I recently began commuting using only public transit or my own two feet. This means that I have plenty of time to have my mind broadened and my heart broken by podcasts.
Podcasts are the way in which I am learning more about the world, the real world that I have known nothing about because of who I am, how I look, and the fact that I have been afforded good fortune that has surrounded me throughout the vast majority of my life.
I recently listened to the description of the brutal death of Helen Betty Osborne on the podcast Someone Knows Something. I stood at the GO bus terminal, looking at the sky, and cried.
Why? Why did her story have to be this way?
Helen Betty Osborne was a young woman from Norway House, Manitoba. She had been sent to residential school; she later attended an “integrated” high school (Indigenous and non-Indigenous students) where she faced considerable racism. One of the people who harassed her eventually killed her.
Helen Betty is one of countless murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada.
Listen to her story.
Another CBC podcast, Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo, explains the story of Cleo Nicotine Semaganis who was taken from her family during the Sixties Scoop.
Listen to her story.
These stories, these lives, these women and girls – they deserved more. They deserved better. They deserved people beyond their own communities taking a stand and demanding change.
I had a prof once say that the story of anthropology ruins everything – you can’t unhear or unlearn what it brings to your life and your mind. That’s how I feel about these podcasts.
The real question is how do the families go on, continuing to fight for justice in a system that seems to be more interested in denial of culpability than seeking the truth?
I live with these stories for moments while listening to them. These women, their families – it’s a life sentence.
Another podcast, Out in the Open, recently talked about what it means to be an ally.
When the #metoo movement had a major resurgence last year, my daughter reached out and told me “I hear you”. It meant so much to me – I felt supported and loved and heard. It was more than enough. It was everything.
That’s why I have made a commitment to, as much as humanly possible, listen to women’s stories. Many stories end in tragedy, in lives cut short by people who cared nothing for the potential of women’s lives. Even when the story does not result in a woman’s death, too many result in a woman’s future – and that of her family – being negatively impacted.
I have struggled with understanding what being an ally means in the context of other situations though. Is it enough to send money, donate items, walk in a protest? Is that being an ally?
Is it when I call out people for their actions and remarks?
All those mean I care. But is that enough? If I can’t help to affect change what good am I? Am I doing this to alleviate my guilt? Have I asked what it is I can do or am I imposing my version of help on someone else?
There was a line in the Out in the Open show about how as an ally you can walk away – I can support someone’s cause but I can choose to take a break. I don’t have the lived experience of being from a marginalized group – of being a person of colour – of being LBGTQ – of being homeless – of being disabled.
I don’t get it.
On the Out in the Open show, Feminista Jones shared her perspective of what real support looks like – not doing something to get a pat on the back or that feel good moment – but being a ‘co-conspirator’, someone who “just does the work with the communities they are trying to help” without trying to tell those communities how to do it, or be recognized for doing it. Someone willing to work to break down the systems which oppress – even if those systems are ones in which you benefit from yourself.
What I do get is this: hearing those lived experiences expressed on podcasts or in books or on Twitter – I am confronted by my ignorance of people’s lives and their day-to-day (moment to moment) realities, challenges and heartaches.
And sometimes I do hit stop. I can walk away and not have to deal with the harshness.
That is truly where my privilege resides.