You can listen to this recording here or wherever you get your podcasts. It was released under Medicine for the Resistance.
Sean Vanderklis: So ladies, gentlemen, this is Patty Krawec. She is the co-host of the podcast, Medicine for the Resistance. She lives in Niagara with Karl and I, we have a house together and we just like, *laughter* do podcasts and stuff. Patty is one of the fundamental changemakers within Niagara. If there’s any Indigenous event, it’s fair to say that Patty will be there in some capacity, whether formal or informal. And she is the best person to know on Twitter. So if you if you want to, I would encourage you to follow her.
Patty Krawec: Wow, that’s quite an introduction. That’s a that’s pretty impressive. I’m gonna have to try to live up to that.
Okay, so yeah, Aniin, boozho, Wabanan Anongokwe n’dishnakhaz. Adik dodem. Obishkokaang n’doonjiba,Oniagara n’doonjiba. Ojibwe-Anishnaabekwe n’daw.
So my tax name is Patty and I am living currently in Niagara Falls. But I was born in Thunder Bay. So I’ll talk a little bit more about that later. And I worked as a social worker in child welfare for 15 years. And then at a sexual assault center for four years before that. Currently not working 19 years of secondary trauma is real.
I do host a podcast with my friend Kerry Goring, and called Medicine for the Resistance. She’s Black. I’m Indigenous and we talk about all of the different ways that those two things operate in our society. We met she was taking care of her children are her grandchildren and we talked about how she could protect them from racism because they live in St. Catharines, which is pretty white. And she said, Well, I can’t. And so I said, Well, if you can’t, then what do you do? How do you build resilience in them? And she said, Well, that’s the thing. It’s about raising them in ways that they know who they are, that they’re proud of themselves because the racist settler colonial world that we live in, wants us to believe that there’s something wrong with us as Black people, as Indigenous people, as Pakistani people. You know, they want us to believe that there’s something wrong with us and that’s just not true. There’s nothing there’s nothing wrong with us.
I was raised in a white family. My mother had gone north to teach in a small community north of Sioux Lookout. The people in the community, it was called Umfreville and they were mostly members of Lac Seul first nation who lived in Umfreville, mostly because of the sawmill that was there. My father’s family is also connected with Cat Lake reserve through his grandmother Sophie Brisket. But his mom and his father lived mostly around Lac Seul, and that’s where we’re registered as official Indians.
My mom moved from the Niagara region to the Nora district, where that’s where she met and married my father and I was born in Thunder Bay. We lived in Ignace and Rain; anybody who’s from a Kenora district is going to recognize these places, depending on where she was teaching because it was the early 60s. And while they were still residential schools right up until 1996, they were being replaced by community based schools which were still taught mostly by white teachers.
Teaching credentials, the requirements that you needed in order to be a teacher generally meant that only white people were qualified to be teachers. The education that my grandparents and great grandparents got in residential schools did not for the most part, prepare or encourage them to go to college, university.
So even though, like my dad’s generation, and the younger ones weren’t in residential schools, they were still taught by white people who generally believed that the only way forward for them was to turn their back on Indigenous knowledge and be Canadian. So when I was around 18 months old, we moved south back to her parents and it would be about 25 years before I saw my father again.
I grew up in a blizzard of whiteness. A woman we talked to last week described it that way, and it was just so perfect. I grew up in a blizzard of whiteness in the Niagara region, really thinking that I was the only Indigenous person east of Thunder Bay. I thought all the Indians lived out west. Now we just had somebody mentioned Mississauga’s of the Credit, there was a reserve that was less than two hours from my house. I had no idea, but I was the only Indian.
So I learned about Indigenous people in the 60s and 70s, just like everybody else, watching Bonanza Little House on the Prairie, learning about brave homesteaders and vanishing the dangerous Indians. We existed in the past, not the present, and certainly not in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek future. So I absorbed all of these ideas about Indigenous people, right? That we’re both noble and lazy. At the same time, we’re primitive, we spoke a weird broken English, and we had some mysterious connection to land and spirit that allowed us to save white people, but never ourselves. Somehow, whenever we needed saving, it was the white people who saved us like in Dances with Wolves or Avatar.
So I’m telling you all this so that you understand that I also grew up surrounded by racist ideas about Indigenous people, which meant racist ideas about myself. Some of them were flattering. The whole noble savage thing can be pretty flattering, but also warnings. My people were noble and pure, but I needed to worry about drinking because we were predisposed to alcoholism. So they were always my people. But I didn’t know any. So I was all on my own.
And we all grew up with these racist ideas about Black and Indigenous people as a settler colonial state, which is what Canada is racist ideas about Black and Indigenous people is the foundation of our existence, right? You can’t enslave one group of people and genocide another without having some deeply racist beliefs to justify that.
