An Opportunity for ChangeOthers, Indigenous , Racism
Contributed by: Inner Hope Youth Ministries
In over 26 years working as a youth worker, teacher, non-profit director and caregiver, I’ve had many experiences that have shown me how racism is endemic in our society. I’ll share a few of those experiences, which are truly the tip of the iceberg.
I once accompanied one of the girls and her mom to register her for grade 12 at a local high school. Immediately, the Vice Principal told us that she didn’t think the girl would succeed in her school and should enroll in an alternative program. This was despite the fact that she had decent grades. The girl insisted that she wanted a good education, wanted to stay in mainstream school, and wanted to continue onto college. The Vice Principal said she could register, but she would start on probation and would be watched closely for the first three months, and furthermore she would be moved to an alternative program if there were any issues. I returned the next day to speak to the Vice Principal, reminding her that her job was to believe in her students, and that the school district had committed to increasing the graduation rates and academic success of Indigenous students. That student graduated and went on to university.
One day, one of the young men asked me if I could go to Children’s Hospital with him. His child had dislocated their arm for the second time. The first time, hospital staff had questioned him under the assumption he had abused his child. When it happened a second time, he feared his child might be taken away. I went with him and no staff questioned him about abuse.
One of the Inner Hope boys was walking down the street with a friend. He had recently broken his collarbone and his arm was in a sling. Two police officers, without any dialogue or questioning, jumped him from behind. Even though he was wearing a sling and obviously injured, they were rough and twisted his arm behind his back. They took him into custody overnight without giving him a reason why. They finally told him that he fit the description of a car thief in the area and they had to check him out. His collarbone didn’t heal correctly afterwards.
The fact that many Indigenous individuals must navigate these obstacles to receive quality health care, access to education and appropriate services from police is absolutely heart-wrenching.
In Luke 4:18 Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”
This is the first time in my memory that people are engaging on a large scale with the problem of racial injustice in Canada. I don’t always know how to be the best advocate, but I do know that we have the opportunity to make change, both personally and within the social structures in our country. I have a long way to go, and I’d love to walk that journey with you beside me.