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  • Cynthia Fortlage

My History in Racism

My Background in Racism

In 1939, near the beginning of the second world war, my dad was born in England. A Country entirely in the fight against the Nazi regime of Germany.

My dad was a well-educated man, very well read would be an understatement.

He never used the word Privilege.

I don't think he ever knew the word microaggression; at least he never used it in conversations!

My dad loved big words and using the power of the English language, the Queen's English, as he would say it (note the microaggression) to differentiate from other locations who tried to speak English as he saw it.

He was a man of the times they would say.

He was a fabulous man, and he had a significant impact on my life; after all, he was my dad.

He also taught me Racism through his words.

He accepted the world wasn't fair, but he never saw it in his favour.

While he may never have used the word microaggression, he did it so often.

He had derogatory words to describe you if you had origins that were different from his. He had words to describe you if you were different from him in any way. If you were gay, queer, or a drug user, he had words to describe you as well.

This is how I remember my dad; I still love the man as he did many good things for me, our family, and his friends and acquaintances.

Only now many years after his passing and in light of current events that I reflect and learn what I must to find the words to stop being quiet; and be ok being uncomfortable, and to stop struggling when the truth makes my privilege uncomfortable.

My Experiences

Many readers may be aware I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I was baptized as a Protestant and raised on the side of William of Orange. Guy Fawkes's day was a celebration, not a remembrance.

Guy Fawkes Night is annually held on November 5. It is sometimes known as Bonfire Night and marks the anniversary of the discovery of a plot organized by Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605

- Wikipedia

I was Protestant, and I hated the Catholics, at least that is what I learned.

After I was married in a Catholic church, which was a sensitive topic at the time, we were preparing for the possibility of having children. I choose to become Catholic, and that was a journey in challenging my own beliefs and misunderstandings. Exposing myself to that education and context helped change my mind as I ultimately became a practising Catholic who even taught Catechism to other adults.

I never carried my dad's use of the English language to assign words to describe others beyond their name.

My children do not see colour or diversity as a way to differentiate themselves from others, I had to check myself many times as I relearnt the use of language to do that, but my kids were worth the effort.

I have apologized many times to my children to give them a world that needs so much critical attention that I never fixed.

Yet, as I prepared for this article, It struck me that my role is to be the buffer between the world as it was and the world that is.

I am LGBT2SQIA+ identifying, so my role as one of the visible minorities is to emphasize the potential and support the youth who are fixing this world that I and those of my age never did.


Microaggressions

"a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority."

- Google Definitions

Just because it may be unintentional doesn't mean it didn't happen, the hurt still occurred. Before you say snowflake or I am just too sensitive as a derogatory way to describe me, please note those are microaggressions to me because you actively communicated that not only thought it.

Sobering Statistics

There is a racism issue, and this multi-headed hydra of a problem has some very sobering statistics if you read and listen.

In Canada:

The CBC did a study of 17 years of statistical data as national statistics on officer-involved killings do not exist. The study source data is Pivotlegal.org

The Indigenous population represents 4.8% of the general population as of the 2017 census, about 15% of the deaths from officer-involved killings were of an indigenous person.

From the same study, people identifying as Black represent 3.4% of the general population as of 2017 census, about 9% of the deaths from officer-involved killings were of a black person.

While more white people are killed annually in officer-involved killings as they represent 71% of the general population, by comparison, Indigenous and black persons are at a higher risk. The study did not report specifics that I can quote at this time.

In the USA:

A 2019 report found on mappingpoliceviolence.org shared these statistics.

Black people represent about 13% of the general population, yet they represent 24% of those killed in officer-involved killings.

Hispanic Americans follow after Black people statistically by about half the rates.

While more white people are killed annually in officer-involved killings as a representative percentage, Black people have been killed at 3X the rate of white people.

Let that sink in as privilege.

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