This is a record of my more bumpy moments in this course. It has definitely been a learning experience. It was nice to hear the stories of my classmates as well. Enjoy!
- i) People who live in poverty are lazy. You have made your own bed, now you sleep in it. If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to. We live in a country where we can be or do anything we want to. Education is the key to getting ahead in life. Welfare bum. She should quit having kids. Chances are, you have heard or perhaps said any one of these phrases. They are common misconceptions often presented about class in Canada. The difficulty with these blanket statements is that they are discriminatory and blind people to the real issues. Where Intersectionality and class meet, the struggles of people living in poverty are real, and so is the fight to rise above their “station”. These statements fail to offer a picture of real people in very real day to day struggles, often fighting just to put food on the table, suffering depression and suffocating fear and doing their best to perform the daily tasks that most of us take for granted, such as getting to work, or grocery shopping. These marginalized people among us are often one pay cheque away from not being able to pay the bills, and often must make a choice of whether to pay the electricity or the rent. Even then they often must listen to those with more money berate them for the often-small joys they take in the occasional meal out, or some other perceived unwise expenditure. Instead they are met with. “Just work hard! I did it! Look at me! you just have to save!” These are the stories which silence the poor and keep the status quo.
DiAngelo and Sensoy, in their book Is everyone really equal, say that class is about culture (pg. 165) and I have recently heard it said that we don’t recognize our privilege, because it is the waters we swim in. I must agree. For example, as I was reading the stories of my classmates about class, I saw one that stood out to me. It was, It’s Not About How Much…Its About How. The author speaks about living in Australia, and how she went to a private school and didn’t realize at the time how her social status was any different then that of anyone else’s status. She continues with her story to say that she understands her parent’s wealthy lifestyle didn’t come easily to them, but that they aspired to create the lifestyle their parents had shown them. The author acknowledges she is privileged, but then says this. “Social-status is not something I see when I look at others, it does not matter where you grew up, who raised you, how much you have…it is how you choose to live your life and how you treat others that is important.” Respectfully, I would argue with her statements on a couple of different points. In the class text we have learned that “when middle-class people proclaim that they have achieved with they have because they were taught the value of hard work, we need to ask ourselves whom we believe wasn’t taught that value. Further how are we defining hard work.” DeAngelo and Sensoy (pg 174-75)
I have lived and continue to live as a financially challenged individual. My areas of intersectionality – where I grew up and who raised me and how much money we had matters very much. My background and economic status have shaped the jobs I have been able to get, the education I have been able to pursue, and my emotional stability at times. My parents worked very hard to get to where they were, and yet were unable to provide me with what I needed to survive myself. Because of difficulties in my life, I was on my own by fourteen, immediately dropped into a situation of poverty. By fifteen I had to quit high school to survive. School was no longer an option. Finding work was difficult, because I didn’t have the education or the clothes to find the jobs. Once I had kids, I would argue that I worked as hard or harder then some to provide my children with what they needed to grow up healthy and safe, but as you can see from my story we still didn’t have a vehicle for a long time.
“I worry that it might be too much for two little girls, but there is no choice. It is buy groceries or take a cab. We have to eat. Struggling with a bag of groceries hanging off of the handle of the stroller, I push the plastic wheels over snow and ice on the road. It is clearer then the sidewalk. Someday I will have a car, but it won’t be soon. I have tough choices to make on a limited income as a single mom.“
Even after I was married it was a long time before we were able to have a car, and even then, it was because the kindness of another.
“We have a car!” My husband says to me in an astonished voice. “They are giving us a car!” Friends of ours had woken in the middle of the night separately and decided that we should have their second vehicle. It was eight years old, and in great shape. They even put tires on it. It was like Christmas, only better. No more walking, no more begging rides’
In the past twenty years, we have often worked several jobs at a time struggling to make ends meet. We have taken the jobs most people don’t want to provide for our family. Today we live in a reduced rent situation which is the only reason I can attend school. I would argue we work harder then many.
There are those who feel that money isn’t everything. While I certainly agree it isn’t, it does inform those around you of your station in life. In Is it All About The Money” [SIC] my classmate Carmel indicates that wealth is about far more then money. While I accept the sentiment behind what she says, let’s examine one statement.
