From the Mayor's Desk:
The Enemy Is Us
Doug Lawrance - Sioux Lookout Mayor
The dilemma faced when a white male in a position of power writes an article on racism is not only how to approach it, but should it actually be written at all? Obviously the decision in this case was yes. I am not only privileged by my race, gender, socio-economic background and more, I am privileged by holding a position of leadership in the community. Those privileged with leadership are obligated to add their voice to the calls for positive change. Words matter, both those said and those not said.
Often the wise words of others help. Pogo was a syndicated comic strip written by Walt Kelly which ran from the fifties through to the seventies. In a humourous manner the comic strip satirically covered politics and social issues. In one strip Pogo famously says “Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.” This line can be used in so many circumstances. It can certainly be used as a spark for reflective thinking by mainstream society observing the impact of George Floyd’s death. This most recent in a litany of black men’s killings has been the catalyst for major protest against racism throughout much of the world.
A reflective view of North American history tells us that much of the wealth of the mainstream white Western world was built on racism: slave labour, massacres of Indigenous people, occupation of Indigenous lands, suppression of human rights, and a long-held colonial view that we the white race was somehow better than them – all the others. Systems of governance and power have been built on this foundation. In recent decades, with good intention we have tinkered on the fringes to improve things for ‘minorities’. But at the same time we have both unconsciously and consciously resisted changes that really matter. Current examples are the Calls to Action in the Final Report of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Calls to Justice in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In perhaps his most famous and quoted speech Martin Luther King Jr said: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”. If we in the mainstream, the white and privileged world, can look into the reflection in the mirror and, like Pogo, acknowledge that the enemy is us, we can take a giant step in addressing racism. Honest self-evaluation of attitudes and biases is a necessary step to turn dreams into actions that lead to meaningful systemic changes.