Why hello…. haven’t been here in a while. I know what you are thinking; must be nice, right? To remove yourself at a whim from the discomfort which arises as a result of difficult learning (and unlearning). Must be relieving to effortlessly ditch the “weight on your chest inhibiting your ability to breathe” feeling that accompanies growth alongside emotional vulnerability….
I often find myself thinking about the choice and commitment to this work that my privilege affords me – I can choose to walk away when it gets hard; step back when I start to feel uncomfortable. I simply did just that; I shared this blog with the world, proud of the growth I had witnessed within myself and my students. Then, just like a tired novel, I shut the door on this experience and moved onward with my life without looking back (or even considering looking back, for that matter). My PRIVILEGE – one which many cannot exercise. Too many individuals live a narrative that presents insurmountable challenges every second, minute, hour – the reality that eats away at your spirit and makes you feel vulnerable.The reality that surrounds you, drowns you, in countless forms of systemic oppression and racism – yeah, the reality that you cannot merely “shut off”.
I recently spent some time alongside family; I was given an incredibly thoughtful gift during this time. A novel, written entirely in poetry; an awe-inspiring work by a Cree author. My family member bought me this book and engaged in a conversation with the author, sharing with him how much she admires my passion and work alongside reconciliation. My work. What work? In this instance I felt like a fake; here I was, basking in the glory of being a good white person, doing the right thing. However, how authentic is that really – what had I done in the past few months to show my passion, love, and support? What “work” had I really done besides talk about all of things I have done in the past to learn and unlearn. This is problematic…
Upon receiving my gift (which really was a blessing in disguise), I immediately dove right into the content. Inside the front cover resides a message from the author; he signed his name ‘in friendship‘ – I was immediately brought to tears. I worked my way through the book, page by page unpacking the knowledge and wisdom woven throughout the words. It was not until this night that I think I truly began to understand the power behind voice and perspective – it hit me like a powerful blow to the gut, I was speechless.
“Can you tell me the name of the steep and rugged mountain you say you climbed and conquered? Was it False Face Mountain? That mountain born from deceit; one that exists only in the mind and that distorts life as ruse bending truth to suit a lie. I know of these things in my wisdom gained, from knowing what is real and what is not. Do you remember when you first laid foot on False Face Mountain? Yes you do! It was long ago while you were young and foolish. Before False Face Mountain rose to the sky where dark clouds roam, making you a foolish mountaineer. Grand it was in your hollow mind; you lived like a man who conquers any obstacle, real or imagined, thinking that no one noticed how hard you tried to hide from the world that sustains life to climb False Face Mountain.” (My Silent Drum, Ovide Mercredi, December 17, 2014)
Can we really consider ourselves to be doing meaningful work when we are continuously living a life that reinforces our own power and privilege (whether we are consciously aware of it or not)? Looking back on the course of my journey over the past year, I would consider myself to be a mountaineer on False Face Mountain; Yes, I did immerse myself in discomfort. Yes, I did experience insurmountable growth in the process. Yes, I did effortlessly abandon the work while continuing to bask in the glory of praise and appreciation as a result of said work. Interesting….
Today I can say one thing for certain, I am committed (committed? that is a fairly translucent term…) to moving forward; part of the process of moving forward is acknowledging where you have been – including the good, the bad and the ugly. These past few months have been the ugly. If I am going to consider myself as a witness alongside a journey that honours and includes reconciliation, I must make an authentic commitment to this work. This involves living and breathing the discomfort that ensues, not mindlessly checking out when the going gets tough (a tourist on False Face Mountain…). To me, Ovide’s book is like a silent drum, ‘that only the listener can hear, understand and hopefully relate to’. Ovide: I heard you; I understand you; I relate to you. Finally, I thank you for helping me to turn a critical lens inward and re-evaluate my intentions alongside this work. See, the thing about power and privilege in regards to choice is that it allows us to ‘start over’ (sometimes continuously). Starting over…. a nice concept. This time, as I begin to descend down and away from False Face Mountain.