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Racism

Hello. My name is Kim Siever. And I’m racist.

No, really.

This might come as a shock to people who actually know me well, who have seen me criticizing racist power structures that favour white people. But let me explain.

You see, racism isn’t innate; it’s something we have to learn. We learn it from our friends, from our parents, from the media, from classmates, from neighbours, from Sunday School teachers, from siblings, and from a whole host of everyday interactions with others.

The thing about racism is that it doesn’t need to be overt for it to be racist. Just because I never call a black person a nigger, for example, doesn’t mean I’m not racist. Likewise, someone doesn’t need to tell you that “Indians are drunk and lazy” for them to teach you racism.

Racism can be taught in several ways. It can be how a parent responds to a person of colour walking by on the street, or how a cashier responds to a non-white customer, or how a police officer changes how they talk to someone based on their skin colour.

It can be how your neighbour responds abruptly to an old First Nations person walking on the sidewalk because he doesn’t realize the Blackfoot he is speaking is simply, “How are you”. It can be your brothers making fun of your sister’s new friend because she happens to be Cree. It can be your parents mentioning that someone breaking into your house was “Indian”, as if that explained their actions somehow. It can be your boss charging a surcharge every time he has to do a cleaning job on the nearby reserve because a previous customer out there wasted his time. It can be your classmates saying Sikh classmates never shower. It can be your Sunday School teacher telling you to marry only white people. It can be your friend saying, “It’s okay if I say ‘prairie n——’ because I’m part Métis.”

All these things add up over the years, and unchecked, can influence how you perceive someone based on their skin. And that can take a long time to undo.

Recognizing that you have prejudicial biases, I think, is the first step to eliminating those biases. What matters is being self-aware enough to notice when your biases surface, and changing your response to them. Instead of feeding and perpetuating those biases, we need to question them and prevent them from manifesting in our words and deeds.

Check it and correct it.

Ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable when three persons of colour are coming toward you on the sidewalk. Ask yourself why your circle of friends include so few persons of colour. Ask yourself why you view your person of colour friend as an exception; why you don’t use them to inform your opinion of others from that group.

I’m white. 100% European white. I’m the product of settlers, some of whom invaded Canada over 400 years ago. I grew up in white communities. White communities that, while predominately white, still had sizable populations of persons of colour. All this influenced what I was taught, both directly and indirectly. And all those lessons I learned stuck. And though my first memory of standing up against racism was 35 years ago, I still catch myself entertaining these biases.

And noticing them hasn’t been something that has come naturally. Just like I learned racism; I have had to learn how to recognize it and try to change it. I’m still learning. If I had to guess, I’d say that every day I’m exposed to new insights or information that help me to better understand the challenges persons of colour face living in a white persons world. And how my attitudes toward those challenges perpetuate white privilege.

So, yes, I’m racist. It’s how I was raised by my racist community. But I recognize my racism, and I’m trying to change it.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

20 replies on “Hello. My name is Kim Siever. And I’m racist.”

Thanks, Nancy. Hopefully it will help people begin their own introspection, and we can eventually address racism in a collective way.

Thanks, Nancy. Hopefully it will help people begin their own introspection, and we can eventually address racism in a collective way.

What a great open look at your life. I have alway thought and spreciated the idea of understanding our own biases as we form opinions in the world.
But I think you have blurred a line in your assessment. Racism is prejudice, discrimination or antagonism. All requiring action to be shown. From your piece I think you are describing more of a bias formed as you grew up more than actual racism. A person is not racist just because they have people of the same ethnic background as friends. A lot of time analysts look specific statist and scream racism, like percentage of people stoped by police/in prison, % in certain business positions as examples. Without looking at the whole picture, like % of people commiting crime, graduation rates from diferent schooling. So if you have all white friends with 1 or 2 colored friends you may not be racist, you might just live in a predominately white neighbourhood. It creates biases but not racism.

I am describing bias. I specifically used the word “bias” — 8 times even. But my point was those biases emerged from racism.
Regarding your specific example of friends, just because your community his 85% white is no reason for you to have 85% of your friends being white. If you live in a predominantly white community in North America, it’s because systemic racism favoured white settlement into that community. You don’t need to mirror that in choosing friends.

