Tuesday, October 22, 2013
So the internet has a big part of my week.
The range of emotions I've felt over my last post and the reactions to it have been overwhelming. On one had, there were no less then THREE white men arguing against the points I (and the other people affected by a system they benefit from) was making. With the exception of one of them, I'm almost certain they didn't read the post at all. Their eyes might have been open, but their hearts were not. The defensiveness activated in challenging their privilege was astonishing, but I understand it. I used to be like that.
Before I understood that these issues were even real things in real life happening in real time, I was also a man who used abusive, offensive, discriminatory, inappropriate language and actions. I justified it in all the ways possible and that happened in my recent history. I assumed it was the way I was supposed to act, but I never felt comfortable with it. I remember being younger and making sexist comments, using rape as 'humour', and insulting my culture all so I could feel like I could fit in. I felt like I was dismantling who I really was in order to impress people who were equally as ignorant as me. The insecurity, the lack of self worth - it all manifested itself in horrible ways in my life. I lied, I cheated on partners, I stole, I was scared, I felt like I might collapse at any moment, I made deep wounds in myself that are still healing. Then four years ago it all came out, and I felt like I had lost everything I held close in my life. The truth is that I couldn't believe I had enjoyed such amazing experiences while being such a shitty person and thankfully I am privileged enough to have an amazing support system of family and friends that helped me through all of it.
I still remember the day I decided to take responsibility for my actions and to learn from my experience. I really had no idea what that meant or how I might do it, but I decided to be open to listening to the hard things people needed to tell me. Worse yet, I decided to listen to the things my heart was almost tired of screaming at me. Slowly (and not without hurting some more people) I learned about how my language and behaviours affect the people around me. I became conscious of the words I used to describe. I made efforts to be more patient and to become a better listener. I have learned a lot in the last four years and now I finally feel like I am a part of the community that works on a daily basis to not let discrimination be something people experience on a daily basis.
Our current tour caravan setup allows me a lot of alone time. Touring usually provides me with the space to internalize my recent experiences, process them, and decide how I'm going to make them a part of me. I think it has to do with the geographical changes (in the mountains I feel powerful but on edge, in the prairies I feel pensive but meek), but whatever it is, I most certainly feel like I've had another point of change in my life. Choosing to poke at the parts in our society that hurts us all is uncomfortable, messy, ugly, and very unpleasant. It also puts me in direct conflict with people that I have know for a very long time. It means that I have decide to give up on entertainment that normalizes shitty behaviours (goodbye It's Always Sunny and Workaholics).
The hardest part though is that it means I have to let go of the 'nice-guy' persona and that I am inviting conflict into my life. I have always tried to avoid it, but I can't anymore. I've been the 'nice-guy' for too long, and what that really means is that I don't challenge the shitty things people say about my race, culture, body, etc. It means that I have to choose my words carefully and consider how what I say will affect me and the people around me. I'm totally ok with all of that, but I need more practice in doing it outside of the safety of the internet and the time it affords me to gather my thoughts.
I have been called many things this week, and I am thankful for all of it. It has helped me to understand where I need to be on these issues and who my allies are. What makes me feel the most ok with what happened are the private messages I shared with the young man from Kamloops who I felt was being treated poorly. We had a great conversation while all the derailment tactics, reverse-racism arguments, and white-supremacy denying was going on, and from what he wrote to me I feel like he has left the conversation with the ability to be more critical of the things people say to him.
JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE FRIENDS WITH A POC DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN MAKE RACIST COMMENTS ABOUT THEM. Again, I'm working under the Prejudice+Power definition of racism - which means that a white person cannot experience racism in North America. It's an unpopular view, I understand. I'm sure it will come up again on facebook.
Anyway, tour is great for the most part. It's impossible to separate all the things happening at once in my life and so I am constantly flip-flopping between being really anxious and weak, and feeling fulfilled and powerful. Picture time.
This post covered more ground photo-wise then it was supposed to. Welcome to the future, fans. See you then also.