sit and ask ourselves how does it come to this. I actually had some thoughts around this when people ask themselves how Donald Trump with all his racist rhetoric gets to become a nominee for the leader of the USA. Sure we can blame extremists, or racists and pat ourselves on the back for not being that extreme and even though we may never pick up a weapon to cause harm to others, or vote a terrible person into power, we still have our roles.

Every time we let that joke fly by, or let cousin Eddy say something terrible and you don't speak up, or you for some reason feel the need to separate into us and them over an issue. You know, when you have those little statuses or complaints about "those people", "Real Canadians", "Our way of life", "Political correctness", "Hating the sin" or any complaints about "perverts" in washrooms. I'm guilty for staying silent when I should say something in "order to keep the peace".

You see, all of us different people aren't complaining and fighting and raising hell for the sake of hearing our own voices. I'd rather be doing anything than reflecting on the senseless deaths of so many people because of who they were attracted to. I'd rather be doing anything, than watching my Muslim friends make a point of saying how they are not associated with this guy. This isn't something we "Social Justice Warriors" enjoy, I feel terrible, I'm scared and sad and angry.

I'm also going to tell you that these little negative gems, are the seeds of this much greater problem. You say these little things, not really thinking about the larger picture, just that you're scared that the status quo may change, and like ripples on water it fuels other little comments, and more comments, and bigger and nastier comments, and thoughts, beliefs and values. You get people like Trump who is now validating all those little comments and thoughts. Or people like Mateen who just cuts to the chase and eliminates lives as he sees fit.

See what you don't get, is that there is power in what you say and it affects others. Words inspire, why else do we listen to speeches or sermons, read books or listen to music? You say, they are simply your opinion and you have a right to say them no matter how ugly they are. Indeed you do, but I'm going to tell you that those words, those thoughts are ugly and point out that they are a small cog in a big problem.

So where does this leave us...comments about those people, real Canadians, our way of life, all of them are related to change. Ask yourself, has your life REALLY been negatively impacted because LGBTQ people are slowly being protected by laws? Don't like that a same sex couple can adopt a child? I bet that child is pretty happy they have a family now. Don't like that they have sex...I really can't see how that impacts you. Has it been negatively impacted because people have immigrated to your country? Didn't get that job? Well maybe it has more to do with your qualifications than the colour of someone else's skin. Has it been impacted because someone whom you deem as uncacceptable as your gender, is in your washroom? You're there to pee,  so are they, get on with it.

Now ask yourself, do you have anything in common with people in these groups? You laugh, you cry, you poop, you eat. Language not being a barrier, you can strike up a conversation with almost anyone about what their favourite food or song or animal is. Is your discomfort with some change worth saying something hurtful about someone who you probably have more in common with than you think?

So how do we get Mateens and Trumps? As much as it is because we don't speak up and we don't oppose hate vigorously enough, it's also because we speak "little negative things" against groups of people or we let them slide, its because we fail to see the humanity in each other and value thoughts and institutions that maintain the status quo over a fellow person. How whack is that? Think about it, "I have this beliefs that prevents me from seeing this person as someone deserving dignity, compassion and respect". What does that say about that belief?

I tried to leave this post on a positive note, but it all sounds trite and really, I'm not feeling positive, nor should I, I doubt many who have a strong dislike for hate are feeling too positive right now. All I'm going to say is that your little words, are part of a very big problem and when that big problem erupts, a lot more than feelings or rights get hurt.

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Beauty Hopes

So I came across this photo on the Facebook page of Healthy is the New Skinny 

I shared this response that I'd like to just post here so I can come back to it over and over again whenever I'm feeling ugly. Sorry for the weird formatting, I'm getting back into the saddle and for some reason it doesn't want to justify LEFT!!!!

"This is so true, I know it and at times I feel it, and I would wholeheartedly tell anyone that they are beautiful even those they are outside the beauty standard and be 100% genuine.

But for myself, it is a constant struggle to internalize the feeling that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and most importantly from within. There will be glimpses when I look at myself and for a split second see a beautiful women and then all the programming takes over and then the "if only I could lose..." "If I didn't have these wrinkles..." "I wish my hair..."

I could have whatever creating force is out there tell me that I am the ideal definition of beauty and I'd still say "but I'd be better looking if I lost a few pounds right?" 

How sad is that, that despite being a strong minded vibrant woman who would gladly eviscerate any argument that women outside the media's image aren't attractive, on behalf of all women and men, that I cannot apply that to myself. How deep the message has gone that even with all my strength and stubbornness and wisdom I cannot still see my body as a soft curvy reminder of a life well lived, overcoming struggle and still supple enough to bend. That I cannot see these lines for every reflective moment, brilliant thought, survived trauma or wonderful bliss. That I cannot see these grey hairs for the sparkly reminder that I am getting older but I am still here, with purpose and with people who are on this journey with me. 

