I Am Not A Settler Or A Colonizer
It's Okay to Reject Certain Labels
I had no choice as to where and when I would be born. None. I didn't decide to be born a white dude in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada on a winter's day in 1973. I just came into this world and, bam, there I was. Deal with it. I'm here!
Now, I can't help but notice that it is becoming more and more common for woke Euro-Canadians (especially here in Winnipeg where I now live), or whatever the heck they are, to call themselves settlers and colonizers. You can find it in seemingly everyone's Twitter bio, including an acknowledgement that we are on Treaty 1 territory (well, Winnipeg is, anyway). It's all in a noble effort to acknowledge that people were here on the land that is Canada before Canada became....well, Canada.
I won't say that these people have a terrible idea going on with this. Heck, if they want to go this way, more power to them. I can understand. I think their heart is in the right place. But, personally, I just don't buy into all of this. I know, I know, I'm soooooo bad and awful.
I'm not a settler. I'm not a colonizer. I'm just another of the 7 billion people on this planet who was born and has to figure out how to navigate the world from birth to death as best as possible. I was born here in Canada, whatever that may be, and that's that. I have settled and colonized nothing, nowhere. I reject these labels and won't define myself by them.
This isn't to say I'm not well aware of historical wrongs done towards the Indigenous population in the building of Canada as we know it. That isn't to say that I don't think First Nations people in this country didn't get absolutely screwed, and that a genocide didn't take place on this land. That isn't to say that I don't think racism exists. I know it does, and it's awful. I know many, many wrongs have been done, and I think it's horrible. There have been all kinds of decisions made along the way when it comes to the Indigenous population that have been bad and resulted in people being treated inhumanely. And it sucks. It sucks that this is our collective history.
However, I didn't do any of it. If someone had asked me if any of that stuff was a good idea, I would say "Hell no!" I would say genocide is a very, very bad idea, so please do not do it. But, no one asked me, mainly because I wasn't around when it started.
If someone were to ask me about racism today, I would say there is way too much of it. To me, the people that were here before Canada came into being should be the wealthiest in the country, with the bulk of the power. Sadly, that isn't the case. I wish it were and I support efforts to change things.
But here is the deal. The world continues to turn. Human beings evolve. Societies evolve. There isn't an inch of land on this planet that hasn't been colonized, settled or whatever in some way, shape or form. Humans move. Humans migrate. Humans at different stages of development get the upper hand and it can result in bad, bad things happening. If someone has invented a gun while their foe has a knife, the person who invented the gun gets the upper hand, and has the power. This is the way that things work with humans. It is the way things work with no shortage of other creatures we share the planet with. Even plants! Plants! PLANTS!
The thing is, I am here. You are here. We are all here. I didn't choose to be here. You didn't choose to be here. We are just...here. So, now, what do we do? There is only one thing we can do. We make the best of it. We make the absolute best of it we can. We move forward, focusing on fairness and equality. We move forward making sure that everyone on this land gets a fair shake and is able to live in comfort and prosper. We move forward understanding the history of this country, but none the less, we move forward. Obviously we are not there yet and we have to keep plugging away.
But, I'm not going to call myself a settler or colonizer in order to make me feel better about anything, or to appease anyone who wants to see me say this. I didn't colonize or settle anything. I was born. That's it. I was born in the same place as a whole pile of other people were born and we are all here together. Now, we need to make sure we get along, help each other, care for one another, and create the best society we can with what we got.
And, believe me, I KNOW how the narratives work in the current climate of anti-racism. I know I will be called privileged, ignorant, racist, or whatever, because I take this approach, even though I outright denounce racism. Just because I don't go to what I see as the extreme of declaring myself a settler of colonizer doesn't mean I don't care about the issue of racism or think that what has happened historically is okay. I can do both here. I can reject the idea of labelling myself AND the problem of racism.
We cannot change the past. Many of us would love to be able to do that. But, we can't. We have what we have, and we have to make the absolutely best of it.