Inner City Diary
< ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->
Talk to my face - not my race
October 7, 2001
The woman spoke slowly and deliberately, trying to control her anger. She addressed the audience, reviewing past abuses of “her” people. She highlighted the gravity of problems facing many aboriginals. The tide of her anger was rising, however, and soon the dam gave way.

She said she was from Sagkeeng and was tired of begging “the white man” for money. She was sick of “the white man’s” questions and paperwork. She hated “the white man” who obviously didn’t care about the problems faced by aboriginals. In conclusion, she informed us that she hated the “f----- white man.”

I wanted to know the name of this white man. I figured he should be confronted because, like her, I don’t like begging, have problems with redundant paperwork and have little respect for people who care more about protecting their paycheque than the people they are paid to serve. I wondered if this “white man” was in the room.

She pointed her finger. I followed her finger but couldn’t make out exactly who she was pointing at. She then jabbed her finger into different parts of the room. “I f---ing hate you. And you. And you.” More profanity. More pointing. “I hate you all.” She didn’t name names, and it became evident she didn’t even know the people she was pointing at.

Then she said, “If I had the courage, I’d go home, grab a gun, come back and shoot you all.”

The vile object of her bile seemed to be anyone wearing a white face. She swore a few last times, and then turned to stomp out of the room. Another woman stood and called out to her, asking her name, hoping to engage in some dialogue. “F--- you,” was the response.

People in the room sat in stunned silence. This meeting had started out like many other community meetings.

The room was filled with the usual suspects. There were representatives of community groups, agencies, bureaucrats - and even a few residents. Over the years I've been to lots of meetings like this one. Sometimes we use flip charts, sometimes blackboards. Sometimes we sit in circles, sometimes in rows. Sometimes we meet to hear visiting experts, sometimes to vent local frustrations. No matter what the topic, it's always a crisis. And every crisis is met with plans and pleas for surveys, petitions, political support and funding. Often people propose very materialistic solutions to social problems.

What shocked me was the reaction to this woman’s tirade. Several people took to the mike, with a tone frighteningly similar to the battered spouse who explains that she somehow “deserved it.” They made comments like, “She had a lot of good things to say.” “She’s right, you know.” “We could learn from her anger.”

One by one, they defended an outpouring of hatred and threats that would get their own children expelled from school. But since it was an aboriginal adult talking about shooting people, it was accepted as justifiable or excusable. Or maybe they just didn’t take her as seriously as they take their own children.

You can call me stupid, but I always figured if we apply different standards to the behavior and words of people - based on their color - that might rightly be called racism.

I have noticed that racists come in all colors. Irrational hatred is not endemic to any one socio-economic class. The way to counter prejudice is not more prejudice, or sanctions of the same. That woman’s blanket condemnation of “the white man” based on color (not actual behavior) is as racist as any other blanket depiction of any “(pick your color) man, woman or child.”

The solution to social problems is, in part and by definition, a more constructive set of relationships. Dialogues beat diatribes as a way toward healing. Why can’t we stop calling each other names, and just start relating to each other by name? That would be a good start.
Copyright 2001
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Return to Index
New Life Ministries
West End CIA
Contact info:
New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929
< ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->