I promise myself over and over again that "no more!" I will not succumb to the evil poison the media has fed me. If I can see the beauty in women who are fat, thin, old, young, hairy, bald, with long legs or none at all, curly or straight hair, and every skin shade imaginable, I should be able to see it in myself. It lasts for a little bit, but like smoke, those evil messages seep through the cracks in my armor and I find myself staring at the mirror poking myself, smoothing out imperfections, wondering when my beauty will fade so dramatically that I won't be worthy of love anymore.

This is what these messages have done to me, and it is a constant fight to overcome them daily and feel confident enough to dress in anything other than baggy clothes or to go out without makeup or without my hair perfectly done. It's like an illness I have to fight daily in order to be whole with myself again so that I can focus on the task at hand, my friends and family,! 

I hope someday some wisdom untapped will finally kick in and kick out all those negative messages. To be able to look at myself and reflect on what I have done, rather than focus on what "society" deems as imperfection. I want to be that crone who is wise, proud, wrinkled and beautiful someday and just know it and share it and hopefully inspire someone like me who still has some much beauty left untapped."

To the Fathers of my Son's Future Partners...Don't threaten my boys

My oldest is ten years old now, so this is creeping up on me. He told me a while back he had a crush on a girl and while I did all my squealing and my son promptly left the room, I started to think about romance when you're young. I remembered the delirious highs and the soul crushing lows and started to worry about his little heart being broken and I get it, I get the instinct to protect one's young from harm. Believe me, I'm a Mamabear and proud of it, but there are some harms he is going to have to face that I cannot protect him from.
Your fear as a father protecting your young goes beyond a broken heart, I get that too. Totally. I am all over the rape culture society has and the dangers for women, particularly in intimate relationship. I have a diploma to prove it. I fear for the young women I work with when they talk about stupid things their partners say or feel entitled to. I want to somehow magically transplant at least some of the wisdom and entitlement I have as a woman to be safe in an intimate relationship. But as a worker, I can only do much and I try very hard to make sure that even from my position, they have the knowledge to be safe.
Pretty shitty world we live in when we feel like we have to do that to keep our girls safe. I won't deny the nature of society and that it leads to a belief that men are entitled to women's bodies. However I don't believe all men are stupid enough to think this way. Are teenage boys flowing with hormones? Most likely in most cases. Does this lead towards sexual activity? It can, because girls and women have hormones too. Does this lead to girls and women being raped? No.
Sexual activity and rape are two different things. Lets get rape out of the way. My boys are not being raised to think that "boys will be boys" is okay. They are not being raised to think that the best way to get a girl's attention is to be mean to her or call her names, or pull her bra straps. They are not being raised where it is acceptable to resort to physical violence.They are not being raised where it is acceptable to ridicule or berate or make someone feel unsafe mentally or emotionally. They are not being raised where they will not being accountable for their actions. All of this starts at home, in a loving environment where everyone is respected, even children. Does this mean they are undisciplined? Oh god no, I'm a pretty strict parent when it comes to behaviour expectations, and it shows. But I'm also a loving mom who basically believes in the golden rule. I'm happy to report so far, other than incessant squabbling between them, it seems to be working.
Oh, in case it wasn't clear, I'm a feminist too. If you're rolling your eyes, I'm confused because who better to raise respectful men, and don't you want that for your daughter?
So let me tell you something, if I caught any of my boys acting like a misogynistic, entitled brats, the wrath of Mom is almost as scary as the wrath of Mamabear. So with that being said, don't threaten my boys if they are dating your daughter. Seriously, don't. My boys aren't going to rape your daughter, and you are fully encouraged to respectfully interrogate them (I'll be doing the same, don't worry), through that you will (hopefully) understand that they aren't going to bring that kind of harm to your daughter.
Will they break her heart? Maybe, maybe she will break their hearts. I will be working tirelessly to make sure that while relationships may not work out, they still need to be respectful and compassionate. Essentially, I'm trying to teach my boys not to cheat or be mean when ending a relationship. I truly hope you are doing the same thing.
Will they have sex...I know, you're shuddering, so am I, believe me, they're my babies. But I'm also realistic and that is a possibility. As such, I will be teaching them the importance of doing so in a respectful, compassionate and most important consensual manner.
If you are inclined to threaten my boys because of this, I've got news for you, you do not own your daughter's body and that is exactly the kind of attitude that feeds into rape culture. So as a woman, as a counsellor for abused women, as a child and youth worker, stop, and challenge your own thinking about that. You are no more entitled to have say what she does with her body than anybody else. As a Mamabear, just don't, because you are crossing a line that you would not be okay with if I threatened harm on your daughter, so you show the same amount of respect and we should get on fine. Don't assume the worst right off the bat and start what could be a positive relationship with the threat of violence.
Dear fathers, I truly, deeply understand the urge to protect your young. You have invested a lot of time instilling values, raising them well, loving them and hopefully passing on some wisdom, I've done the same. You will be able to tell this by sitting down with my kids for 15 minutes and talking to them. So what I ask is that you respect my kid, respect your kid, respect that you've done your job and respect that I'm doing my job and we should all get on fine.

