Oh sure – excuse me while I just dive right into this controversy – as though, I, a white woman, has anything useful to say about the issue. Maybe not but I’ll try.
First, I just want to say that I believe (everything I’m saying here is just my opinion and mine alone) that it is virtually impossible for a white person, especially a white male, to have a clue about what racism means, is or feels like. I’ve recently heard white men bandying terms about like “reverse racism” – sorry, there is no such thing.
We white people don’t have a clue. Let me tell you something: I came to Canada from Germany in 1951. I was a wee little kid. Within weeks of arriving, a bunch of neighbourhood kids threw rocks at me (cutting open my forehead) and called me a “dirty Nazi.” I didn’t know what a Nazi was. My mother had to explain it to me. For decades, I was ashamed of being German. And I STILL don’t have a clue what racism is.
In my late teens and early twenties I had a black boyfriend. This was long before it was politically correct to date interracially. We were frowned upon. My brother threatened to beat me up. My parents were heartbroken.
And I STILL don’t have a clue what racism is.
I’m a woman. I have been raped. I have been sexually harassed in the workplace and I have been paid less than men who weren’t doing nearly as good a job as I was.
So – maybe I’m a little closer to this than white men BUT…
I STILL don’t have a clue what racism is.
And let me be clear here: when I say I don’t have a clue what racism is, I mean that I don’t know how it feels deep inside to be discriminated against because of my race.
You see, the German thing was temporary. Germans are very much in vogue these days. Germans are white. The “bad German” concept was a passing thing.
And now we come to the tricky distinction between what is freedom of speech and what is hate speech. There’s a fine line that white people have a hard time seeing.
Here’s my test: let’s say someone writes a letter to the newspaper and I, as the editor wonder if this is hate speech. Should I publish it? Well, try substituting the race the letter is ranting about (say it’s First Nations) with a race that we really really really feel PC about (like Jews). My guess is that two things will happen. One, I won’t print the letter because no one – but no one – will tolerate a rant about Jews forgetting the holocaust and getting on with their lives.
Two – the exercise will demonstrate to me where my racism lurks. And, in the best of all possible worlds, it will open my eyes and allow me to apologize, to reconcile – and most importantly, to change.
Belittling and putting down another race or group of people is not freedom of speech – it is hate speech. Aiding and abetting that speech serves no constructive purpose.
And white people just don’t know how it feels.