I appreciate the thought behind what Caramel says, however, this story is a divergence from having a vulnerable conversation about class. It silences those who live in poverty by not acknowledging the power of institutionalized classism and the difficulties surrounding it, and so I will present some arguments. For example, I would argue that it is difficult to remain healthy while you are working so many hours that you can’t rest, or despite the hours you work you still don’t have proper medical coverage or the money to buy medicine. I would argue that it is difficult to obtain education when you don’t have money for groceries or a car. While I can walk, and I am grateful for that, walking because you have no choice is another matter. “It’s a long walk, mostly uphill. I worry that it might be too much for two little girls, but there is no choice.” It is buy groceries or take a cab. Acceptance is great, and so is love but they don’t feed your little ones. When the necessities of life are not being met properly, I would argue that Caramel’s statements do not apply“
Finally, I will challenge my classmate Shaun about this statement. “I am very fortunate to live in the country I live in because I have gained so much knowledge and accomplishment that changed my social status within a few years.”
Again, I would like to reiterate that there are many in this country who are not making it, who can’t afford the car, or perhaps clean water, or food. This statement ignores intersectionality, and doesn’t recognize the difficulties of rising above the class we are trapped in. Those who do succeed are in the minority according to Sensoy and DiAngelo. “While some people will change class, they will be the exception rather than the rule. The Rags to Riches story so beloved and repeated in Hollywood is unlikely in real life.” (pg. 167)
I am an example of that struggle. While our situation has improved, it has taken a very long time, and it still hasn’t taken us solidly into middle class.
- ii) The difficulty with stories like the ones shared by my classmates is that while the individuals mean no harm and are good people, the stories themselves promote common misconceptions. For example, ‘We live in a classless society where anyone can make it.” Sensoy and DiAngelo (pg 167) These stories blame those who are struggling to survive by suggesting they must have done something to deserve their poorness or that anyone who wants a job should just go get one; therefore poor people are lazy. They don’t consider other areas of sectionality such as race or background which don’t allow a person to move ahead. They don’t recognize structural or institutional powers, such as the welfare system which provides not even enough to live, and then penalizes the client when they do earn money. They silence those who are marginalized, by portraying an image of the poor person as someone who is “less”, not smart enough or lazy.
Anyone can get ahead. If you work hard enough, you can make it. Education is the key to success. These are the normal narratives most people believe in. They are the stories you hear from well-meaning family and friends with money and privilege. They are the ads and movies promoted on tv. These are the stories that promote ideas that hurt those living in the marginalized sections of society. It leaves them feeling hopeless and like failures in a system that is set up to keep the status quo. It causes those who are in positions of privilege to be blind because of the waters they swim in. Challenging our perceived normal narratives in the areas of class-ism and intersectionality is difficult and uncomfortable but it will open our eyes to the inequalities and struggles of those around us.
Disclaimer – I chose to write my Self Analysis from a different point of view, because I found it difficult to relate to many of my fellow students and the lifestyles they know. I respect the back grounds that many of you came from and understand how difficult it can be when someone disrupts the narratives you are accustomed to with what may sound like criticism. Thank you for sharing your stories and allowing me to share my reality.
Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Understanding Intersectionality Through Classism. In Is Everyone really equal (2nd ed., pp. 165,174,175,167). New Yok, NY: Teachers College Press.
I have to admit to occasionally performing social media experiments. It isn’t scientific, and it doesn’t prove anything conclusive but it does make one think. On Facebook, I find that anytime I post anything about people of color and racism it is mostly ignored. If anyone is brave or interested enough to find out what I am saying, it is usually a person of color. For example, in the last week, I posted the Silent Beats video which a classmate posted in our classroom forum. I also posted a question about whether people feel the law is impartial when it comes to race. In one instance the only person to share was an indigenous person. I had a few more responses when I posted a YouTube video of how a person of color was discriminated against during a hockey game. Again, most of the “likes” were people of color. The reason it means anything at all to me is that I normally have a fair number of people of all races like my posts, but I have tested my theory time and time again and find that when I post thing anything about racism or people of color, I hear crickets. Not scientific, but interesting.
