Becoming a parent to me meant much more than just parent hood. I had to challenge the very fibre of my being. You see, I grew up a white cis male and didn’t have a lot of respect for anyone who wasn’t. I shared the same Christian/homophobic racist views as most who grow up in Beast Vancouver. And then I fell head over heels for an aboriginal woman. And after a fairly rocky relationship was reaching it’s end she informed me – she was going to have my child.
It took me a couple of days to wrap my head around it but I was pretty excited to have a chance at succeeding where my father had failed. It also meant undoing 25 years of systemic racism engrained into my brain. This meant learning to respect a culture that I had been taught to look down upon. It’s hard to challenge the idea of our formative years being anything less than perfect (those experiences resulted in us being our present selves and we are all happy with our selves right?) Who would happily distort their childhood from what they believe it to be? Nobody wants to look back and say, “oh wow – all through my formative years I was a real racist and homophobic prick,” but guess what, most of us (including this writer) were. More on breaking down those stereotypes later.
So now I had the duty of raising a son. I had done youth work with my church for years (but was no longer a member), loved working with children and badly wanted to redeem myself as a white cis male and role model. After having an absentee father and learning most of how to be a man on my own I had no idea no idea what to do except to be present. I wasn’t going to fall into the standard absentee dad cliche. After learning and realizing how the educational standards in BC contributed to my racism, I wasn’t going to let that happen to my son.
I remember saying some pretty racist stuff as I tried to maintain a relationship (coparents/marriage/quick split up) over the next 3 years but also being on the receiving end of a lot of racist stuff. After my name was dragged through the mud of the Squamish Nation I swore off having anything to do with aboriginal culture. Why should I have anything to do with it? His mom was still in his life (week on week off custody arrangement), and I had my own culture to teach him.
That’s when things for me hit a wall. My culture was that of the oppressor. It was a culture of oppression, literally. If you weren’t a white male with an education, you were not cut out to be successful. Women were not getting paid as much, minorities were treated as second or even third tier citizens. How was I supposed to raise a son knowing that the VSB (and other school boards, most notably NorthVanSB) were super racist?
I’m going to split this post into two parts so that I can tell the story the way it should be told. Stay tuned for the second chapter next Friday.
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