LETTER: How to be a friend to the oppressed

Choose to be part of the solution and take responsibility, says letter writer

Don Cherry finally gave Sportsnet the straw that broke the camel’s back when he was fired for statements that were widely perceived as racist. The problem with “you people” is that it positions the speaker in an imagined dominant in-group, and “you people,” whoever “you” are, as outside that group.

So, what do we say instead? Here are the 10 essentials of being an ally, a friend, to members of oppressed groups:

1. It starts with you. Appreciate your own brand of diversity. Learn about, appreciate, and be grounded in your own ancestral heritage.

2. Choose to be part of the solution. Take responsibility.

3. Keep your eyes peeled — and your heart open. Acknowledge your own room for growth.

4. Learn about the historical offences against Indigenous peoples, immigrants and visible minorities. It’s not about guilt. It’s about being part of the solution.

5. People in oppressed groups have a unique perspective that others simply do not have. If you’re lucky enough to have a chance to listen, listen closely and with humility.

6. You may have an opportunity to stand with someone to support them. Listen to them. Don’t judge. Be willing to walk with them through an experience.

7. Be patient.

8. Be available to your friends, relatives and co-workers to help them to recognize oppression.

9. When you witness oppressive or racist language and actions, it may be an opportunity for you to speak up, and that isn’t preachy or self-righteous.

10. Be honest. Share your feelings. Don’t be defensive.

When our heart changes, we don’t need to worry about what comes out of our mouths.

Jim Flom

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