White people are afraid to hear anything said about the possibility that we could be racist. DiAngelo presents a very accurate description of White fragility in the Globe and Mail article when she says Whites are “highly fragile” when they talk about race or White worldviews. After all, in this day and age, racism isn’t REALLY a thing anymore, right? After all, Canada is a multi-cultural country, and we are very accepting. Except that it isn’t. Except that people of color are afraid to tell us how they really feel because it might make their situation worse, or hurt our feelings, and so they don’t tell us. No one wins. Certainly not People of color, who live with the consequences of institutional racism on a daily basis. Certainly not Whites who could be changing the future, growing as people and helping to tear down institutionalized racism. Our feelings get hurt, we feel bad, we feel guilty. We don’t want to be THAT person.
It is difficult for many of us to accept that racism still exists on such a grand scale. Many of us were brought up to keep the status quo, not shake the boat. We were told that racism was an individual issue, not a systemic institutionalized one. We know racism is bad, but it is always that one person over in the distance. The loudmouth redneck who spews racial slurs to whomever will listen. It is the bad people at a hockey game in another locale shouting racist slurs to a man of color. It is the couple of police officers in a department who treat Indigenous people in a discriminatory fashion. There are always a couple of bad apples, but it isn’t us.
I equate racism with the way rape is viewed. I don’t think they are the same, and they have different consequences, but they present in similar ways. There are the “grey” areas people pretend to ignore, the guy at the office who is a little too grabby, the jokes told in front of the secretary that make her blush, and the phrase, “boys will be boys.” and it escalates from there up to rape. Like the rape scenario, there are escalating levels of racism. There are the microaggressions such as the racist jokes, asking people where they are “really” from, or indicating surprise that a Person of Color can be smart. There is the person who says he is “OK” with People of Color immigrating from other countries. It is the security of our country he is concerned with. White immigrants from Europe, Britain and Ireland are OK however. The person of color becomes guilty by association of having colored skin. It also escalates from there, It can be difficult to find jobs, racial profiling happens, sometimes People of color find it difficult to obtain the finances and education White people are able to access. There are also the hate crimes we often hear about. These are all things that White people don’t have to worry about. We tell ourselves as White people that we aren’t the extreme version of racist like something you would see in a movie set in the South. As long as we aren’t that type of racist we are OK.
Once when I lived in Calgary, I witnessed a crime. An Indigenous girl and a white girl walked out of a store at the same time. An alarm went off, and a security guard came out and grabbed the Indigenous girl. The white girl made a run for it. It became immediately obvious who had stolen an item. White equals innocence, therefore the guard grabbed the wrong girl.
Indigenous women have been going missing for years. Only recently have the police been taking it seriously, yet when a white person goes missing, especially a young girl or woman, the media response is a million times stronger. Often the sentiment for a Person of Color is that someone from her community was involved, or perhaps she was into drugs, wandered off, or was involved in prostitution. White equals innocence.
Whiteness is all around us. It is on the commercials we see on TV. It is in our schools where in the past we have learned only a white version of history largely by white teachers. It is prevalent in our systems of law where people of color are largely over represented in prisons and courts. It is presented by our government, who still has a largely colonial hold over Indigenous people in Canada.
When I first considered the concept of White privilege, I had not heard of the term. White Privilege and White fragility were things I often thought about, but I didn’t have a framework with which to understand and express my feelings. I also hadn’t thought of the myriad of ways Peoples of Color are affected on a daily basis other then the obvious ones. Considering white privilege is awkward and uncomfortable, because it involves vulnerability and admitting to benefiting from an institutional and colonized racism that benefits all white people. It means we have to be willing to break normal normatives about racism in Canada. It means learning to have vulnerable conversations about race and showing humility, a thing most of us are not good at doing. It means not having hurt feelings when a Person of Color tells us how it is to be discriminated against on a daily basis. I had to think of times when I may have been inappropriate with someone of color, such as touching the hair of a friend without asking. I feel at times I deal with Ideological In-congruence as I have always just felt we should treat each other as equals regardless of race.
