HAPPY ORANGE SHIRT DAY!!!
I hope all of you are wearing Orange and please take some time to think about the story behind the day.
This weekend in the States we saw #takeaknee all over social media. Although some thought of this as a protest against the flag, however its roots are grounded in the relationship of the police and the Black and People of Colour communities. In Canada this issue is familiar, to say this relationship is strained is to not even scratch the surface.
The Indigenous population as had similar experiences. In Canada we had the Starlight Tours, where Indigenous men were picked up by Saskatoon (it was famous in this town) police, taken to the outskirts and stripped of their shoes and jackets and told to “walk it off”. Some died in the ordeal. The Starlight Tours have a direct co-relation to Post-Secondary. Neil Stonechild was only 17 when he passed away as a result of his tour. The tour was also lethal to University of Regina Student Lawrence Wegner.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada is a police matter. Systemic issues did not keep these women safe. Indigenous women didn’t get the help that they needed nor did they feel safe getting that help. Additionally in many cases, of the MMIW, there was little to no investigation nor care from the police. (Please note I will write more on MMIW soon it means a lot and I want it to have its own column/blog). This Indigenous woman was studying MMIW in her post-secondary Institution and she was murdered.
My personal relationship is uneasy. I worry about my interactions with police. Members of my family have been arrested when clearly the other party was in the wrong (proven in the courts and well common sense). I am white-coded. I am light skinned and I pass as non-Indigenous to non-Indigenous eyes. White-coded is simply that others see me as white and thus not a threat. I am not white-passing. White-passing is usually a person of colour of light skin attempting to pass as white. (I know its confusing).
Although I am white coded I worry when I hand my ID over to authority figures. The Solomon last name in Northern Ontario is very much a huge Indigenous family. I do worry that because I am so light skinned that it surprises the police/authority figure, that it shocks them into a negative interaction with me. My poor experiences, were always with customs agents, who give me enhanced searches when crossing borders. My experiences are inconveniences, not life or death.
In my professional role I interact with various police agencies all of the time. Those interactions, due to being white-coded, are non-threating friendly and reminiscent of old boys club. I hate it. It stresses me out. It stresses everyone out when I go out of my way to ensure that they know that I am Indigenous, the mood changes. They become on guard, they are afraid they said something wrong….
When I interned at Amnesty International I shared an office space with the other intern. She was white, from suburbia and was surprised when I noted that police don’t keep my people safe. It blew her mind and unsettled her.
So take a knee…… Oh and trust me the irony was not lost on the Indigenous community that the Washington Redskins took a knee for racial injustice…..just gonna leave this picture right there.