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August 19, 2017 4 min read

 

Some of you may know the band The Youngbloods and some may be too young or in my opinion perhaps not musically cultured (thanks dad) to know of them. To give credit to those of you who have never heard of them, they weren't really ever very big. However, The Youngbloods did write the song "Get Together" in 1967 as a homage to brotherhood, and the song would later be used in tv and radio spots for the National Christian and Jewish Council as a song of unity.

This week we spent a week away in the mountains as a family. Our morning routine consisted of tunes and chillin' in our pjs. Tuesday morning my eldest requested some old music and without wanting to search my entire iTunes library for individual songs I knew the Forest Gump soundtrack would be perfect. That soundtrack is iconic in so many ways. It is literally the soundtrack to American history over the last 70 years. Of course I had it on shuffle to just change it up a little and the first song up struck a chord and was so pertinent in the moment.

             Come on people now,
             Smile on your brother
             Everybody get together
             Try to love one another right now.

After this weeks events in Charlottesville this song broke me. As a mom to interracial children I can't understand how I will one day explain this event to both of my children in the same room at the same time. To explain to one that their race attacked their sister's race will be so painful, but I know it's necessary.

To be honest I pride myself on my openness, my acceptance and appreciation of other races, religions, sexuality and gender, but I know that as open as I thought my perspective once was in the past, it has changed drastically since the adoption of our daughter specifically on racial issue. I see people differently now. Whereas two years ago I would have been outraged by this event, and rightfully so, it now feels like a direct attack on my daughter and our family.  Heather Heyer could have been my daughter, out there, speaking her mind and confronting systemic hatred. My need for social justice and change has never been stronger because I have a black child.

Many people are thinking, "but that's the US and Trump doesn't help the situation".  Don't be fooled, Canada, anti-Semitic, racist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islamic, anti-immigration and extremist rhetoric exists here as well. It exists in the form of Bill 62 in Quebec, the Alt-right rallies popping up in cities across the country, the shooting at Parliament hill, acts of cultural appropriation and in school hallways and online.

This event could have happened anywhere in the US or Canada because it was never about a statue. The statue just happened to be there and they just happened to be discussing its removal.  It was perfect timing and the alt-right groups cashed in.  There are so many elements to the event that are mind boggling, including, the allowance of a  permit to even hold a rally such as this, but the biggest and this isn't just significant to this event but to bigots, neo-Nazis and extremists alike is, how can they hate people they don't even know?

I'm not sure what it's going to take for the world to change. Most things start with education and my optimistic side truly believes this, especially as an educator but my realistic side understands how this hatred has been woven into the very fabric of those people. They don't know who they are if not to hate. Their identity is so closely tied to the hatred they feel towards other groups that it will take years to undo. The biggest issue is that much like poverty, hatred is cyclical and is learned.  How do you undo the teachings of generations? Is it even possible?

For those of you who want to do something to move social consciousness forward but don't know what to do, here are some suggestions that are easy.  Stand up to racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, extremism, transphobia and all of the other hate filled mind sets out there. You don't need to be out there on the front lines protesting but squashing it when you hear it helps. We owe it to our children to start making the changes necessary if we hope to see a change in their generation. I know I owe it to both of my daughters to become a change maker.  If you have privilege use it. If you have white male privilege be sure to use it to push forward social change. With privilege comes power and it can be used for good or evil. Use it for good and always keep it in check. And lastly much like the lyrics to my favourite Youngbloods song, get outside and meet your neighbours and really get to know them. Go and introduce yourself to someone who you may not typically associate with due to race, culture or religion and start the conversation. It's small acts such as this that change how we feel about one another.


 Come on people now
 Smile on your brother
 Everybody get together
 Try to love one another right now


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