Thursday, May 28, 2009
Resistance and Resilience in the Face of Oppression
“Racism is the bedrock institution of Canadian society embedded in the social fabric of our thinking” - Mary Ann Shadd
While doing some reflection on the Zara incident and more generally, the everyday racism that people of colour face and live through, the concept that has been foremost in my mind is that of resistance. This has also come to me by way of two very intense courses that I am taking right now: Introduction to Equity Studies and Introduction to Aboriginal studies. For the last three weeks, I have been coming home depressed every day after class. Abject and desolate, simply wanting to curl into a ball and lay there for the rest of eternity. However, whilst in conversation with a good friend who always knows how to make me feel better (you know yourself), she reminded me that it is crucial to remain positive and believe that there is a better way to live. Therefore, the theme of resistance and remaining resilient through everyday struggles is something that I have been trying to come to terms with and learn how I can resist in my everyday battles. How can I remain resilient against the white man at the futon store who laughs in my face? How can I stand up to the waiter who refuses to seat or serve me? How can I talk up to a racist ignoramus? All these questions have been at the focus of my reflection and analysis.
What is everyday racism? Everyday Racism is found in everyday interactions that chip away at one's psychological well-being (Essed) For people of colour, it is our psychological being that we must fight to keep intact. It is our mental and spiritual wellness that we must fight to preserve. And until there is a severe revamping of the social and global order, it is our lives that we must continue to fight for. Therefore, in the midst of my reflection, I started thinking of everything that I do everyday and what it means. What it means to me and what it means in the context of the society around me. For a white man to say to a black woman "go back home," it must really mean that my presence, as a black, continental African woman, here is truly unwanted. And therefore, my very presence is an act of resistance! While thinking about and reflecting on this, I wrote this poem. Of course, there are many other things that can be added to this list but for the sake of time, I will stop here and perhaps continue adding to it as we go along. This, is to the power of resistance and resilience in the face of oppression!
Waking up is my act of resistance
Walking out the door is my act of resistance
Wearing my hair natural is my act of resistance
Refusing to comb (read: straighten) my hair is my act of resistance
Walking with my head up, tall and proud is my act of resistance
Refusing to bow down to the white men and women in my way is my act of resistance
Remaining headstrong and courageous while they laugh and try to steal my soul is my act of resistance
Being is my act of resistance
Being is my act of resistance