Racism

Racism

For the record I’m a Caucasian male.  That’s right.  I’m a white guy.  Back in the seventies, some African Americans referred to white people as “honkeys.”  I thought that was rather funny to be honest, especially when Richard Pryor said it.

Racism has been around since the beginning of time.  Wars always were – and still are – fought over race and creed.  Someone hates someone else because their skin is of a different tone than theirs.  Hitler deemed Jews subhuman.  He loathed them.  He hated their religion, he hated their appearance, he hated their language and he hated their culture.  So, he and his gang of thugs and cowards murdered about 7 million of them.  No-one knows for sure just how many.

In the USA, especially in the south, blacks were treated like animals at one time.  They were bought and sold like you and I might buy and sell a truck or a boat.  They were forced to work as slaves.  Then, on December 1, 1955, in Alabama, a very brave young woman refused to give up her seat for a white man.  That started a little scene to say the least and to this day, Rosa Parks is one of my personal heroes.   She stood her ground for what she believed to be right.  She wasn’t afraid and even though she was arrested on the spot by the Montgomery Police she stood her ground.  Today there is a black man running that country.

Many people seem to think that racism and its evils aren’t nearly as wide spread as they were at times gone by.  Really?  I’m not so sure.  I suppose if you consider that blacks are no longer lynched (at least not legally) and our young First Nations children are no longer forced to go away to residential school, I guess things have improved.  Slightly. 

I used to live in northwestern Ontario and there is a large population of Ojibwe and Cree in the region, the original owners and keepers of the land.  So, I would like to deal with racism toward First Nations in this issue of the Rugged Rant.  Straight up – I am sick and tired of this racist bullshit.  And, no I’m not one of these “white guys who wishes he was an Indian.”  Oh my… I can already see the emails coming in over this one.

I was born and raised in Ottawa and I don’t really remember ever knowing any aboriginal people when I was growing up.  I guess I probably did, but I just didn’t know it.  It wasn’t something that we ever thought about as kids.  There were all kinds of shapes and colours in my neighborhood.  My locker partner all through high school was a black guy.  He also played on my hockey team and he taught me a thing or two about playing the drums.  When I moved to the Thunder Bay area in 1990, I began seeing and meeting “native” people on a regular basis.  To this day I am still close friends with some of those same people I met back in 1990.  And, if I look up on my wall I see an eagle feather that was given to me by (former) Chief Harry Pappah of the Eabametoong First Nation, a huge honor.

Some Ojibwe and Cree people take offence to being called, “native” and most don’t like the word “Indian.”  To people who know anything at all about this subject, they believe an Indian to be someone from India.  And, they’re right.   So, today, we use the term “First Nations” when we speak of “those people who have been here for 8,000 years longer than we have and have a much nicer tan and better hair than most of us,” that is of course, if you are a bald-headed white guy like me.  “My people” have only been hanging around these parts for a little over 500 years.   And, what a goddam mess we’ve made.  An old Cree friend of mine once told me, “RD, when all the trees are cut, all the animals are killed, all the air and water is polluted, the white man will finally learn that he cannot eat money.”  Roger that.

I know a lot of white people who are racist toward First Nations People.  And, almost all of these people have parents who are just as racist if not more so.  “An apple lands close to the tree,” or however that saying goes.  But, most of these people don’t even know any Ojibwe or Cree.  And, if they do it’s not personally, not enough to really know them.   The racist people that we hear of in the news and on the streets all say the same things… “How come the Indians get free education?”  “How come the Indians get free dental care?”  “How come the Indians don’t have to pay taxes?”  “How come the Indians get a discount at the gas pump?”  “How come, how come, how come?”

First of all, not all First Nations People get free education.  Not all First Nations People get free dental care.  Not all First Nations People don’t pay taxes.  And, not all First Nations People get a discount at the pumps.  I know quite a few Ojibwe or Cree people, full-blooded Ojibwe or Cree, that due to one political reason or another, or some ridiculous technicality dating back 100 plus years, still do not have their “Indian status.”  I know a lot of Ojibwe and Cree people who get a big chunk taken off of their paycheque every week just like all the “white guys.”  An ex-girlfriend of mine is one of those people.  She works her little ass off and she pays her taxes every year.  And, she bought her own home.  That’s right all you racists out there… an “Indian” actually bought her own home.  My god…

If you still don’t think that some of the treaty stipulations are fair, think of it this way.  If you got all of the First Nations People across Canada together and gave them a choice, I’ll bet you a million bucks they’d rather have their land back.  You see, (in case you never read the newspaper, watch TV or listen to the radio) not all that long ago, much of their lands were stolen from them.  Then, they were told where they could live and where they couldn’t.  Then, when they were as young as 6 or 7, they were sent 500 or maybe even a thousand miles way to residential schools where the government secretly hoped to wipe out not only their culture, but their religion and even the way they dressed and kept their hair.  This is known as assimilation.  Our government wanted them to be just like white people only they didn’t look like white people.  I’m sure that if their skin could have been bleached, it would have.  Then, the hair.