So I rely quite heavily on this book by Ibram X Kennedy (waving a copy of How to Be Anti-racist at the camera). If you don’t have it, I recommend it. Fantastic book. This is almost a prerequisite (waving copy of Stamped from the Beginning by the same author at the camera). Stamped from the Beginning is the history of racist ideas in America. So it’s mostly it should say almost exclusively, about Black history. But it retraces the racist and anti-racist thought over the course of the 500 years of American history. And it’s really interesting. And then you get to this one, which is about how we can be anti-racist. How can we learn to challenge the ideas that we’re basically all steeped and raised in because none of us, I don’t think it’s fair to say that I think it’s fair to say that we are all raised and surrounded by racist ideas.
So racist ideas want us to belong that to believe that there is something wrong with us as Indigenous people? Right and wants us to believe that there’s something wrong with Black people and that that’s just not true. There’s there’s nothing wrong with us. There’s nothing wrong with Inuit. There’s nothing wrong with Metix. There’s nothing wrong with Black people.
So Ibram Kendi, he’s the author of this book, and his definition he says that racism is the combination of racist policies and racist ideas that combined to produce a normalized life racial inequity. So racism is the building. And then there’s policies and ideas that makes sure that the groups of people stay in their place separate and unequal. And we all live in that building. So racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not equal.
For example, Indigenous children are placed in white foster homes at a much greater rate than white children. That’s racial inequity. We are not equal when you compare the number of children in care by racial group. In some provinces, that’s almost 80% of the kids in care are Indigenous. That’s racial equity.
A racist policy is anything that produces or sustains racial inequity. Keeps some people down economically, medically or academically. Cindy Blackstock, I think we’ve all heard of her, has gone to great lengths to prove that the government’s policy of underfunding Child Welfare on reserve is a racist policy. The Human Rights Tribunal agreed with her, told the government to pay up but they don’t. They make excuses. The government’s policy of giving less money to on reserve Child Welfare Services when compared to provincially funded Child Welfare Services is racist. It’s designed to make things unequal and keep them that way.
So racism is that combination of the inequity, more Indigenous children in foster care, with policies, inadequate funding that keeps it that way. And we can apply that formula to anything if you want, you know, when you want to look at kind of this racist house that we live in.
So my mom teaching Indigenous children in the 1960s is an example of that. Today, we’re less likely to graduate from high school. 33% of us do not have a secondary school diploma or equivalent compared to 18% of Canadians. So we’re less likely to go to college, we’re less likely to have good paying jobs with health benefits, we’re less likely to work in precarious fields.
Requiring our children to leave home at 13 or 14 to go to high school in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg or Toronto is a racist policy. See, we have the inequity, we’re less likely to graduate high school. The policy requiring children to leave home. Like I think about yourself at 13. And imagine leaving home to live with strangers, just so you could get a high school to see would you finish high school? Of course, you would not finish high school. Native kids in care run away all the time. Of course, they run away. They want to be with other native kids. They’re not in a native home. So they want to be with us. Of course, they run away all the time.
So whenever there’s a racial inequity, look for the policy. So even that rule, right that, you know, the credentialing rule around teachers, so 55 years ago, those rates were even lower. Having these credentialing rules, it sounds fair. But when you set up them but you can set up the rules in such a way that only certain people qualify. So although my grandparents and uncles and all kinds of people had gone to residential school and had high and had the high school diploma. That was supposedly the same, but it totally wasn’t. They were not qualified to teach their own people.
Our life expectancy is 73 for men and 78. For women, Canadians can expect to live to 79 or 83. That’s inequity. Right? That’s a racial inequity. The policies that support that inequity that keep us dying younger, relate to inadequate funding, excuse me inadequate funding for medical services, food insecurity, and incarceration. Every year you spend in jail takes about two years off your life.
We also account for 28% of provincial and 28% of federal inmates, even though we’re only three or 4% of the Canadian population. Police officers, lawyers and judges with racist ideas means we’re more likely to get arrested. And if we’re arrested, we’re more likely to be convicted. And if we’re convicted, we’re more likely to do longer jail sentence. Policies that govern pretrial custody release are always are biased towards people with financial resources. Like if you want to be a surety for somebody, you don’t have to actually put up $10,000. But you have to demonstrate to the court that you have it, that you have a house that you have a steady job, that you don’t have a criminal record of your own. And all of these things, exclude Indigenous people and don’t necessarily mean that you’re an upstanding person. I know a lot of very not upstanding people who have houses, good jobs and no criminal record.. But these are the things that we value because of who because of how it excludes.
Racism creates hierarchies of value. It tells us that Black and Indigenous people are morally weak, that we don’t care about education or hard work , that we’re predisposed to alcoholism. To be a Black or Indigenous man in Canada and the United States is to be seen as a weapon. Colton Boushie was asleep in her truck right. And they were scared, shot him to be a Black or Indigenous woman is to be seen as sexually available. When we go missing, the police don’t even look for us, the RCMP and the OPP had to admit that Yeah, racist policies in their, in their practice, you know, resulted in them not looking for us because of assumptions that they made about us.