Certainly to the person who is racially oppressing, racism can seem a positive thing.

Hmmm, yes. What I mean was taken from your comment “systemic racism favoured white settlement into that community”. First off, I apologize if I’m taking your comment out of context. I didn’t go back over the blog post.
I can see how bias could lead to racism, but not the other way around. Racism doesn’t lead to bias. What we see is many nationalities who settled in areas where they stuck to their own people group. Ukrainians, Norwegians, Chinese, etc, all settled in various communities of their own. Mennonites are another example, or even the different indigenous groups that emerged over time. Most of them chose to settle in their region because they knew people from their own group were already there, or they were able to work the land, etc. This is just a small example, of course. It’s more of a broad generalization. You’re saying it’s oppressive for these people to settle together and form communities, but I would ask: in general, what people group hasn’t done that? Or are you saying all settlements are racist? If my neighbourhood is 85% of any colour, does that mean I automatically need to find different friends? You might have to elaborate for me, if you have the time.
Also, why would we tally up the colours of our friends’ or neighbours’ skin? They are who they are, and how (as if it’s right!) can we judge people on the variety of their friends’ or neighbours’ skin colour? I’m not going to say, “I need more black friends.” If I made friends with an Afghan family, that wasn’t because I sought them out. If we rent to someone from Burundi, that just happens. We don’t seek that out, either. Do you see what I mean? I wouldn’t shun people of other colours, or religions, but it’s very difficult to maintain close relationships with people who vary widely from your perspective, as in, religion, culture, etc. We seem to cultivate friendships with people whom we can support, and who are willing and able to return that support. I would venture to guess that’s how settlements happen, as well. You see it clearly in big cities, too, with the ethnically similar neighbourhoods.
I guess what I’m doing is defending those natural, every day biases we all have, whether conscious or unconscious, as humans.

“I can see how bias could lead to racism, but not the other way around. Racism doesn’t lead to bias.”
It does if racism creates the environment that leads to the biases you develop.
“You’re saying it’s oppressive for these people to settle together and form communities”
No, I’m saying that the policies that allowed white people to settle on previously occupied land and form communities were oppressive.
“If my neighbourhood is 85% of any colour, does that mean I automatically need to find different friends?”
Perhaps. What I said is that just because your community (and I was speaking more broadly than neighbourhood, such as your city or town) is 85% white doesn’t mean your group of friends needs to be 85% white. I’m not sure if that equates to “need”.
“Also, why would we tally up the colours of our friends’ or neighbours’ skin? They are who they are, and how (as if it’s right!) can we judge people on the variety of their friends’ or neighbours’ skin colour?”
My point wasn’t about the number of your friends. My point was about analyzing why you have the racial makeup among your friends that you do. If you’re white and most of your friends are white, you should ask yourself why that is.
“it’s very difficult to maintain close relationships with people who vary widely from your perspective, as in, religion, culture, etc.”
What if they’re from the same religion, culture, etc, and just happen to have a different skin colour? Is it still very difficult?
“I guess what I’m doing is defending those natural, every day biases we all have, whether conscious or unconscious, as humans.”
Biases are learned; they’re taught to us by society. I think it’s a stretch to say that racial biases as natural.

What a great open look at your life. I have alway thought and spreciated the idea of understanding our own biases as we form opinions in the world.
But I think you have blurred a line in your assessment. Racism is prejudice, discrimination or antagonism. All requiring action to be shown. From your piece I think you are describing more of a bias formed as you grew up more than actual racism. A person is not racist just because they have people of the same ethnic background as friends. A lot of time analysts look specific statist and scream racism, like percentage of people stoped by police/in prison, % in certain business positions as examples. Without looking at the whole picture, like % of people commiting crime, graduation rates from diferent schooling. So if you have all white friends with 1 or 2 colored friends you may not be racist, you might just live in a predominately white neighbourhood. It creates biases but not racism.