In northwestern Ontario, three main treaties were signed back in the mid-late 1800s and into the 1900s.  The Robinson – Superior Treaty was signed in 1850.  Treaty 3 was signed in 1873 and Treaty 9 was first signed in 1906 to be amended in 1929 and again in 1930.  And, if you would take the time to read through those treaties (they’re on line) you’d see quite clearly that the vast majority of the stipulations, conditions and promises of those treaties have not been held up or kept.   Most of the time, the chief that signed on the dotted line couldn’t read or write English, so he was told what the documents said.  Hmmmmm…

Did you know that in this day and age, 2016, there are many First Nations communities all across Canada that don’t even have running water?  And, of those that do, most of it is not safe for drinking.  It’s used to wash dishes and clothes.  Not to mention the shortage of homes.  Does Attawapiskat ring a bell?  How about Pikangikum?  Or, Mishkeegogamang?  (You might know it as “Osnaburgh.”)  When is the last time you heard of 20 white people living in one small house together?  That would be considered an “outrage!”

Back to this whole residential school thing.  What a piece of shit that whole deal was.  (And, still is, as many of the scars have not even begun to heal.)  If you don’t yet really know what I’m talking about, back in the mid 1800s and as late as into the 70s and 80s, the government forced aboriginal parents to send their children away to school.  In some cases the police and or military would show up at the door and physically take the kids away, kicking and screaming, while mom and dad looked on in a state of helpless horror.  Once at the school, the little kids were forced to get their hair cut, made to wear uniforms considered proper attire for little children and were forbidden to speak in their own language.  They were also forbidden to pray to their own god, The Creator.  They had the Catholic religion rammed down their throats.  There was no choice. 

The food was horrible if in fact, there was even enough of it.  Some kids finally became survivalists and found ways of stealing food and hiding it for later consumption.  “Emergency Supplies.”

Most of these schools were run by the Catholic Church.   Many of the nuns were cruel old bags who were physically violent with the kids.  And, so were many of the priests.  Sexual abuse was common.  “Hey, you – keep your mouth shut and stop talking ‘Indian’ or I will make you go downstairs and play the ‘secret game’ with Father McKenzie again.  And, if you tell anyone we will punish your brothers and sisters!”  What, you don’t believe me?  Thousands and thousands of First Nations People now in their 50s, 60s and 70s can’t all be making this up.   A few years back, the Canadian government, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally caved in (after much lobbying and pressure) and issued a formal apology to the First Nations and to the Inuit Peoples of Canada.  Whooptee-friggin’-do!

That apology doesn’t help those kids who died or took their own lives while at one of these “schools.”  Or, since leaving the schools.

If you ever really want to learn about the residential school system, get on the Google and type in Wikipedia Canadian Residential Schools for Aboriginals.  If you read some of this stuff you will be in shock.  Better still, sit down for a few hours with an aboriginal person who was there.  Bring a box of tissues.  Could you imagine what would happen in today’s world if First Nations Police showed up at the door of all the white families and forced the kids into an old beat up school bus so they can be taken away to an “Indian School?”  There’d be World War Three.  Also, watch a documentary called, “Muffins for Granny.”  Heavy shit…

Bottom line – First Nations People have been treated poorly for many, many years and it started somewhere around the year 1492.  And, yes, I’m well aware of the social problems that are common among First Nations communities and I have indeed been to many remote communities across the country.  When you hear in the news about some Cree guy being caught selling drugs downtown, well guess what?  White guys do it too.  Whenever you hear in the news about some Ojibwe chick pulling a welfare fraud, well guess what?  White chicks do it too.  Whenever you see some 14 year old Cree girl who is clearly pregnant, well guess what?  14 year old white girls get knocked up too.  Whenever you hear in the news about some Ojibwe guy stabbing someone to death in a greasy bar somewhere, well guess what?  White guys do it too.

Here’s something that will freak you out… Aboriginal people weren’t allowed to vote until 1970.  NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE in their own goddam country!  But, they were “allowed” to go over to Normandy and get their asses blown off by German 88s, hand grenades and MG 42 machine guns.  (Those are the ones that can shoot 1200 rounds per minute.)  And, for those who were fortunate enough to return home from the horrors of war, it was back to being “just another drunken Indian” in the eyes of many non-aboriginals around them.  I promise you though, that the “white guy” soldiers who fought along side of them didn’t regard any of them as “just another drunken Indian.”  They were brave soldiers who ran through machine gun and mortar fire on Juno beach.  Then, they fought through France, Belgium and  Holland and all the way to Germany and took a piss on the front steps what was left of Hitler’s headquarters in Berlin.  They fought gallantly for their country and for their fellow countryman.  The “white man.”

Put yourself in their shoes for a minute, actually think and then make a judgement.  You are allowed to be racist if you want to.  This is a free society after all.  But, please, at least try to learn about Canadian history first.  Then make a decision.  But, remember, if you’re a non-aboriginal, the land that your house now stands on was once owned by one of the local tribes or bands.

But, then it was stolen from them.   No wonder they’re so goddam pissed off.

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