So there’s two real kinds of racist policies that Kendi gets into. He talks about segregationist policies and assimilation as policies, that there’s two ways you can go. Segregationist policies, of course work to segregate work to keep us apart. The Reserve system is a really good example of that keeping us apart moving us off the land, jails. We are segregated away from society, because we’re seen as dangerous as you know, we can’t learn how to get along. And so they’re going to teach us and we’re just as guilty of it too. I’ve sat in courts with native judges, who are going to, you know, we’re going to fix that young man and they’re going to teach him and he’s going to be an example. And it’s not, you know, and he thinks he’s helping but he’s not. Those are those are some racist ideas.
So we’ve got the segregationist policies that the, you know, the segregationist policies and racist ideas that work at keeping us apart. And then we’ve got the assimilationist policies, the ones that want to draw us in and make us like all the other Canadians. In Canada, most racist policies are working towards assimilation working to make us not Indians anymore, right. Like you want to talk about the Indian act that decides who is and who isn’t Indian. So because we’re a constant reminder of the land, right pipelines, you know, look at what’s happening with the pipelines. We’re a constant reminder that the land really isn’t doesn’t fully belong to Canada.
So assimilationist policies assume that we’re capable of learning or segregation thinks nope, we can’t learn we will always be inferior. Assimilation, well, we can learn, but what we have to learn is how to be Canadian. So we can’t learn studies on our own, you know, our own Indigenous knowledge.
It’s always you know, we talked with them on a podcast recently, we talked with somebody who was doing her PhD, without any white man, she was gonna, she was gonna see if she could get through her entire PhD without citing anyone, you know, because she’s Maori. And so you know, Maori. There’s a lot of Maori academics. There’s a lot of Indigenous academics. There’s a lot of Inuit academics. So why not study that worldview? Why not look for that?
And we do that to ourselves, too. We judge ourselves by how close we get to settler colonialism what settler colonialism has told us is normal. Residential schools, of course made it very dangerous to be Indigenous and to do anything but assimilate. Residential Schools are a great example of assimilation.
But modern academia is also, you know, pretty white, you want to, you know, social work. I did that for 19 years. The ideals behind social work are very settler colonial in terms of how you fit in and how you’re supposed to behave.
So anti-racism is the response, right? We always think of the opposite of racism as being not racism, right? Because everybody says they’re not racist, right? When you say something that was racist, that thing you said was racist, that person is a racist. Donald Trump gets up and says, Well, I’m not racist. I’m like, the least racist person ever. David Duke says I’m not racist. It’s we’ve made it into this kind of personal failing, insult that you know, you’re somehow this terrible Klan wearing person if you’re a racist, and you know So we all say we’re defensive. And we say we’re not racist, we’re not racist.
But when we do that, we can’t look at our own actions. We can’t look at our own beliefs and think was that thing I said? Or did? Was that policy I just supported? Is that racist? Is it supporting inequity? So anti-racism is the is the willingness to look at that and to and to try to reject the segregationist ideas that say, we have to be separate all the time. And the assimilationist ideas that say we have to be like other Canadians.
So so we’re rejecting any idea about racial inequality being because of bad good or bad qualities within that group. Like I’ll often hear people say, Oh, you know, Indigenous people need to get their act together. Well, no, Indigenous people one; we’re not a big monolithic group. Right. And it’s most often it’s the policies that are put in place that are preventing us that are that are the barriers so it’s always about looking up It’s always about looking up.
So like policies that would make housing accessible for everyone helps Indigenous people, policies that make mental health services available to everyone helps Indigenous people. So we don’t need to make policies that are specific for us as a big broad group. We need to make policies that make things accessible to everybody. So we’re seeking to address racial inequity by policies, how is this policy affecting things? How is this book I’m reading? What is it telling me about Black and Indigenous people , about Inuit people. What is it telling me about them, and making me Believe, wanting me to believe about them as a group?
So if we want to understand racism and racist ideas, we have to go back to the beginning. So we’re going to go way back. Because we have this idea that it’s based in ignorance and hate. We think that if we can just educate people, that it’ll be okay. And that’s, that that’s that’s not where it began. It begins with slavery and colonization. It begins with a ruling class that needed a reason to justify exploiting Black and Indigenous labor, because it wasn’t even about land at first, when they came here, it was about labor. And so it was about labor and slavery and who had the right to buy and sell who.
It begins with the belief that human beings are fundamentally unequal. And that on inequality is permanent. Now in the Middle Ages, people believe that so if you were a peasant, it was because you were born to be a peasant, if you were noble, it was because you were born to be a noble. So these ideas about permanent aboutt being unequal and that that being okay, it was already present, you know, in that society. But what happened was, it got then applied to people of different color.
So when the 1400s Islamic slave traders made good money selling people, they sold Africans, Arabs, Europeans, they were the Walmart of slavery. Slavery at that time was not great, but it was also different. It wasn’t the chattel slavery that we’re thinking about when we think about when we think about slavery. If you if you were sold as a slave in that period, chances were your kids could be free. You could buy your freedom. It was different, it wasn’t great. I’m not advocating it. But it was it was not a chattel slavery that emerged in the 1500s.
