Mirror, mirror, tell us we’re not racist

It is from Nunavik that I follow the Joyce Echaquan case. After twenty years of hearing the secrets of Indigenous people in my work as a psychiatrist, nothing about this sinister case surprises me. Not to be listened to or believed, not to arouse the same empathy as whites, to be looked down upon and portrayed as state-hooked cowards, only good at getting drunk and prostituting themselves, are not extraordinary experiences for Indigenous.

Today, the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan constitutes a real trauma for them, generating flashbacks of their own experiences of racism, the fear of being treated in this way in a hospital, the fear that their child, their mother or their brother. be them too… This morning, an Inuit colleague asked me most spontaneously and sincerely: “When will they realize that we are human beings? I relay the question to you.

If I trust the reaction of our Prime Minister, who always denies the reality of systemic racism in Quebec, and that of the mayor of Joliette, who “does not feel that way with us”, my colleague had better take her pain patiently. . After the report of the Come commission, the blame of the UN and the S.O.S. of Joyce Echaquan, this denial of our leaders and a significant part of the population is not only irresponsible and abject, it is also caricature.

I can imagine the reaction of all these people if, in an Ontario hospital, a Quebec mother died like an animal under the ” Fuc ** ng frog ! Of caregivers with parched hearts. I imagine the wave of lucidity and mobilization about racism that would then sweep over the province. For a long time, I dreamed of an empathetic resonance between the experience of cultural oppression of Francophones and Aboriginal people. Now I don’t dream anymore. I’m just trying to heal the psychic aftermath of this compassionate disaster.

If Joyce Echaquan had come from a community where Aboriginal people speak English as a second language, she wouldn’t have just heard “That would be better dead!” “,” Better for stuffing than for other things! “And” We are the ones paying for this! “. We would no doubt also have balked at him: “We are in Quebec, here, why don’t they speak French, this world? “. How do I know? Because I’ve heard it dozens of times.

Many non-natives consider it perfectly legitimate to require members of the First Nations to protect Quebec culture and the French language, even after French-speaking authorities have sent their children to residential schools to destroy their culture, even if they – even do not know a word of the Aboriginal languages ​​and they are not yet done, in 2020, to distinguish Nunavik from Nunavut, the Inuit from the Innu, or to name five of the eleven Aboriginal nations of Quebec. Having the identity twitchy and bruised can make people so insensitive (and uneducated).

The relationship of domination, we see it only from the point of view of the oppressed, not that of the oppressor. However, by activating the video on his cell phone, Joyce Echaquan put a mirror in front of our faces. We did not see the image we hoped for and continue to implore the mirror to send back to us. We saw in it the ugliness of a systemic, deadly racism for which we are collectively responsible and which we keep shying away from.

Having walked this path myself in the course of my work, I have understood that recognizing discrimination against Indigenous people is nothing like self-flagellation and “Quebecbashing »That cackle ad nauseamthose who sink their heads into the sand of identity. It is a mistake to believe that reconciliation is only redeeming for Indigenous people, that to collectively inflict such violence on a people is not equally toxic to ourselves. Reconciliation implies an openness to the other that is just as liberating and restorative for ethnic Quebecers.

In closing, it is to the Aboriginals that I am speaking. I want to tell them that many of us, among non-natives, find this air stale by racism and willful blindness unbreathable. And there are more and more of us. Our leaders may cling to a denial that has become grotesque and embarrassing, we will no longer silence this violence. We come to you with a sincere desire for reconciliation, eyes open, hands outstretched. The tear between our peoples will be repaired in the same way as the lacerated flesh: from the bottom.

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