Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day Thirty-Seven: Letter to a Little Sister

Dear Nicole,

I didn't want to walk home tonight. Mondays I do yoga after school after table tennis; as I crossed the train tracks in the near pitch black night I decided that I should be getting rides when it's this late. I won't be able to cut cross country in the snow. A dog was barking and I strained my eyes to see if it was on a chain or loose. Whew There was a fence. I walked down the dirt road and somewhere near the hospital I looked up. I gasped. Northern lights straight above me, like a crown on it's side, with brightness shooting out the ends of each point. Another set hung like finger painting on a black canvas. They shivered, they shook, they stretched, waving hello. I phoned my cousin Angela and said, "The northern lights are out."

On the way home I was thinking about you. Thinking about our conversations at the group scoring session in McLean today. Thinking about our discomfort in marking an assessment that may marginalize some of our students.Thinking about your hour twenty minute opportunity to share your heart tomorrow at the university. What will you say to those future teachers about implementing treaty awareness and education in the classroom? How will you warm your audience to the topic without the majority powering down and logging out? I wanted to write you a letter, similar to an article I read while working on my Masters, which was written in the form of a "Letter to My Daughters." I don't remember the author, but I do remember the encouragement I received and the practical advice for a young woman who would fight racism and oppression. She said things like, "You'll have to go out of your way to become an ally of those who are oppressed."

Today as you sit backwards, facing my table, you listen to me talk about going to your presentation with a humble heart, to avoid a self righteous tone. "This is me speaking to me," I add. "That's why I'm walking, to find a humbler way."

You mention how easy it is to gain even more privilege as a white person addressing racism.

"Becoming even more white," I say, and we know that we have shared the same teacher, Dr. Carol Schick.

You mentioned discussing the "myth of meritocricy" with your grade twelves. The myth that those with privilege have earned that privilege, and those without power also deserve their situation in life.

"Pull yourself up by your boot straps," I say, and we know we've read the same article. "Have you read jona olson?"


"She unpacks fifteen roadblocks on the way to becoming an ally against racism."

I have found her article, now called, "Detour Spotting for White Anti-racists" and her name is joan olsson. Wow. I thought it was jona. And, it's actually eighteen detours. Weird how details fade. At least I got the lower case in her name right. I'm skimming it and I think I need to read this again. Wow. Powerful stuff. Maybe she has added a few because I don't remember "Avon Ally" a cosmetic, plastic approach. But I do remember "White on White, and Righteously So" or "But What About Me? Look how I've been hurt, oppressed, exploited."

It's really late. My girlfriend, Keitha, invited me to her house for tea this evening. Her daughter, Elizabeth, was there, too; we had a heart-to-heart, and then laughed really hard. Elizabeth had to leave and Keitha and I talked some more and then we prayed together.

I'm thinking back to walking home under the northern lights. I'm thinking that if I hadn't gone out of my way, dared the dropping temperature, I wouldn't have had thirty minutes under that living sky. I think your trip into the university will be a bit like that, maybe uncomfortable, maybe cool, maybe you might even trip a few times, but if you just look up, and experience your humble place in this great, big, beautiful world, you'll know you're on the right road at the right time.

Blessings on you, Nicole, and thank you for sharing your walk with me today.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Sheena!

    It’s hard to write this comment as I am unsure of how to explain just how important reading your letter and blog was to me yesterday! I was in at work in the morning and had to speak at the University in the afternoon and was getting quite stressed out about the whole situation. After reading your blog, I printed of the letter and took it with me. I also made sure to keep in my mind some of the things we had talked about and that you had written of. I think the talk went well. The students were really open to a lot of the things I talked about. I talked about the importance of authentic infusion of treaty education, how it relates to anti-oppressive education and the process of beginning to unpack and examine all of the power and privilege that is around us and a part of us. I also made copies of that article that you told me about to share with them. I shared lots of resources about treaty ed, talked about what we are doing with ATFSL, the new grant project, your blog, some of the other grant projects that Balcarres is doing, what the division is doing and so on. I also told them that if they can open their hearts and minds and be passionate about treaty education then their students will see that and respect it. I talked about a bunch of other things too haha!

    Hopefully it went well! I can’t wait to see you again to chat more. I am also going to read your thesis so we can chat about that too!

    Thanks for everything again Sheena,

    In solidarity,