Where Do We Go from Here: On Race and Privilege.
“Justice will not be served until those that are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Race and white privilege have been at the forefront of my thoughts since watching the riots in Charlottesville. These issues are nothing new, and are certainly not exclusive to that corner of the world. Beyond the violence, the anger, the ignorance and the painful sadness of the current state of humans on earth, it is shocking to me how easy it is to be removed from all of it.
And that’s not to say that issues of racism and classism do not exist in my neck of the woods. While angry white nationalists are a glaring example of extreme racism, they are by far not the only face of racism today. Issues of race, gender, discrimination, human rights and equality run far deeper below the surface, and most often go unnoticed by the seemingly unaffected.
This goes beyond black and white, and the solutions lie within each one of us connecting with our own personal stories and co-creating a world where we are global citizens — unique, diverse and still One people sharing this planet.
I have read many posts from various communities of people feeling guilty, helpless, sad, angry, and not knowing how to respond. Educate yourself. Don’t just watch the news. Study some history. Ask questions. Racism, oppression and discrimination are far more sophisticated than the angry white dudes in Charlottesville.
This is my story and my perceptions.
They say we choose our parents. You could say that I am one part white privilege and one part child of slavery. Our parents are what tie us to our ancestral time line leading back to the beginning of human existence. Consider the complexity of this matrix that births our unique expression. We are record holders. We store memories, experiences and feelings in our cells and our DNA.
There is nothing random about our existence or who we are on this planet. Of course we can have an infinite variety of experiences, and a life of our own design, but what are the subtle nuanced expressions of this origin story that is unique to each of of us?
I am a child of a biracial marriage. I am a child of the 70’s. To put this into context, on June 12, 1967 (5 years prior to my birth) marriage across racial and ethnic lines was deemed federally legal in the US. Up until that point, you could be thrown in jail, and it was pretty much guaranteed you would be victim to strong social judgment and possible violence.
Alabama was the last state to completely lift bans against interracial marriage in 2000! Although interracial marriage has become more commonly acceptable, it is still a shockingly taboo subject among some communities.
In my case, I was born in Toronto to a first generation Jamaican immigrant father and a Canadian mother. My ancestors were both slaves and oppressors. I was born with light olive skin and a head of white blond curly hair. I had an exotic look, but essentially I looked white enough to blend into my very white Anglo-Saxon world. As far back as I can remember, I never felt like I fit in.
Half of me was not represented in the world around me. From where I stand right now, I am so grateful for the life that I have lived and the experiences that have to led me to this moment in time. That being said, I have spent the greater part of my life working to unpack who I am and where I fit into this world.
Who we are runs so much deeper than the color of our skin and privilege we may or may not have in this lifetime.
Toronto is a very multicultural city, so I was always exposed to people of color. Our family friends were of diverse ethnicity and social status. However, for the most part, we all lived in a very white culture. As I mentioned, I essentially fit into this world just fine, except half of me wasn’t really represented and I always had a sense of not belonging.
I kinda looked white, but I knew I wasn’t the establishment white that my friends were. And although I was half-black, when I was with people of obvious color, I could relate to their struggle and felt like they were more my people, I still felt like a bit of an impostor because for the most part, I didn’t have to deal with any overt racism or prejudice.
My father’s professional success put him in a place where he was well respected and essentially above all socially or racially related criticism.
As a first generation immigrant from Jamaica, he had essentially bypassed the racial oppression that people all over the world still struggle with today. And I had a free pass into this world. Yet the deepest part of myself told me these aren’t my people, this isn’t my world.
If you want to contribute to a more evolved society, start looking at the ways in which your thoughts and opinions are formed. We live in a socially engineered fear-based society. And what we have been taught to fear changes depending on the social agenda of the day. At one point in time, film and media taught us to fear the savage black people who were raping our women.
Currently we are told to fear those brown terrorists who are threatening our democratic way of life. The list goes on, and if you think that you do not contribute or are unaffected by this, it’s time to re-think.
Ultimately we all have some work to do. How we exist as living beings on this planet — one that is not defined by race, gender, geography, or social status — these are social constructs, illusions, and tools to define and divide us. Who we are as a race of people can shift and evolve, but we need to occupy a higher version of ourselves.
Sarinda Hoilett is a mother of two teens, living in the mountains of British Columbia. She has been a wellness practitioner for over 20 years. Passionate about inspiring, educating and supporting people on their path to health and a juicy sense of self. Sarinda can been found working as a wellness chef (mostly plants, mostly raw), teaching Yoga, practicing massage, or hosting workshops and retreats.