If you ask me today what I feel about it, I will respond that I find it difficult not to see whiteness all around me. I often think about how it affects my friends and family of color even in small ways. I feel that this is a positive change and hope to continue to learn and also to see more education available for White people in this area, especially in schools.
57. DiAngelo, Dr R. Why It's so Hard to Talk to White People About Racism 2017
56. JonMchu. Silent Beats 2006
The pebbles under my feet grated as I ran fast…faster…. fastestet. My little six year old heart pounded violently in my chest. My spindly little legs brushed together and my skirt flew up unceremoniously in the air as my feet hit the earth. I raced with probably ten others – all girls of close to the same age in pursuit of our intended targets who were ahead of us racing toward a “safe” zone.
Our focus of intent was the boys. They played their part dramatically, running for all they were worth, yelling, pushing and throwing themselves with all of their strength to the fence where our pursuit would end. They were “afraid” of us girls after all, and couldn’t be caught, or they all knew what would happen.
I’m not actually sure what would have happened if any of us had “caught” a boy. We never found out. The recess supervisor had discovered our game, and with a sternness I am sure we didn’t warrant, she marched over.
“That will be enough of that!” the school yard matriarch squawked. “Boys will go play at that end of the schoolyard” she said pointing in the vague direction of the basketball court. “Girls, you should know better then to behave like this. You are young ladies, not hooligans. We do not play at kissing games. Go play by the swings”.
And so we did. I learned that I was a girl, a young lady. I discovered that apparently “young ladies do not run after boys and try to kiss them – And then I went to a nearby chain link fence to lick of the frosty icicles clinging to the metal post – and my tongue stuck, but that is another story.
The icy cold air hits my cheeks like a slap, leaving rosy red stains. The bite of the wind nips my fingers and toes even through layers of wrapping, and condensation from my breath freezes my scarf partially to my lips. The crunch of snow under my feet is loud in the silent air. One of my babies is wrapped up in the stroller. She is sleeping soundly despite her bulky snowsuit and the big blanket all wrapped around her. My other two girls, two and four waddle in their fat snowsuits, looking for all the world like an old depiction of the Michellin Man. It’s a long walk, mostly uphill. I worry that it might be too much for two little girls, but there is no choice. It is buy groceries or take a cab. We have to eat. Struggling with a bag of groceries hanging off of the handle of the stroller, I push the plastic wheels over snow and ice on the road. It is clearer then the sidewalk. Someday I will have a car, but it won’t be soon. I have tough choices to make on a limited income as a single mom. It isn’t easy, but we make do most of the time. I didn’t ask for these circumstances, but they are what they are. Snow sprays off the road and splatters me with dirty water. I look up in time to see one of my neighbors drive by, their little boy staring out of the car window, his mouth an O of surprise. What are you looking at kid, I think annoyed. Not his fault, but I don’t care. I’m tired.
A couple of years later, and I have just married my best friend. Three little princesses were my flower girls… but we still live in the same apartment, and we still don’t have a car. Kendal’s car broke two weeks before the wedding, and so we are back to begging rides and walking. It is so demoralizing to have to beg rides, so depressing to not have the money to buy a proper vehicle. Finally, with careful planning we save up eight hundred dollars. It isn’t much, but it is all we have for now. We know an older lady with a car she says she will sell us..The car is old and a boat, but it will get from point A to point B. We are excited until she calls to tell us that her friends are saying she should ask for more. “But we don’t have more,” we tell her. It was everything we had. She isn’t interested. She needs the money she says. She hangs up, and the phone screeches in protest as Kendal slams it down. We are angry. We say things I won’t write here. I cry frustrated, disappointed tears. Finally we go to bed to dream about a day we will finally not have to walk anymore.
A bell is ringing in my head. Through the fog I can hear it. All of a sudden I realize it is the phone ringing. My head bangs the wall with a crack as I reach for the receiver. Kendal reaches it first. “Hello?”
