Calling out Violence, Calling in Love.

Silence is violence. Silence around racism and white supremacy have been the fundamental reason of why we continue having to face physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence. Those that claim they understand our struggles and have witnessed violence on racialized people of colour and Indigenous people, yet did nothing, have failed the people they claim to support. They decided that their comfort levels of addressing those issues within close circles are more important that the violence that is occurring on women, racialized and Indigenous folks facing oppression. I have had “friends” listen to my story of violence and watch me cry, yet failed to challenge their family members or friends who continue to uphold white supremacy and bigotry. That is another form of violence that I have experienced by people that have said they are there for me. They listened to me and watched me cry to make themselves feel like they support me, without actually showing up when the opportunity came up when I was not there. Betrayal is what has resulted. White supremacy and sexism persist because “allies” have not amplified that call to action and did what was necessary to change people’s perspectives and views of women, racialized and Indigenous people. I want you to know that they have perpetuated that violence and are also to blame for why we are still dealing with sexism, racism, and white supremacy to this day.

Those that attempt to challenge colonialism, racism, and sexism within their circles, but assume that amplifying the perspectives of women, racialized and Indigenous folks is the only thing they have to do, is also violent. They have failed to acknowledge their responsibility to change their own attitudes, behaviours and actions within spaces that are meant for those that are actually facing violence. White environmentalists have pushed for climate justice, while taking up space and speaking time from those that are directly facing environmental racism. They have failed to recognize that those spaces are not fit for them to amplify, but to allow those voices to be heard and add to the body of knowledge of experiences facing environmental injustice within their communities. I have had white environmental friends take up more space than the one person they tokenized to speak on behalf of an entire group or ethnicity. Organizing spaces around climate justice should be safe for those that are directly affected. White environmentalists’ roles in those spaces are to listen, acknowledge responsibility, and to offer assistance in amplification.

The objectification of women still continues behind closed doors by men that think that justice work and their attitudes, behaviours and views on women are not interconnected. How can male organizers acknowledge that “women are leaders of the movement”, but privately prey on women organizers when the meeting is over because being smart is the new “attractive”. This violence comes from a male entitlement to pursue women based on their smartness without actually changing their behaviour towards them; listening to their oppression without understanding they too are part of the solution to combating sexism. I have had male friends think that because I openly speak my mind, my emotions, my oppression, and my opinions to them, it is an invitation for them to say things like, “you’re beautiful when you’re mad”, “you’re sexy when you talk about oppression”, “you are actually really smart, that turns me on”. Understand that I don’t want you to objectify me because I think. I do not give you consent to objectify me based on my intelligence because it is violent that you will only listen to me because you think that you’ll get some sort of chance with me. FYI, big turn off! I expect my male friends to ask me questions that allow me to expand my thoughts, and ask me what I think they need to address within their male circles, and allow me to vent without compliment. Take responsibility in what I’m saying to you, because there’s a reason it’s being said.

To the white people who don’t know me and/or my oppression as an Indigenous woman in Canada, your privilege still directly impacts me. Even though you don’t understand the full scope of how your existence gives you privilege does not mean that you get to have the privilege of ignoring my anger. You are privileged just for the sake of being born on stolen lands. You are privileged because you do not understand oppression and never will. You are privileged because you get to wake up in the morning without the fear that you will be judged to the capacity that I have and will. You are privileged because you don’t have to write about oppression. You are privileged because you can rest assured that you don’t get beaten, abused, or abducted by the colonial state or police. You are privileged in knowing that your views will be taken seriously by politicians. You are privileged in that you can walk into a room without having to worry that you will be stalked or kicked out of stores. You are privileged in that you can go to school without the worry that your teacher will be racist and spread stereotypes about your existence. You are privileged in that your emotions will be justified in all spaces and institutions due to white supremacy. You are privileged in that your experiences will overrule the oppressed peoples’ experiences. You are privileged in that you can have self-care, and we will never be cared for in a colonial state. You are privileged in that your white fragility will always be considered to make a “safe space”…for you and not for me. You are privileged in that you say you are sad and disregard my sadness in your inaction.

I am oppressed in that I must consider your feelings before my own. I am oppressed because voicing my struggles makes you feel uncomfortable. I am oppressed because you are scared to get to know the human me. I am oppressed because you need me to stay oppressed in order for you to be superior and privileged. I am oppressed because I need to justify every action to be relevant for you. I am oppressed because I’m constantly in a state of emotional labour and physical restraint of causing self-harm to get through the systemic bullshit your ancestors created and your ignorance and inaction perpetuates.

Be uncomfortable. Sacrifice your self-care for the care of racialized and Indigenous people. Ask me how you can change what you’ve knowingly and unknowingly perpetuated. Acknowledge that you are the problem and we have the solution. Understand that I don’t owe you anything but my anger and my demands for you. Actively listen to the people that are oppressed by your privilege. Change the system that you benefit from. Understand and accept that the removal of privilege is not oppression. Acknowledge the things that you don’t understand and do the necessary action that is required of you to change your views, behaviours and attitudes towards us. Question your occupation on stolen lands. Vocally and physically oppose the sexist, racist, colonial powers that have stopped you from participating in real justice. Prove to me that you can be trusted, and I’ll be the one to determine that. Don’t expect me to praise every little thing you do to “challenge white people” and tell me how upset you were when they ignored you, because you will always need to do more. If you take offence to this…you are the problem. Don’t expect me to care about your fragility. And most importantly, being part of the solution means no longer participating in the problem.

To my people, I love you. I have never loved anything more than the love I have for you all. I will always care for you in spaces that are violent. I will spread the truth to all corners of this world. I will put myself on the front lines to protect the lands where we come from. I will sacrifice my entire being to ensure that you and your children will live a happy life. I will shield your children from the dangers of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual violence. I will always tell you that you are beautiful because it’s the truth. I will remind you that your gifts are a gift to all of humanity. I will always be there for you when you need to be angry, sad, hurt, frustrated, horrified, scared, unsure, or oppressed. I will advocate for spaces of healing, and invite you to ceremony. I will create spaces for you where there are none. I will call anyone out to ensure your safety. I will die for your children to live another day free from harm, because I owe my existence to our survival in a world meant to erase us. In a ship filled with hate, violence and abuse, know that you are most loved by the people in the canoe.

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie

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