And by less developed, they really mean, less intelligent, less smart, less capable, less of a person, less of a being…
Oh yes, if I could count how many times I heard/read such comments like those in the title of this post, I would need more than my 10 fingers and 10 toes.
This year I am in my final year of university (OMFG!) and I have to take this one 2nd year course in order to get into a course I need to graduate which is during my next term. So this means it is an introductory course (gah!). I am not happy to be taking it because I didn’t know I needed this course until this year in order to get into the 4th year courses I need to graduate which kind of sucks because I don’t want to be in a 2nd year course in my 4th year. But whatevessss, I will deal, and so far, I have been dealing… dealing with a lot of the same bullshit racism/discriminatory/stereotyping remarks from my peers NOW that I dealt with in first, second, and third year. Yeah, nothing’s changed. Wait, I lied.
There is a change. The change? Well, I know a bit more on how to counter a racist statement by my peers. Whoa, wait, what? Some of my peers say racist things?! Yeah, they do. They don’t even know it, or maybe they do and they just really like showing off their ignorance like a big ole shiny gold medal, “Look ma! I am showing my racism!” Can we blame them? Sure we can. They take everything they read at face value. We most certainly can’t blame the fine institution of education for their ignorance, racism, and willful blindness can we? Because look at all the textbooks and such that tell them that Indigenous people in Canada were primitive and less developed when the Europeans arrived. How dare we question textbooks! Or what about the white, old men who developed theories that are still being touted as the best theories and the founding theories for all the other theories that came after a white, old man’s theorizing? Eh?*
The thing that I realized in my final year of university (OMFG!) is that I have had all the tools I need to counter racist/ignorant comments made by my peers and made by teachers (if we do want to go back all the way in my education where this racism began–elementary school), and even those old white men who the education system likes to put on a pedestal.
I had all the knowledge and experiences that made me capable enough to say, “Hey, you’re wrong. That’s racist. Let me tell you what’s up….” I have never actually said to anyone that what they said was racist because I know that is like pouring gasoline on the fire (for me) and probably would make any of my professors squirm in their seats as they try to calm the situation. I only once sent a message to a professor in my first second year online class to let her know that what my peers were saying was racist and that if we were to actually say this about any other race, it would not be tolerated. So I am stifling discussion? Who cares? Reading things like that the reason Indigenous people experienced poverty or unemployment at much higher rates than any other Canadian was because of *gasp* that WE were less developed, and not just socially, culturally, but also physically. Yes, I had a peer once suggest that it was because we maybe had smaller brains. I think he had a small brain himself. I don’t really know.
When I think of my Indigenous peers who are also in my shoes, and who may be like me (get all flustered when you hear/read racist bullshit), just realize that you have all the experience and capabilities to counter such statements. You have lived experience. You have all the knowledge that the textbooks and old, white men forget to include in their publications to say “Hey, wait a minute…” And I found it was best to use that knowledge and experience to give me the upper hand in discussions/papers/etc, and I encourage all of my Indigenous peers to not be shy or scared to say what really matters because you will only leave class feeling more frustrated and discouraged about education. It will hurt, and you will cry (again, if you are anything like me) either in class or after class or when you get home, but in the end, you will be the one that is being noticed by the professor(s)/educator(s). And that is important in setting yourself apart from the rest!
So go take on the world and be your awesomely fabulous Indigenous self!
*Yes I know my Canadian is showing.