“We have a car!” My husband says to me in an astonished voice. “They are giving us a car!” Friends of ours had woken in the middle of the night separately and decided that we should have their second vehicle. It was eight years old, and in great shape. They even put tires on it. It was like Christmas, only better. No more walking, no more begging rides. It was a great little vehicle.. power everything, and it was fast. It was fun to drive. My kids were excited, and so they gave it a name, Herbie, after an old Disney Movie they had seen. He… I mean it.. didn’t look like the car from the movie, but it didn’t matter. They loved it anyway.
Someone we knew bought the older ladies’ car for eleven hundred dollars. We found out he barely made it home before it broke down on the side of the road. He had to put another thousand dollars of repair in it before it would drive again. Although we hadn’t meant to, we had dodged trouble.
That little car was a start for us, and the basis for every vehicle we have had since. After two years, we traded it in and bought a five year old van. Several years later, we bought a one year old van, and then one for my husbands company. If it hadn’t been for one couples’ act of kindness, we may have waited several years before saving enough to buy a dependable car.
Our financial situation has slowly improved too. It has taken time, and years, but slowly we have made progress. That was twenty -two years ago now. I look back and remember the cold, struggling with little girls to make it home on a frosty winter night. I remember the frustration, wondering how long it would be before I could afford a car myself, but I also remember the kindness of people who looked past poverty and saw a way to help.
I drift slowly towards the bank. My head is down. Gravel crunches under my feet. I feel the pebbles twisting under my soles as my gut is twisting now. My stomach hurts. My girls are unaware of my discomfort and are chattering like magpies all around me. “Mommy! Mommy!” I hear that a lot, All day in fact. The words are like an army of ants going about their business in single file. At the moment though, I am not hearing them. Behind me a truck door slams shut. It grates like a prison door slamming or a glass window shattering, breaking open memories.
…”What are you doing with that white piece of trailer trash?” I am in White Horse with my first husband, an indigenous man. He doesn’t say anything but instead looks at his feet. The woman is angry, her brown eyes flash indignantly. I walk ahead, unwilling to hear more, and shove my hands in my pockets.
Now I can hear other feet treading behind me. I glance over my shoulder and see a tall, willowy white woman. She is there to make sure I give her what I owe. Her face is set in stone. Her blue eyes are like ice behind her expensive designer glasses. “Can’t you control your children?” She snaps.. her mouth shuts like a trap. I look for my little ones. They are skipping along innocently minding their own business and probably being a little loud for a 65+ woman. I don’t say anything. Instead, I shove my hands deep in my pockets. My thoughts drift to another summer memory..
…My window is open to catch a breeze. My kids are outside playing in the backyard… probably doing something rotten like going door to door and selling their drawings. It is true.. they are enterprising. Whatever they are doing, I can hear them laughing delightedly not far off. I can also hear the voice of my neighbors outside, husband and wife . “You know they pay lower rent in that house right? I freeze inside willing them to go into their own house. They have made it more then apparent in the past that they don’t approve of Indigenous housing or of me. “I guess we shouldn’t complain. There are no needles this time.” That is the wife. Should I be thankful for her comment? “Government handouts!” the man grunts. “O.k. for them I guess.” I back away from the window and the summers’ sun falls from the sky.
The bank door opens and I approach the teller, my white bodyguard like a sergeant behind me. “Can I have four hundred please?” I hand the teller my banking information. My girls are sitting on the dusty floor now, playing and whispering games and giggling. They are so cute.. The aged ice queen behind me doesn’t think so. Her eyes rake them up and down, disapproval evident on every strict line of her face.
….eyes always see what they want to see. You can shut them. Ears are not so lucky. The oldest of my girls runs home from school crying. “I don’t want to be an Indian anymore”.
…”Hey you.. Ni chi! You are a Ni chi right?” I hear while I am in the hospital.
The teller returns with my money. I thank her and turn around ready to leave. The woman already has her hand out, grasping. She is afraid that I am going to take her washer and dryer and run… with my stroller? Wait. That is at home.. Oh well. I hand her the cash and round up my rambunctious trio and began the long march back to her truck.