So Henry, the navigator, who was the prince of Portugal, who never actually went anywhere, wanted to get around these Islamic slave traders and have his own supply. And so he’s the one who actually started this is this African slave trade. But the royalty felt bad about enslaving only Africans. They feel bad. So Gomez de Zurara came up with the idea and the church as well about the Curse of Ham, that these people that they were Black because they were bad, because they had displeased God. And so that’s why they were bad.
And actually, if you want to think that was in the 1500s, I grew up hearing about that in the church, about the curse of Ham. So it’s not so we think these Ideas are so old. We think that they’re hundreds and hundreds of years old. But we forget that these things come at us hand over hand, right? Like a person had a child had a grandchild had a great grandchild, like think how many generations you have living at the same time. So these ideas that started in the 14-1500s are still very much present in our world. I remember growing up hearing about the curse of Ham. And so that’s where this idea that Black people were now the lowest of the low and they could be enslaved and treated any way you wanted. That’s where this started.
And then when that came when they came here, now they have so called Red people to enslave, and the church said we weren’t even human. So that’s where these ideas originally come from about where we fit in this racial hierarchy.
Carl Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist in the 1700s. He’s the one who actually came up with the four races so I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the colors of the medicine wheel. The red, white, Black, yellow, and how that those are the four races. It’s racist. It’s a racist construct that we have somehow absorbed. We did not have that kind of idea of race. We understood different peoples. You can’t, the Anishnaabe and the Mohawk and the Cree and the Inuit, we all knew each other. We knew that we were different. We knew that we looked different. We didn’t all look like Pocahontas, right. So we knew that people had different colors. We traded with the Vikings and with the Basques we knew about these, you know, so we so we knew about different peoples. But this idea of four races with fixed qualities. That’s a uniquely European idea that somehow we have managed to absorb.
So when we’re and I was on a cultural competency training, where a woman was teaching this as an Indigenous, as an Ojibwe teaching. And afterwards, the Muslim, a Muslim friend of mine said where’s the brown people? Like, where am I in that in that wheel? Like, don’t I matter? And yeah, so no, that’s that’s her I told her that it’s a racist construct that we’ve somehow absorbed, not all medicine wheels, have those four colors. Some of them have green or blue instead of black. So that also tells you that that’s not necessarily, that idea of race is not what we were talking about when we’re talking about different peoples.
So Linnaeus came up with the four categories. So White was of course at the top very smart, active, inventive and how often have we heard that about white people how creative they are how inventive they are right Steve Jobs Bill Gates given us this great world. Homosapiens asiaticus: yellow are severe and haughty. And again, when we think of art and the way Asian people are presented in media, it’s that severe kind of snobby look that that they’re given and media, it’s really kind of Yeah, so homosapiens Americana. So that’s the third on the ladder as red, we’re ill tempered, obstinate, contented and free. So that’s how he described us. And then of course, Black people at the bottom were crafty, slow and foolish.
But you can see how those ideas are still so very present in the way that we think and in the books that we read, and in the movies that we see. I just read an article because there’s a new Twilight movie coming out and Twitter went bananas. And there was an article about Stephenie Meyer didn’t want to have any Black characters in her film unless they were the villain. And so if you look at the Twilight movies, that’s who the Black characters are, they’re the villains.
Because racist policies need racist ideas to justify themselves. So Henry the Navigator wanted to enslave Black people. The church and Zurara came up with, you know, with what they needed to come up with in order to justify that. The colonists wanted to enslave and eliminate Indigenous people. The Pope assured them that we weren’t human anyway. And so that’s where race comes from power and down, like these ideas about racism. So we can educate people. And we can talk to them and perform our humanity for them all day long. That’s not going to change the policies, the policies come from power. And so that’s what you have to attack. That’s what you have to be looking for is how his power being distributed.
So there’s a few ways in which this comes through. So race, racism says that the races are different biologically, that’s one way that we’re different and that these differences create a hierarchy of value. Like Black people play basketball, because they’re tall, well, except that a lot of people are tall. And we play hockey because we’re somehow inherently fast, except that we lived in northern communities where there was lots of ice. So these things had nothing to do with our biology, and everything to do with access with access to resources.
Biological racism is also DNA tests telling you that you’re part Indian because the test came back with 12% with American Indian DNA, there’s no such thing as American Indian DNA and Kim Tallbear is a really good resource for that. So this is a really segregationist way of thinking that the races are different and that this different is biological. So that’s the only real assimilationist way of thinking about that is in the Indian act where so my dad’s native. He married a white woman. So I got a particular kind of status. I married a white guy. So my kids got a particular kind of status. If they marry non-native, they’re not Indians anymore. And what that means is like for my friend whose son has grown up on reserve and it’s kind of the same position, he won’t be able to inherit his grandparents’ house, he won’t like so this house won’t be able to pass down through the family. He won’t have status, even though he grew up in this community. So that’s biological racism, and the racist policy that goes with it.
