race relations 2

Yesterday I wrote a piece out of frustration. I started talking about a confrontation we had experienced that afternoon, but went off on a tangent about the Winnipeg Whiteout. Maybe it was because we had the game on in the background, but also, I had read an article earlier that day about the racial implications surrounding the white out parties. In any case, what followed, the ramifications of this altercation that we were involved in are interesting to me.

To give some context…We drove into a cul de sac where we recently lived, to visit our old roommate, who was in the car with us. Before entering the cul de sac, where kids are always out in the road playing, which we are well aware of considering how long we lived on this street, we made a full stop at the intersection. From a full stop to accelerate beyond 30km is not very possible, but the neighbours standing out on their lawn, with their kids running about yelled at us as we drove past them. They stared us down as we parked and got out of the car. At this point, feeling agitated by their stare down, Jesse commented that he was not going more than 30.

Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything and just walked away, we can admit to that. But instead of the middle aged white man coming over to have a respectful conversation – Hey man, it seemed like you were going pretty fast, and that worries us cause we have kids playing in the street- he came over and got in Jesse’s face and started an argument.

Had we had the opportunity to talk it out, this new neighbour would have come to know that we once lived there and are always aware to look out for kids in the road, but what I really can’t understand is the aggression and anger this man came at us with. Why escalate a situation, and yell at someone half your age and half your size, in front of all those kids to see and hear. What a great example to set for your children. To make matters worse, his wife came over and got involved and also got in Jesse’s face yelling at him. I can only imagine what type of human their children will grow up to be, and how they will problem solve situations – just yell and show aggression, be threatening to get your point across – again, great parenting.

Sitting in our former roommate’s basement… below the home of the woman who knows us, and rather than come smooth things over – explain to the new neighbour that the majority of the kids in the street are usually hers, whom we lived with for almost a year, so we wouldn’t be careless or unsafe- she too got in Jesse’s face yelling about how this is her cul de sac and these are her neighbours – I only felt discomfort. Jesse and I apologized profusely to our former roommate (who didn’t get involved, or defend us in any way, but just stood there watching his friend be attacked), and finally Jesse decided the right thing to do, out of respect for our friend’s home, was to apologize. He went upstairs and apologized to the woman, who remained furious, and then he went across the street and apologized to the angry white middle aged man. But it only made us both feel worse. It was a demeaning act.

None of these people deserved an apology. Their behaviour was rude and aggressive. You’re worried about the safety of your children? I’m worried about our safety, because as people of colour, anything that might have happened beyond that situation threatens our very being and existence. We were in a white neighbourhood after all. See White people spend a lot of time being worried about brown bodies being near them, in their areas, schools, hell at this point, even what they consider to be their country.

One woman yelled at me too- I said, “there’s a reason we moved away from here!” to which she yelled back, “if you’re not from here, why don’t you go back where you came from!” Only a white person has ever uttered those words, and ever would, because white people conveniently forget that the only people who can say that with any validity are Indigenous people.

Increasingly, I am more worried than they are for our safety. White people make me uncomfortable in the world we live in today, a concept they would be horrified to know. They think they belong anywhere and everywhere. One comes to know this in the simplest of ways – the way they never look where they’re going, you always have to step aside for them, or hold a door. Their aggression is notable in their expressions, and tone of voice -something I encounter daily at work where I “serve” them as a retail worker.

Arriving home was the best feeling – I felt safe. And that was a huge realization. That feeling has major implications to consider. Shortly after, there were physical repercussions- Jesse got a headache, the emotional stress of the situation taking its toll, and all day today, I was exhausted still thinking about it – emotional and mental effects.

I wish it could be as simple as an argument between neighbours, but in becoming aware of my colour, and what that means for me in society, these types of encounters have political, racial and power dynamics that I just can’t ignore. In fact I have no other way to experience things because this is the world I live in.

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