… “Why don’t you just rub two sticks together?” “Half breed.” One of my girls is outside trying to figure out how to rub the brown off of her skin. “Did you adopt these girls? What a nice thing to do! ” a teller says to me at the till of a store…. “Dirty little Indian girls.” A neighboring kid is cruel. These are memories I wear like a shroud. They say words can’t hurt you, but they do. They tear at your insides like a razor, and scar your spirit.
An eternity has passed in my mind as I sit as far as possible from the woman on my left. I am sweating and stress is pounding in my mind like a ticking bomb. My hand grips the door handle. We are finally home. “It’s not you- you know.” Her words drip lies. “It’s just that others like – well, others haven’t paid me. I had to make sure.” I am silent. My girls are Teflon, still giggling in their own world. We walk back to my house, and I shove my hands deep in my pockets.
Home is Where the Heart is
Home is where your family is and where the heart is. These are well-known and over-used cliches, but they are also true. Home isn’t just a house, or the building you live in. Home is where the ones you love and spend time with reside. Wherever I am with my family, I feel at home. In the summer, it is often living in our home away from home – our cosy little tent trailer at Good Spirit Lake in Southern Saskatchewan.
It is warm summer again. The last vestiges of the evening sun shift listless through the lush green trees. Vibrant bird songs fill the air, and children scream joyfully in the distance. We are lazy in our lawn chairs, with our coffees and the warm sun soothing us into slumber. We pretend to read the books we hold while our children quietly attempt to coax ground squirrels to steal snacks from their eager little hands. “Look Mommy! He took it! He took it!” My little girl’s squeals of joy chase away the brave squirrel and he seeks shelter in the shrubbery around the campsite. He will be back again. He knows there is food to be had. My son is sitting very still now, uncommon for him. His patience is rewarded as a pudgy, overfed squirrel crawls on his boot and unceremoniously grabs the morsel from my boy’s nervous fingers. Jeremy is the pied piper of squirrels.
The afternoon has graduated to a balmy summer’s evening. We are at the beach now. It is Canada Day, and there will be fireworks. I take off my sandals and feel grains of sand run through my toes, still warm from the sun. I step on something hard and round. It hurts and so I bend to see what it is. An oval rock about the size of a loonie and smooth to the touch was buried in the sand to be found by my errant toe. The word HOPE is imprinted on it. It must be someone’s lost treasure. It is mine now. I pocket it as we find our place on the beach and settle in to enjoy the view.
The wind has died now. The water is a mirror with not even a breath of air to ruffle its glass-like surface. It reflects the resplendent colors of a transcendent sunset. The sky is wondrous to behold. It blazes with color. Golds, purples, pinks and reds streak the sky like a watercolor painting, almost too beautiful to be real. Fluffy, pink, cotton candy clouds float against a darkening horizon. My husband and I sit in quiet contemplation, waiting for the stars to appear. I rub the smooth stone in my pocket and dream purple dreams.
Voices surround us now in gentle conversation as an expectant crowd of campers waits for the first of the celebratory fireworks. The last die-hard swimmers are nothing but silhouettes splashing and laughing far out in the water. Finally, a star glimmers in the velvet darkness. It is ten pm. The sun is gone, and it is time for the fun to begin. All around us, voices count backwards from ten to one. The expectancy builds, and then it happens! Colors spray in reckless abandon across the night sky! Flowers of pink, green, purple, gold and red, similar to the sunset but looking more like falling stars, flare high in the darkened sky. Some coil through the air and end in a magnificent boom of thunder. Others squeal through the sky and pop into magnificence. Still others float silently, only to erupt into a wondrous array of color. The dark water reflects a mirror image of the display, fire above and fire below. The audience cheers and claps as the light bursts continue to build to their climactic end. Finally, there is a riotous burst of sound and a magnitude of stars and patterns break in the sky all at once. It is rainbow daylight on the beach, but our eyes are not there. All of a sudden the show is over, and voices fade as people leave and give the beach back to the fish flies and the night birds who hunt them. I rub the smooth stone in my pocket. It is getting colder now and the kids are tired. It is time to go back to our cosy little tent trailer and dream of magnificent sunsets and shimmering fire works. I carry HOPE in my pocket. We will be back here again.