So anti racism would recognize that Indigenous people are actually a political identity, not a racial identity. Being Anishnaabe is like being French or German. We emerged as people after centuries of migrations, merges and splits. We have our own political structure. We had boundaries, we had treaties. You know, we had trade relationships. So anti-racism understands that Indigenous people, we’re not a race at all. We’re political groups with diverse beliefs and cultures, just like any political group.
And there’s inequity within, you know, within these categories as well. So, with Indigenous people you want to you can think about the divide between urban and reserve. So racism would say that people who are on reserve are lazy, that our governments are corrupt, segregationists put us there to keep us separate, and then enacted policies that would complicate our ability to work do business and inherit land. The Indian act stipulates elections at a frequency guaranteed to keep our communities unstable. So that’s a segregationist racist policy. And then assimilationist policies try to get us off reserve, they’re forcing us to go to school elsewhere, forcing us to leave home for medical care. You know, like I know, like, in Nunavut, you have to actually, like, leave leave the territory completely in order to get a lot of medical care.
Anti-racism recognizes that the problems faced by us on and off reserve are related to policies, not personal failings, there’s nothing wrong with Indigenous people who live on reserve. There’s nothing wrong or superior with Indigenous people who live urban. We have different problems related to the policies that affect us. But that kind of internal internal racism that we have with each other is a problem.
Racism tells us that our bodies ourselves are dangerous that we’re like animals. Remember, I’d said that to be Black or Indigenous man in Canada is to be seen as a weapon and to be a Black or Indigenous woman is to be seen as sexually available? So the segregationist answer is to be tough on crime right to put us in jail, to get away with it. In the assimilationist response is than to become invisible to try to be white try to look white to try to look because to be to look unthreatening is to look white to the way you do your hair, the earrings that you wear or don’t wear, you know, the way you dress. So, you know, with the baggy pants or not, right? Look, all of those things, you know, to conform as much as possible to be seen, you know, to be seen and non-threatening.
Anti-racism tells us that people may be violent or nonviolent, but that there’s nothing inherently dangerous or violent about Black people, about Indigenous people. Studies consistently show that violent crime is more closely associated with poverty than race. So well if you may say that, you know, a disproportionate number of Indigenous people are, you know, commit violent crimes. That might be true. But if you account for income level, those differences drop away. Because we are also more likely to live in poverty, to live in situations where there is increased crime where things where things are different.
We also know that Black and Indigenous people have poor health outcomes than Canadians, were more likely to live in poverty to have inadequate food and medical care to have food insecurity to have unsafe drinking water, to work in precarious employment, which often means working when you’re sick, working when you’re injured, going back to work long before that knee surgery has healed. So and with COVID-19, we’re at greater risk of everything right; we’re at a greater risk of contracting it because we live in crowded conditions, because we don’t have access, a lot of our communities don’t have access to clean water, because we’re more likely to be working in those precarious service jobs that are still open. And we’re at greater risk of them becoming sick of it, because if more of us get it more of us are going to become sick with it. And then because we have a lot of those other comorbidities, we have, you know, heart disease, diabetes, we’re more likely to die from it, you know.
So all of those risk factors, but there’s nothing wrong with us, right? That’s the racist thinking would be we got to study them. We have to study them and find out what’s wrong with them. Why are they having all these problems? The problem you have to look up to the anti-racist is looking at the policies. What are the policies that create these situations? That means that we don’t have clean water. Six Nations, which is less than two hours from my house, the government Yay, we put it you know, they put in the water filtration thing, but they didn’t put the money in to get it to the houses so 70% of the people on six nations which is just outside Hamilton, doesn’t they don’t have they don’t have clean drinking water. So that’s, you know, so that’s a big problem. Researchers like Courtney Skye. Courtney is doing work of collecting the data that the government’s not doing they’re not collecting the race based data because they don’t want to look at the inequities.
COVID-19 is really revealing a lot of racist and racial inequities. But because we’re not collecting the race based data, we can’t say where the hotspots are and where the inequities are in terms of needing medical care. So Courtney, is doing it by reading newspaper articles, looking at Facebook groups, government websites. And the numbers that she’s coming up with are not surprisingly, different from the numbers that the government is coming up with. Her position and her work is anti-racist. She’s looking at the policies; she’s looking at what’s going on in our communities. She’s not looking at what’s wrong with these communities. She’s looking at the policies around them. Let’s get the numbers. Let’s find the inequity. And then let’s look for the policy that explains that inequity and let’s do something about that, too. She writes papers she does papers for the Yellowhead Institute, which is a really good resource.
Representation matters. That’s another place, that racism where racism sees us as artifacts, right like Johnny Depp’s Tonto, the Washington Redskins, the American Eskimos. Because representation matters, but it also matters how that representation is done. So racism sees us as artifacts, sees our traditions as primitive or pagan, anti-racism, just these differences. So it’s not that these that these traditions are pagan or bad or that they’re just different. They’re just different ways of communicating things that are important within a culture. A friend of mine has pointed out that at Halloween, everybody wants to be the Indian princess are the Indian brave, but nobody wants to be the Mohawk doctor or the Ojibwe teacher.
