It may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be
Jayde Atchison (She/Her) // Opinions Editor
Valeriya Kim (She/Her) // Illustrator
I will be the first to admit that there is a lot I don’t know about the world that surrounds me. As a white, cisgender woman I navigate life with privilege. As someone that has never experienced racism firsthand, or had to alter the way I live based on the colour of my skin, I acknowledge that I have been able to live a majority of my life without knowing the extent of the deeply rooted problems society still holds onto.
What made me take a step back and evaluate my ignorance to the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) throughout the world was the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. For me, and probably many others, this was an eye-opening experience that we hadn’t truly been exposed to thus far. Sure, I had taken a handful of classes throughout university that exposed me to books like Assata: An Autobiography and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but I remained too removed from the current issues — and continued to be a part of the problem.
There were a lot of unconscious biases I had yet to acknowledge or work through. I continued to read primarily white authors, listen to primarily white podcasts and wasn’t expanding my knowledge outside of my comfort zone. Many people may still be in this bubble of remaining safely unaware — but it’s time to realize that this was never acceptable, nor will it ever be. With all the technology that exists today, there aren’t any viable excuses for digging your head into the sand and hoping the world will change without your help.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the informative content being put into the world right now, it’s time to reflect on how some people have the privilege of shutting down and turning off the news — while others have to face injustice, racism and the strain of the white-dominated patriarchy every day. People of colour don’t get days off from their lived experiences, and it’s a wholly privileged experience (and frankly, pretty rude) to be able to say “no” to learning more about what goes on around us.
We don’t have to be scholars to learn from the different communities around us. There are plenty of outlets that exist that can help us unlearn a lot of the systemic racism that we have been exposed to for far too long. Everyone has a different way of absorbing information. Some of us like to read, some like to watch movies and television, some prefer podcasts or audiobooks, and some like the ease of social media. All are valid ways of expanding the discourse.
For those that are readers, there are hundreds of books written by BIPOC authors, both fiction and non-fiction, that bring light to the events of the past and the present. For those that love to browse a brick and mortar bookshop, Massy Books in Vancouver is a local bookstore that is owned and operated by Indigenous women. Books that have stuck with me over the last couple of years have been If Beale Street Could Talk, Halfbreed, and Women, Race & Class.
For a lot of people, sitting down with a physical book is not enjoyable. Everyone retains information differently and that’s where podcasts, audiobooks, social media accounts, film and television come in. There is an option for everyone and their mom. Whatever avenue you decide to work through, it’s about the strides you take to make the effort. When we create an echo chamber of the same comfortable white voices, we risk being stagnant and never changing towards a healthier society.
Ultimately, for anyone that wants to work towards being actively anti-racist, it’s up to us to learn and lean into the resources provided to us. It is not up to our BIPOC friends or family to teach us about racism or their own experiences. We have the power of Google at our fingertips, and so many people have generously offered their stories to the world for us to learn from. It’s not too late to start unlearning biases. If we want to move forward in society in a way that benefits everyone involved, we all have to be willing to listen and learn.
For a more comprehensive list of documentaries to watch and books to read this month, read through Matt Shipley’s article in the Communities section.