Thanks to David Neale for helping me pull together these links.
I’m going to preface this by saying I benefit from white privilege like a whitey whitey white thing. I am so white I reflect camera flashes. I look far more like an even paler version of my biological father’s Sicilian relatives than I do anything else, but here is the thing. My heritage isn’t 100% white; my great-grandfather was visibly Native American and was so deeply ashamed of it that he reportedly refused even to discuss it with my mother when she was young. That left marks on my family.
However, I identify as white because I am identified as white. I benefit from white privilege, and I’ve only been on the reservation once. I don’t identify as native because I don’t experience the racism that they experience, but I do take an interest because theirs is the only blood I’ve got that hasn’t ever felt like poison in my veins, straight-up poison. My mother’s father? Shit. All her siblings through him? Shit. My mother’s mother? Shit. My biological father? Shit. His relatives? Categorically all shit. The only people that I never had to feel ashamed to be compared to, the only people whose features in my face weren’t an invasion from the moment of conception by people who wanted to hurt me, were my mother’s relatives among the Penobscots.
So yeah. I care when people don’t think about them, when family-wise they were about the only good blood I received. I guess you could say they’re kith, not kin. How can you not love the source of the only pride in yourself you had available ever?
It means that I take erasure of what Aboriginal people go through pretty hard. See, there’s this meme that keeps popping up whenever the USA demonstrates that this country was built by and for oppression of certain kinds of people; Canadians start looking down on us. Canadians say, “Thank goodness I don’t live in the USA, where racism is a problem,” or “Come to Canada when you’re sick of the bullshit.” Europeans, you do this too and you know it. This is like saying, “Come to Indiana when you’re sick of Alabama. We were a Union state so we are clearly a more civilized people.” The problem with statements like this is that it allows people from certain areas to push racism away like it’s not their problem. After all, if you Otherize racists hard enough, you clearly cannot be one, right? *
The rampant vicious white supremacy visible in every area of life in the United States is worth being blisteringly pissed about basically constantly. Don’t tell me Canada or Europe are off the hook, though, just because they don’t share our lust for capital punishment. I care what the USA does because this is my house and it’s busted all to hell. At the same time, that doesn’t change what you have to do. You know how ridiculous people in the US look when they declare us to be a post-racial nation because we elected a black President? Yeah. Go sit in the corner and think about what you sound like to people who pay attention to the issues First Nations people face in Canada, and that Romani face literally everywhere.
I mean, Aboriginal people in North America have been getting slapped in the face since white people showed up, and as Canadians rightfully remind us down here in the states, we aren’t the only Americans. Aboriginal people have been shafted so badly by the Canadian government that it sparked an international protest movement not decades ago but like last year. Hi.
I know we’re white supremacist as hell and I know that the USA is so pervasively contaminated with racism that there is nowhere which is truly post-racial, because as long as the federal government touches a place, as long as an area shares a media and economy with the rest of the USA, white supremacy will be there. But don’t fricking use us to dodge your own problems, like you’ve got no work to do as long as you can still say we’re worse.
I mean, just the way Canada and Europe treat Romani people alone means that none of y’all get to try and list “not racist” on your list of international qualifications. I’ll start you off someplace easy and once you grok the background you can move on to recently-posted first-hand complaints.
Canada, you have work to do.
Overall in Toronto, the number of carded young black men between 2008 and mi-2011 was 3.4 times higher than the young black male population. The ratio for young brown men was 1.8:1, and for white young men and those considered “other,” the ratios dropped to 1:1 and 0.3 to one, respectively.
In fact, you know what, just go learn some stuff about the history of racism in Canada. I don’t have enough space in one entry for it all, but I’d hate for you to have to look things up yourself, pumpkin.
Europe, you do, too.
Charity workers in Calais left migrants outside in flooded tents in frigid weather that they deemed too harsh for cattle, all because a more permanent and effective shelter might encourage people to emigrate through Calais to Britain.
An Angolan man died as he was being deported, asphyxiated while being “restrained” by people who think racism is hilarious. But I’m sure that them suffocating their black prisoner to death was an accident and in no way reflects a bias in their attitude toward people of color.
As of 2010, Black people in the UK were six times more likely than white people to be arrested for drug offenses and eleven times more likely to be imprisoned, despite no apparent evidence that they actually use or deal drugs more than whites. For context, this is actually worse than in the super racist USA where you’re glad you don’t live.
For those of you who have ever clicked your tongue and shaken your head at the United States’ white nativist love-hate relationship with undocumented exploitable labor, I refer you to Italy’s forcible evacuation of over 300 African migrants. Violence broke out after local youths shot at the migrants with pellet guns, and 37 people were injured.
Everybody’s got someone more backward than they are providing them an excuse not to check their own mess. Don’t let us be yours. I’m not saying that Canada being racist too makes the USA any better. Being more pervasive doesn’t make racism okay. Affecting more types of people doesn’t make the racism any particular group faces any more acceptable just because they aren’t suffering alone. But don’t shake your heads at us over the people we oppress while you ignore the people you oppress.
Fighting racism isn’t about jockeying for position as The Most Civilized; it’s about doing the god damn right thing and I don’t know why some Canadians and Europeans are all concerned about racism in the USA while glossing over any suffering that undermines your vision of yourself at the height of enlightenment. I mean, crap. People outside the USA rightly get on the USA’s case for puffing ourselves up as champions of human rights overseas while we abuse our own people terribly. So what the heck, y’all? What is all this?
Even accepting the premise that the USA is more white supremacist than anywhere else on the planet (which could well be true or at least close to true), that doesn’t mean everybody who’s not the worst is good enough, good enough to sit on their metaphorical asses and sigh at us in our backwardness. Are you helping activists and organizations which fight racism when you do that? Would I be helping activists and organizations which fight racism in your country if I pretended the USA isn’t grotesquely oppressive to people of color so that I could sigh and shake my head at how y’all treat Romani? Come on now.
It’s not a competition; you don’t get to stop working just because you’re not at the bottom of the rankings. You don’t get a free pass on understanding how privilege and oppression work just because you’re in Europe or Canada where they say everyone is free, because guess what? They say that here, too.
*I realize that people north of the Mason-Dixon actually do say this because I was born in Maine and it didn’t hit me until I met a student who’d moved from Texas that the south was even still inhabited. I figured that it had been a deserted wasteland ever since Reconstruction failed and to this day I don’t know who I thought was running Disneyworld.
I hope I don’t actually have to explain in more detail why it’s ridiculous for people in “liberal” states in the USA to act like their hands are so clean, but in case I do I’d like to point out that slave states which joined the Union got to keep their slaves, and I live in one. I live in a northern state where Harriet Beecher Stowe saw and heard enough ugliness to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I live in a northern state where we still have unofficial Sundown Towns like Martinsville. The Klan isn’t even gone here, unless the four cross burnings that happened just while I was in college were just done by fans, which isn’t better. But damn, you should see us look down on Kentucky!
Everybody’s got someone more backward than they are providing them an excuse not to check their own mess. Again, do not let us be yours.