It’s been a huge learning curve for those of us, myself included, who’ve been living in a blissful bubble absolutely ignorant of the realities of the world. And many of us, who were stupid enough to take our ignorance to social media, have been rightfully slammed for it.
As I’ve written on this blog previously, while I knew calling someone the N-word was abhorrent, I was totally unaware using the actual word (if not directed at someone) was considered incredibly hurtful.
Worse yet, when CTV reporter Stefan Keyes reached out to me to suggest I shouldn’t have used the word, I reacted not just with ignorance, but with arrogance – and that’s something I’m still struggling with. Why wouldn’t I take the word of a Black man only trying to educate me – and not in a mean or unkind fashion? The pit is still sitting in my stomach and I deserve it.
Sadly, I’m not the only one unknowingly revealing my ignorance toward the realities of the non-white population.
Recently Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, despite so many examples before him, thought he’d make a joke on twitter, which fell incredibly flat.
“There was one black guy in Trump’s picture. It was predominantly white people. The one guy was on the far left and looked like Stefan Keyes. He was well dressed, like Stefan and had similar facial structure,” he responded to a question from On the City, From the Burbs.
Similar facial structure? Looked like Keyes? Apparently Moffatt has better eyesight than I do. Or maybe he’s inadvertently revealing more about himself than he intended. “It wasn’t that funny, in the end, so I just deleted it. I do that from time to time. As you know, not all of my jokes/observations are funny,” he continued.
No, councillor, it wasn’t funny. And note your response doesn’t include an apology.
Ironically, I received the tweet, which I hadn’t seen, from a resident in Moffatt’s ward.
“Hi Sue,I’m writing to you as I know you have covered city politics for a long time, and still do now. I love how you are keeping the council and Mayor honest with your reporting. With that said, I wanted to share with you a tweet (see attached) that Scott Moffat posted a few nights ago and promptly deleted. As you can see, it definitely has a racial tone to it. And knowing Mr. Moffatt, he’ll say it was a joke and or mentioned we don’t have all the facts. You have a much bigger platform and hopefully you can bring light to this terrible tweet, especially during these recent events. Thank you for your time,” wrote the resident, asking if it would be okay not to use her name. It is.
I asked her what prompted her to send it, and she said while she doesn’t know him personally, she’s just “tired of his antics.” Join the club!
The resident is also apparently clairvoyant, because indeed Moffatt did indeed say he was making a joke.
Recently, CBC journalist Wendy Mesley did something which appears to be quite similar to my story. She too used an inappropriate word, which seemed to be in quoting someone. She’s since been relieved of her duties temporarily pending an investigation. Mesley apologized, saying she felt ashamed. I feel that same shame – and of course – we both deserve to feel that way.
To have lived our lives not seeing the totality of what non-whites have had to endure at the hands of the police, at the sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle signs from white people around them, of the systematic racism that has prevented them from fulfilling their real potential, again, shame on us.
The constant television coverage of countless black people being violently accosted by police, of being randomly pulled out of their cars and physically assaulted, of being shot, shot to death, we all need to wake up. And then of course, there’s George Floyd, who with absolutely no proof he’d done anything wrong at all, died crying out for his mother as a police officer killed him slowly, with his foot on Floyd’s neck.
I’ve been reading White Fragility, a book first recommended by Keyes – and then many others. (I told Keyes I didn’t need a book to tell me what I didn’t know.) I was so wrong, I clearly didn’t know what I didn’t know! It’s a painful read. I’m still reading it, but from what I’ve read so far, could very well have been written about me.
And I’m doing what I can to change. Most of us need to do the same.