I am baffled about the recent spate of hashtags telling educators, specifically during ‘Treaty Recognition Week’, to #teachlikegord.
This is not intended as an insult to Gord Downey; he recognized that his social status and impending death allowed him to focus people’s short attention spans on issues affecting Indigenous people in Canada. Good on him.
I never thought he was an expert on Indigenous issues. Downey was using the last days of his life to learn and bring attention to issues of significant importance.
I have begun following a wide variety of people on social media, from all around the world and Canada. Sound bites, whether they are 140 or 280 characters, are not enough to help me learn in depth information about issues. Yet, I am finding that having a variety of people, from wide ranging backgrounds, saying similar things, makes me uneasy, a sure sign that I need to go looking for more information.
To try to combat the ignorance I possess about my own country and its history, my education involves reading literature and opinion pieces and pretty much anything written by people who do not come from the same place that I do – and by place I am talking not just geographic, but also who have had different experiences due to economics, structural injustices, ancestry, religion, politics – all things which have not impeded my life in any significant way.
Biggest need: to LISTEN.
The #metoo movement (second movement?) helped me: having people listen to my story and acknowledge that I suffered made a difference. Even if those people cannot take away my pain, or change my narrative, having an opportunity to open up the dialogue made a big difference.
So how can I take that experience and move forward?
I have an ongoing awareness of my ignorance on many big issues; a kind of ignorance that comes from being insulated by privilege. I grew up without a lot of money, but I never went hungry. I always had clean water and clean clothes and a solid roof.
I never had to worry that by going outside my home community to a different high school could mean I had a higher chance of being murdered.
I cannot imagine. So I have to listen because I do believe (cliche alert), if I am not part of the solution, I will remain part of the problem.
I do not know what to do to make a difference.
I am not going #teachlikegord. I am going to keep listening to the voices who have first hand experience and keep learning the lessons they want to share.