Racism always also tells us that when one Indigenous person acts badly that it reflects badly on everybody. I talked with a Muslim friend who often heard that from her mom to remember that she was representing everybody and to not make us look bad and we talk, you know, when we hear that. And we all know that moment, they think as Indigenous people when we do something wrong when we do something that we shouldn’t have. And even though it had nothing to do with being Indigenous, like I was at work, and I had suggested, you know, something to do with the union, I made a remark to my boss, and she kind of flipped it andd it was really awful in front of the whole team. And I was deeply aware of being Indigenous, even though the thing we were talking about had to do with the union and vacation and had absolutely nothing to do with me being Indigenous. I was in that moment, deeply aware of being Indigenous in a white organization. And what they would think of their Indigenous clients because they were mad at me.
And anti-racism knows that that’s not my problem. That’s not I’m not a reflection of all Indigenous people. That you know that the clients that my family that that we would work with aren’t a reflection of me that we’re not. We’re just people going through stuff, right? We’re just people live in our lives. We’re not representative of the of the entire group. That’s a little bit liberating. But also we have we remember that people do think that way people do people do think that way.
To be anti-racist is also to be anti-capitalist. Because the accumulation of capital means exploiting racial inequity. Capitalism is not just buying and selling things. It’s Bill Gates controlling the computer industry so that he can get wealthy. It’s Elon Musk, exploiting government loans so that he can make billions of dollars. It is the movement of wealth upwards to a small group so that they can exert financial control over the rest of us. And that means the exploitation of racialized roots. Capitalism was born in slavery. And it continues to exploit what we call the developing world, Indigenous people, Black people.
The American government, their 13th amendment after they outlawed slavery, allows it if you’re in jail. So if you’re in prison, you can still be enslaved, you can still work for free. And I mean, the problem is that people shouldn’t be in prison just not be, you know, not working isn’t necessarily the answer. But you have to remember that that’s kind of the way they think, is if we were in jail, and we do think that way about people in jail. You know, we almost resent them for having free housing and free food. How often do we hear that, particularly from conservative people, so they want to be tough on crime, and put everybody in jail, but then they don’t want to take care of them while they’re in there.
And so capitalism is about exploitation, and we have racialized poverty and wealth. So remember ideas about race and permanent differences. Remember that that had its roots in ideas about social class? Right, so I the word as it was originally used by the French had to do with social class had to do with the nobility. It wasn’t about racial about what we think of now as racial groups. It was about social class.
But now we have racialized social classes, right? Because Black and Indigenous people are the ones who are most likely to live in poverty. And, you know, and we also need to remember that these racist policies affect white people too. Kerri Leigh Merrit wrote a great book called Masterless Men about the impact of slavery on poor whites, because that whole system it doesn’t do any favors to them either. Somehow they get sold this bill of goods, about white supremacy and fitting in, but it’s really all about the ruling class, which is why I say that in order to be anti-racist, you have to be anti-capitalist. There’s no you can’t be pro capitalism and think you’re being anti-racist because capitalism inherently racist.
Racial inequities persist in poverty and unemployment. In 2009 10% of Indigenous people were unemployed compared with 6% of Canadians. We also experienced the largest job losses, Canadians lost about 8% of manufacturing jobs. We lost 30%.
And I found this Indigenous corporate training website that identified eight barriers for us when it comes to unemployment. And I think you’ll see, every one of these is tied to racist policy. So education and literacy is a barrier. Well, of course, it’s a barrier to employment, we don’t even have access to good education. Cultural differences, so racist ideas between employers and co workers. Racial discrimination, obviously. Poor self esteem. That one’s really interesting to me because that sounds like internalized racism. So the things that we believe about ourselves. Poverty and poor housing, also tied to racist policies around how people are funded and housed.
Lack of a driver’s license. When my kids turned 16, as they turned 16, that was their birthday present was happy birthday, we’re going to go get you your driver’s license. And it occurred. And it just seemed like such a basic thing to me that they were that they were getting their driver’s license, and they all got their driver’s license, you know, completed by the time they were 17 or 18 years old. But then, when I started working with the Friendship Center, I realized just how challenging that is for people, because in order to get a driver’s license, not only do you have to have the cash up front, but you have to have access to a car. And if you’re living in poverty, access to a car is a real problem. So lack of access to a car means you don’t get a driver’s license means there’s a lot of jobs that aren’t open to you. And I don’t know anywhere that has really good transportation networks for getting people to and from work.
Toronto recently changed to the PRESTO Card which is kind of a tap and go thing, which sounds really convenient and great. But if you’re living in poverty, and you’re getting bus tokens from social service organizations., they’re not getting out presto cards, because if you lose your PRESTO Card, or you know, or you can’t refill it, tokens are much easier and anti-poverty activists are really unhappy with that. And when you think about who’s mostly living in poverty, and why we’re mostly living in poverty, that policy is a racist policy, because it’s a policy, so there’s a racial inequity that exists in terms of poverty and access to transportation. That policy makes that inequity worse, it makes it harder for people to get out. And so that that’s what makes it a racist policy.
