We need to confront systemic racism when it happens in order to make change in our society. I rarely hear about our Native men and the challenges they face but what I do hear is minimal. I got to see firsthand the type of oppression we are dealing with. I also, don’t hear of anyone fighting for our men. My article is necessary, and I hope it reaches far and wide.
My son, Earl was a kind-hearted man who was working towards obtaining his grade 12 and eventually attending community college, he had dreams of becoming an electrician so he can provide a good living for his family. Earl was looking forward to becoming a loving and responsible father, since his own father was in and out of his life he wanted to be more, his job was important to him, he was a good son, no criminal record and he would give you the shirt off his back, Earl was committed to his family, friends and community.
When I first heard of systemic racism, it was like putting a name to a face. My son Earl was tragically taken from me this past year, he committed suicide and our lives changed forever, he was my only baby, and I was proud of him. I am his voice, and he wanted the public to know his experience.
A few years ago, Earl met his wife, she came as a package with her kids from a previous relationship. Immediately, the in laws attitude towards Earl was evident, that they did not approve of him which eventually made his life a living hell. Naturally, as a mother, I told my Earl to be careful, sometimes being Indigenous is all it takes for someone to accuse you of something bad, he understood, he wasn’t blind to all the stereotyping of Indigenous people in Canada. Earl had a lot of important women in his life, and we were all on standby if Earl needed help, he was valued and dearly missed.
Earl suffered many hardships and humiliation because of systemic racism and marginalization. The in-laws continually bullied, harassed him, they were merciless with the lateral violence, even going as far as using the police and child welfare to carry out their discrimination. Eventually, his children were taken from him, and he was charged with bad crimes. The in-laws had every advantage, using the system that’s already skewed, designed to criminalize Indigenous people and throw us in jail. We are not equal in Canada. When an Indigenous man gets accused of bad things, your life is basically over, the stigma, the neglect, depression, addiction, strips men of there identities and self worth. It’s a perfect storm reflecting from centuries of oppression stereotyping, victimization, combined with 4th world living.
I see violence towards Indigenous men have been normalized in our society. 90% of prison populations are Indigenous and that makes me wonder just how many have been wrongfully accused. There are huge gaps in unforgiving system creating vulnerabilities of violence for indigenous men and using it against them, there were no resources that worked for my son to access, we were basically unheard and alone.
We searched for help, we went to government officials, no one could help us, literally doors closed in our faces. I feel a crime has been committed here, its a tragedy. We even felt discriminated by our own agency, they didn’t treat my son as a human being, but rather a burden, unimportant, no rights, a criminal. In court, it seemed like he didn’t have any rights. Our people, particularly, our men do not have a chance up against systems, they are treated sub-human. I realize now, this is one of the many ways to oppress our people. The systems that govern us, are deliberately designed to oppress Indigenous people and keep us in crisis permanently. Every system failed my son. Now, I must live my life without my son, burying your children goes against the laws of nature, now I’m trying to cope.
Its time to reform every system out there that involve Indigenous people from a grassroots level, because its not working for our people. What are we teaching our society? Where is our humanity going? Actual help is in demand. I can’t let this go; I promised a dying man that I would help others using his words and experience. I personally know of two more deaths that occurred in our community because of the system failing our people. Children are having to grow up without their parents.
Stereotyping Indigenous men as being more susceptible to commit these kinds of crimes mentality, is destructive and is a contributing factor to the suicide epidemic we are facing. Indigenous men are valued in our culture, they take on traditional roles as the providers, protectors and warriors. They can distinguish right from wrong; they are equal to other men anywhere. My child was a victim of lateral violence, when someone else couldn’t see his worth, this is what happened. My beautiful son was innocent, and he was so much more!