I am describing bias. I specifically used the word “bias” — 8 times even. But my point was those biases emerged from racism.
Regarding your specific example of friends, just because your community his 85% white is no reason for you to have 85% of your friends being white. If you live in a predominantly white community in North America, it’s because systemic racism favoured white settlement into that community. You don’t need to mirror that in choosing friends.

Certainly to the person who is racially oppressing, racism can seem a positive thing.

Hmmm, yes. What I mean was taken from your comment “systemic racism favoured white settlement into that community”. First off, I apologize if I’m taking your comment out of context. I didn’t go back over the blog post.
I can see how bias could lead to racism, but not the other way around. Racism doesn’t lead to bias. What we see is many nationalities who settled in areas where they stuck to their own people group. Ukrainians, Norwegians, Chinese, etc, all settled in various communities of their own. Mennonites are another example, or even the different indigenous groups that emerged over time. Most of them chose to settle in their region because they knew people from their own group were already there, or they were able to work the land, etc. This is just a small example, of course. It’s more of a broad generalization. You’re saying it’s oppressive for these people to settle together and form communities, but I would ask: in general, what people group hasn’t done that? Or are you saying all settlements are racist? If my neighbourhood is 85% of any colour, does that mean I automatically need to find different friends? You might have to elaborate for me, if you have the time.
Also, why would we tally up the colours of our friends’ or neighbours’ skin? They are who they are, and how (as if it’s right!) can we judge people on the variety of their friends’ or neighbours’ skin colour? I’m not going to say, “I need more black friends.” If I made friends with an Afghan family, that wasn’t because I sought them out. If we rent to someone from Burundi, that just happens. We don’t seek that out, either. Do you see what I mean? I wouldn’t shun people of other colours, or religions, but it’s very difficult to maintain close relationships with people who vary widely from your perspective, as in, religion, culture, etc. We seem to cultivate friendships with people whom we can support, and who are willing and able to return that support. I would venture to guess that’s how settlements happen, as well. You see it clearly in big cities, too, with the ethnically similar neighbourhoods.
I guess what I’m doing is defending those natural, every day biases we all have, whether conscious or unconscious, as humans.

“I can see how bias could lead to racism, but not the other way around. Racism doesn’t lead to bias.”
It does if racism creates the environment that leads to the biases you develop.
“You’re saying it’s oppressive for these people to settle together and form communities”
No, I’m saying that the policies that allowed white people to settle on previously occupied land and form communities were oppressive.
“If my neighbourhood is 85% of any colour, does that mean I automatically need to find different friends?”
Perhaps. What I said is that just because your community (and I was speaking more broadly than neighbourhood, such as your city or town) is 85% white doesn’t mean your group of friends needs to be 85% white. I’m not sure if that equates to “need”.
“Also, why would we tally up the colours of our friends’ or neighbours’ skin? They are who they are, and how (as if it’s right!) can we judge people on the variety of their friends’ or neighbours’ skin colour?”
My point wasn’t about the number of your friends. My point was about analyzing why you have the racial makeup among your friends that you do. If you’re white and most of your friends are white, you should ask yourself why that is.
“it’s very difficult to maintain close relationships with people who vary widely from your perspective, as in, religion, culture, etc.”
What if they’re from the same religion, culture, etc, and just happen to have a different skin colour? Is it still very difficult?
“I guess what I’m doing is defending those natural, every day biases we all have, whether conscious or unconscious, as humans.”
Biases are learned; they’re taught to us by society. I think it’s a stretch to say that racial biases as natural.

Very thought provoking.
I love creating dialogue and opening up the conversation.
I wish I was better at it.
Most times I just throw my opinions out there and get SLAMMED with criticism. Usually not knowing how to respond.
I’m glad our paths crossed.
You are pretty legit👍🏽‼️

Very thought provoking.
I love creating dialogue and opening up the conversation.
I wish I was better at it.
Most times I just throw my opinions out there and get SLAMMED with criticism. Usually not knowing how to respond.
I’m glad our paths crossed.
You are pretty legit👍🏽‼️

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