Never Finished Learning

Never Finished Learning

critical family history settler

Yesterday, Amanda Coolidge published an introspective post in which she shares a little bit about how she is still learning to be in the world we have. You should go read it.

Amanda does great work to enable post-secondary educators and institutions to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, not only here in BC, but around the world in various ways. She is one of the good people.

In this post, Amanda talks about how difficult it is to actually do the work of DEI, and this idea profoundly resonates with me. Like Amanda, I'm white, heterosexual, middle-class...all the privileged categories (although, as a cisgendered man, I can add another layer of privilege).

What I am realizing is that all those layers of privilege from which I benefit cause me to be blind to those around me who do not experience that privilege. Waking up to the reality of how easy I have it in the world, simply because of who I am, compared to most of the rest of the world is jarring. It should be jarring. The uneven distribution of justice, freedom, and the ability to live as a self-determined person is awful.

Amanda writes about doing all the right things, attending all the seminars, giving the keynotes, including land acknowledgements, and on and on. These are all good things, but until those things translate into action in the real world, they are incomplete. For Amanda, that meant going to the BC Legislature to stand in support of the Wet'suwet'en peoples whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands are being stolen by the Crown to make way for another pipeline.

My initial attempt to do something about injustice is less tangible than that, but it is important. Last semester, I completed a course at UBC called 'Education Action Research', and my final project was a 'Critical Family History', a process in which I traced the immigration of one of my great-grandfathers, Ole Madland, from Norway, to his final resting place just a few kilometers from where I now live. Instead of simply following his travels from Norway, landing in New York, boarding in Minnesota, farming in Washington State, trying to homestead in Alberta, then finally ending up in New Westminster, I also traced some of the key events in the history of the US and Canadian governments' treatment of Indigenous Peoples who were in the way of my great-grandfather. The direct path from Indigenous genocide, broken promises, and unfulfilled treaties perpetrated by the government to Ole Madland making a life for himself and his family became crystal clear.

The first step in truth and reconciliation is recognizing the truth of MY current life being rooted in the genocide of countless Indigenous people and nations. That is why it is jarring and difficult and critically important. We (settlers) are all at different points in our journeys, but we all have a duty to work towards Truth and Reconciliation from where we are. Then we have a duty to act from where we should be.

You can find my project at grav.madland.ca/timeline. I hope you read and don't enjoy it. Then I hope you engage in the same kind of work. Then, like Amanda, take action.

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