The Ojibwe owned restaurant Nish Dish, if you live in Toronto, sad to tell you that Nish Dish is closing. It’s a restaurant and catering service in Toronto’s West and large Indigenous community. Owners wanted to improve community access to foods and it’s closing in part because have issues around COVID-19 but also because of rising rents, because of inadequate supports for businesses. So although, you know, although COVID-19 may have, you know, been the heart attack that stopped it, there were a lot of things leading up to that that made that made this Indigenous business less resilient.
Black and Indigenous spaces whether their businesses, neighborhoods reserves, schools, were always seen as less, as dangerous in need of improvement. Improvement usually means moving us out.
Race also intersects with gender and sexuality to create multiple hierarchies. Gender and Sexuality racism is policies that lead to inequity between the genders. So if you compare, you know Black people and white people in general, but then you compare Black men with white men and Black women with white women, you see a greater disparity with the women. And so that’s policies around access to affordable childcare, access to transportation, women staying in abusive relationships because there’s no access to housing. So all of these things are racist policies, because they promote race, because they promote or maintain racial inequity. And so that’s, and so that’s what we’re doing.
So becoming anti-racist, means that we stopped saying we’re not racist, or that we can’t be racist, because that’s a form of denial, and it prevents growth. The opposite of racist is anti-racist. And nobody is anti-racist all the time. Even Ibram Kendi, talks about it. He’s still learning and still evolving the story. He actually talks a lot about his personal story, and about racist ideas that he had about Black people that were, you know, not helping him at all.
So well, so remember, I said the ruling class doesn’t care that the racist policies impact poor whites; they weren’t ever intended to be included in the power structure. So when we attribute the crimes of settler colonialism to white people, that’s not helpful. Some people Kendi would call that would call that racism. Now my capacity as an Indigenous person with racist ideas about white people to do actual harm, to affect policy, to make sure that more white people go to jail than Black people that’s severely limited, I’m not going to be able to do that, Indigenous people as a group are not going to be able to do that. But what we can do by holding on to these ideas is cutting ourselves off from potential allies, because this system doesn’t do poor whites any favors either, unless you’re part of the ruling class it is really not helping you all that much.
So I work to be anti-racist, to look for the ways in which I’m supporting racist ideas and policies. I look at the books, I’m reading the articles I’m reading. I look at the problems that they’re identifying. And then what the solutions because wherever you situate the problem, that’s where you’re going to find the solution, right? If the problem about Indigenous poverty is that there’s something wrong with Indigenous people, then all you’re going to do is come up with things to fix us, you’re not going to address the policies involved. So, so that’s what I do. I try to, I try to think about what I’m doing what I’m reading. When I read newspaper articles, I try to think about what what they’re saying where they’re putting the problem. And I try to have that anti-racist lens, to always look at the policy, what’s happening, that’s promoting this racial equity. So Sean is reminding me that we have time for questions.
Sean: I did nothing of the sort.
Patty: *laughter* I have proof. But no, that’s totally fair. And actually, it was good timing because I was just winding down anyway.
Sean: Okay. Well, I know when you get going, you really get going. I could feel you building up there.
So if there are any questions that you would like to ask Patty, I believe we have her for 10 more minutes. So feel free to ask them
Unknown Speaker You can go first, Kayla.
Sean: Maybe just raise your hand you see it all kind of direct it.
Kayla: Yeah, Patty. I was wondering if there’s like, sorry, my son’s little bit loud in the background. But I was wondering if there if you can provide an example maybe of like an actual, like legislative policy or movement or something that you’re kind of hoping to see change sometime in the future and maybe share with us?
Patty: Well, I mean, off the top of my head, it would be the what Cindy Blackstock is trying to do regarding equity with Child Welfare but also just funding. Our educational systems aren’t funded on par. And so that’s kind of what I yammer on a lot about on Twitter is, you know, making sure that our things are funded, you know at parity. Alanis Obomsawin, so when did if you google her documentaries, she did a documentary about Norway house, and just the transform it transformation that happened in that community when their educational system was funded at close to par, just the huge difference that it made in, in their entire community, just having an educational system funded almost at par.
Kayla: Thank you.
Kiersten: That was actually similar to what I was going to ask is like, I really liked what you said about looking at what you’re consuming and the solutions and what solutions you’re actually excited about, um, but I feel like it’s such a gift to have you here. Um, thank you so much. I mean, and like yeah sharing Sorry, I got a beep and then I lost my train of thought completely. But um I don’t know it’s so hard to think about being like, I mean I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about being anti-capitalist like when you’re like stuck in the capitalist system and then I’m like, Oh, the anti-racist when you’re stuck in the racist system and I wonder like if you have any Um, I don’t know. I sorry, I did have a well-articulated question, but it was just Kayla’s and I’m falling apart. Sorry,
Patty: I’m gonna suggest it’s a book called Caliban and the Witch which is by Sylvia Federici, which is a really good book about it’s my more about gender than about race. But she talks about how the witch trials are actually connected to the rise of capitalism. So it’s, you know, so that was that was a really interesting book. It’s just when you when you look at how capitalist businesses operate, particularly in the global south, but also by exploiting prison laborm by exploiting precarious labor. Capitalism is racist. There’s no , like you can’t untangle them.
