Letters to the Editor.

LETTER – Microaggressions are alive and well in the Comox Valley

Dear editor,

As a white mother to a Black daughter, I have painfully come to realize that my beloved girl, as she grows, will face challenges that I never faced or imagined possible.

We moved to the Comox Valley a couple of years ago and feel very fortunate to be able to call this beautiful place home. In many ways, the Valley is an amazing place to raise a child… but it is very white. I’ve made an effort to find and befriend as many BIPOC neighbours as possible, so that she isn’t constantly gazing out into a sea of white. I’ve found a small handful and I hope that will be enough for her to feel at home here, but I fear it won’t.

Microaggressions are subtle and sometimes unintentional acts of prejudice that can inflict insult or injury and that minorities may experience on a daily basis in their lives. They are often linked to our implicit biases and can even be outside of our consciousness. Since moving here, I have heard the following and more from well-intentioned people, “Your daughter is so cute, what is she?”, “Her skin is so perfect, not too dark,” and, “I mixed her up with —- (another little girl), they look so much alike” (they look nothing alike except that they both have brown skin).

These statements may sound harmless to some, but they are not. My daughter is rapidly becoming old enough to comprehend such messages and the more she hears them, the more I can see that she will feel apart, racialized, othered.

Examples of microaggressions can be found everywhere, and they run the gamut; carelessly mispronouncing someone’s name, using sexist language, crossing the street to avoid a person of colour, touching someone’s hair without permission, saying something is ‘gay’, assuming a person is foreign and asking where they are from, holding different expectations and standards for different groups.

Experts say that we are all using microaggressions because no one is immune from inherited bias. Now that I see first-hand their potential impact, I am so much more careful with my words.

Maya Angelou patiently counsels, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I have faith that this community wants to do better, but these issues are structural and not just individual, so in order to know and do better, we have to make an effort to learn better.

There are many resources in our local bookshops and online to learn more about racism and to become better neighbours.

I can’t protect my daughter from everything, and I have no doubt that she will grow into a capable young woman, able to speak up for herself. My wish for her is that she will see every classroom, playing field, and workplace as equal, but we have a long way to go.

Jordan Wellwood,

Comox

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