Robbie Dillon: no longer white.
When I was a white man, I never understood the inherent privilege of my race.
Looking back on my childhood, I now see all the benefits I enjoyed for no other reason than the color of my skin. My family resided in a stately housing project and dined on baloney and Kraft Dinner every night of the week. Whenever I wanted a comic book or a chocolate bar, it was simply a matter of prowling through alleyways and digging through dumpsters until I had collected enough empty bottles to pay for it. Could life have been any sweeter?
Just after her 18th birthday, my mother was handed a plum position waiting tables at the local deli. Day after day, she breezed through her ten-hour shifts, completely unaware of the systemic patterns of discrimination that had afforded her this, and so many other, undeserved opportunities. When she wasn’t goofing around serving matzo ball soup, Mom diddled away her spare time finishing high school, raising three kids on her own, and skimming through a degree in accounting, one of the whitest professions of all time.
My mother never understood what a lazy white bitch she was, but at some point I became conscious of the grave injustices my family had been perpetrating. Our lives were served up to us on a silver platter, while others were forced to struggle day after day with the gruelling boredom of waiting for their next government check. I sympathized, of course, but I could never truly know how it felt to be the victim of racial discrimination.
All of that changed a few years ago when The Supreme Court of Canada decided that, thanks to a long-dead grandmother’s Mohawk ancestry, I was an Indian.
With one stroke of a pen, my little joyride came to a halt. I could no longer bask in the countless benefits conferred by my pale complexion. Now I was just another faceless minion, crushed under the boot heel of colonial oppression.
At first, I admit, I was terrified. I couldn’t imagine life without all the perks of white racial hegemony. Would I be forced to give up my job? Stop reading? Lower my self-esteem?
But as I learned how the “white-eyes” had stolen my newfound people’s land and destroyed our way of life, I was filled with rage. The vicious system they called capitalism brought great riches to the few while leaving others with nothing but basic cable and handfuls of scratch Lotto tickets.
This was not the way of my people. In the days of my forefathers, tribes provided for each other and shared their wealth through traditional arrangements known as “give-us-your-shit-or-we’ll-smash-your-skulls-in-with-tomahawks-and-make-tobacco-pouches-out-of-your-scrotums.”
The white man is ruled by greed. He lies, steals, rapes the Earth, and uses derogatory stereotypes to deny the humanity of entire races of people. He claims dominion over vast tracts of land by virtue of his race and demands special status as if it were some sort of birthright.
It hasn’t been easy, but over time I’ve come to understand the need to stand in solidarity with my Indian brothers and sisters. As long as they are denied the privilege of paying taxes, my humanity demands that I make that sacrifice as well. If they’re forced to accept free university tuition, I’ll just have to grit my teeth, bite the bullet, and send the bill for any dental work to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow—all the more so because the government insists on paying for my medication—but if renouncing all the advantages of my whiteness is what it takes to end the tyranny of contemporary postcolonial narratives of white patriarchal dominance, all I can say is sign me up!