Kiersten: Um, yeah, it is very affirming. Or, I don’t know, just important to remember how anti-racism and capitalism entwined. Can you say the name of the book again?
Patty: Caliban and the Witch Mm hmm. It’s really good.
Kiersten: Will definitely look that up.
Sean: Any other questions?
Dave: I feel weird about taking space. I don’t have a question. I just wanted to say. Thanks a lot.
Patty: You’re welcome.
Dave: It was really great hearing from you.
Patty: Well, I do have a podcast 80 episodes so far, *laughter*
Kayla; Yeah, I have another question if no one else is gonna jump in, just because I think it would be useful for all of us. And I feel like since you’re kind of like a master in this subject, I’m wondering if there are any kind of like lobbyists groups that you know of where we can like, kind of like petition or get involved and kind of push your local governments to fund the schools on our own local reserves or anything like that.
Patty: Well, that’s really just getting in touch with your local MPs, because at the schools on reserves are a federal matter. So that’s about getting connected with with your local MP and finding out kind of what’s happening in your area.
But that’s also about forming relationships with the Indigenous people in your area. Because if you’re going to do any activism around Black and Indigenous people, it needs to be led by Black and Indigenous people. It needs to be you know, it needs to be helping what they’re doing and what their goals are. Because, you know, like I said, we’re not this big monolith, what the goals of Indigenous groups in South Vancouver may be very different from, you know, from the goals of Indigenous people in northern Quebec. So, yeah, so it really is about meeting your local, you know, finding out who your local MP is, and connecting with your local Indigenous community and then backing whatever they’re doing.
Kayla: Thank you,
Joanne: Yeah, I don’t know if we can squeeze this into three minutes. But a lot of you know, these cross cultural conversations that these young podcasters are doing. You know, we also are through the film series, are hoping that they can apply these skills to moderating conversate, cross cultural conversations in their communities and, you know, continuing these kinds of dialogues and I’m just kind of curious about, you know, we’ve done some workshops on identifying harmful stereotypes. And I’m kind of curious about your advice on how to address stereotypes that come up, you know, in a public situation, question in terms of, you know, whether even be I mean, I guess, publicly but also, you know, we record you know, we are witness to, to racism, you know, in our daily lives. And so those are, those are two very different questions. For when these, these, when these individuals or ourselves are in a situation public situation and addressing these type of thing, or comments, or,
Patty: yeah, that’s really okay. One that’s really hard. It’s really hard. It’s easy on Twitter, if anybody starts following me on Twitter. You will see that I shoot my mouth off constantly. It’s easy to do on social media, it’s really hard to do face to face with somebody. You know, if you if you’re in some kind of position of authority, like you’re moderating a panel, you can ask them what well, why do you think that? You know, why do you think that and try to draw them up towards the policies that you know that explain what they’re talking about?
So that’s because you don’t want to get into an argument with them either, right? Like on Twitter, you can get into an argument, but in a public setting, it’s really difficult and different. So it’s more about asking them why they think that way and trying to get them to analyze their own their own thinking on why they think all Indigenous people have whatever, or all Black people have whatever and then that means educating yourself, so that you can recognize it so that you can learn to list to recognize the policies and to recognize the ideas because at its root, at its root, a racist idea is attributing values and inequalities to an entire racial group. That’s really all that that’s really all it is. A racial idea is just something that says all white people are this, all Black people are that and then attributing some kind of value or meaning to that statement. Like they’re good because of this, or they’re bad because of that, or they’re dangerous because of something else. And you can always find a way to direct that to a policy. So why did they think that way? And then try to direct them to a policy that explains what they’re talking about? Because the reason for what they’re seeing always lies in some kind of policy that’s setting up what’s going on what they’re seeing. They’re seeing it right, whatever they’re seeing, they’re seeing.
Joanne: Yeah, that’s really, really great advice that reminds me of something I’ve read about conflict resolution. Is that you start by asking a clarifying question, which is exactly what you just said in some ways is just ask them a question to clarify what their, their, you know, their seeing, I guess or their experiences. So excellent. That’s that’s really helpful. I’m seeing that it’s time and it’s an amazing, *indistinct* Go ahead.
Patty: I was gonna say sometimes when you ask those clarifying questions and they start explaining it, they start realizing that what they’re saying is racist and they get embarrassed.
Joanne: Nice. Yeah.
Wow, this has been so jam packed and the reason the additional resources you’ve brought as well as everything that you have brought in terms of your research and your your passion in your experience has been really tremendous. So, wow, we’ve got lots to read. And lots to think about and lots of podcasts to listen to.
Patty: Okay. All right. All right. Bye Bye.
Sean: Thanks so much, Patty
Joanne: Oh, we look forward to staying in touch. Yes.
Patty: Thank you. Bye bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai