I like to talk. Everyone who knows me at all knows this.
As I move into what I hope will be the role of an admittedly imperfect ally, I recognize that it is now time to listen. I may think I know what is needed, but I’m looking into worlds I have only glimpsed as an outsider coming from a place of great prviledge and entitlement.
I’m not First Nations or the most knowledgable on Indigenous issues, but I’m trying to learn. I’m not the best woman out there, but I have lived that experience my entire life and witnessed how women are treated. I’m not a sex worker, but I’ve acted as one in an undercover capacity. I’m not a drug addict, but I have stuggled with addiction to alcohol. None of these experiences makes me an expert on someone else’s life.
The launch of That Lonely Section of Hell felt like a pivotal event for me. I have a few more interviews coming along this week I’ll link to soon but my time for talking is winding down. I’m ready to start to listen. The launch was so wonderful and I’m grateful to Maggie de Vries, Kerry Porth, Senator Larry Campbell, Sandy Garossino, everyone at Greystone, the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Observer for putting it all together. It was a great event and I felt the love.
But the event also highlighted how far we have to go. Portions of the program shone a harsh light into some very dark corners where understanding and entitlement have not yet met. When you’re in a position of power, people will not always tell you the truth. People will not tell you when you’re wrong. People will not easily tell you to shut up so others can speak their truths. People might not point out that you haven’t been listening at all. You might not hear it when they do.
There is more to being an ally than learning the lingo and taking a superficial view of a very complex set of deep societal problems. I know this is an area I need to delve into and educate myself more on. I recognize that.
We all have our traumas and our lived experiences as minorities, visible and invisible. When we are well-meaning, our work can harm us. The trick is seeing that our own traumas don’t automatically make us undertstand the struggles and experiences of others. We can empathize, but we need to listen and truly hear the stories of others to grow and become the allies they need us to be.
I’ll be talking less now and learning more as I dive into my MA studies this next month. Thank you all for listening and for your support.