On Being Controversial

To look at me, you'll see a pretty friendly looking, mother of three great kids, student and happy go lucky person. I have a nice house on a quiet suburban street, I have a great partner, lots of friends, nice family, pets, a flower garden. Additionally, a strong student (so long as there is no math involved), will go out of my way to help others, will pick up a $20 bill at a sports arena and find it's owner instead of putting it towards overpriced concessions, overall a nice person. You wouldn't be wrong, but I'm also a bisexual woman who has mixed ancestry of black, native and white. I'm also a feminist...and a socialist, I'm divorced (I don't hate men, I quite like the smart ones) somewhere in between "regular sized" and "plus sized", I have funky hair and a big mouth.
This puts me in an awkward position as a Canadian woman. Canadians in general do not like to talk about racism, sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia...well basically that doesn't paint us in the rosy light where we accept everyone and no one is racist, we are so beyond that! We have multiculturalism in our constitution and we were part of the Underground Railroad *chest all puffy*. White Canadians especially do not want to talk about these topics because they are uncomfortable for them a lot of the time. I can get it to a degree. I have no disability, I am cisgender, I am light skinned and have "good hair" and there have been times I've been asked to examine my privilege or make changes that feel different to me or that I was inadvertently being oppressive, it's not a good place, however sometimes shit just has to be said.
I have white friends and family and as I've become more vocal in examining race and racism in a Canadian context, my Facebook friends list has been decreasing in numbers as far as those white friends and family are concerned. Or they write to me "Why do you have to be so controversial?" or "Why are you so angry??" They wield angry around like it's supposed to be a kill switch "maybe if I call her angry, she'll stop" after all, who wants to be the angry sensitive person of colour. But the fact of the matter is, I am angry, I have this overwhelming urge right now as a Canadian to apologize for this, but no, it's okay to be angry.
Things are not okay. Things are in bad shape even in this day and age. Even in Canada.
We have police forces who routinely target black males for carding, they also routinely target Indigenous males for harassment. They won't release race based statistics on who they are arresting, or killing and that makes me wonder why.
We have people living in reservations with no clean drinking water, for reals. Come on, really? It's not like we have a lack of water. The government has no money to provide proper infrastructure? Or they have no say when an industry decides to pollute the water upstream?
We have children who are targeted by security agencies whilst flying as terrorists. Someone told me it was the price we had to pay for freedom. I don't know about other people, but I don't consider screening six year old children freedom, nor do I feel safer in the air.
I can go on for decades, hence the point of this blog, so I have to pace myself.
Oh Joy, but it's not all white people. You would be right. It's not. I have plenty of friends who are there fighting the good fight, some expected as they are deep into social justice, there are those who are simply going through life, look at a crappy situation and say that's not cool and then there are those who insist the status quo is just skippy. But here is the deal, you don't have to actively be holding a burning cross or making caricatures to be participating in this awful system. When you dismiss someone as too angry, when you say "pulling the race card", when you justify shitty race based experiences that people of colour are talking about, when you railroad that discussion by saying "not all white people, I'm not like that", you aren't helping any. Because what you really want to say is "not me!!!" and by jumping into that discussion and saying "not me!" you are trying to change an important discourse and make it about your feelings, not cool. And what really pisses me off is the entitlement behind that.
So friends, family, Canada, I'm sorry (no I'm not, just trying to be Canadian) I'm angry about this. I'm still the same person, however this is a topic near and dear to me because it's my very identity and that of many people whom I love, and we are being targeted because of it. You may see things you disagree with and by all means, engage me, I'll be civil, but I will be passionate, and I'm asking you to suck it up if you do. I'm going to break free from the non-controversial mode and start pushing these topics, they need to be pushed and I'm not afraid of being labeled angry or sensitive or playing the race card because those are pretty pathetic ways to shut me up and if you ask my mother, there is no shutting me up, I personally blame her parenting for that problem.
I've noticed we are entering a new era where people are connecting on these issues and forcing these topics to the table and by golly, I want to help, so fair warning, welcome to my blog, beware of controversy.