I live with a weird paranoia. I live with a weird paranoia that comes from not being white.
When I exit stores clutching bags full of goods I dutifully paid for, I hold my receipt purposefully in my hand as if to ease any fears that I may be shop lifting.
Even when I leave a store having not purchased anything, a small twinge of fear runs through me that the alarms will in fact go off… for no reason… and eyes will turn on me in unison and confirmation. “We knew it. She was up to no good”.
I am a Social Worker, I have my bachelors degree framed. I don’t work for the Ministry though and doubt I ever would. I busted my ass to get the education and do the work I do….but I still live with the worry of the Ministry taking my child.
Call it brown woman’s paranoia but the fear of someone calling the Ministry because I picked my kid up late, or because my son is late for school too often, or because I forget to pack a lunch (only once), or for some other reason, is very real. I was raised with the threat of, “you can’t misbehave or do this or that or someone will call somebody and they are going to take you away from us. Do you want to live with a strange family?”
I even catch myself saying this to my son…
“They might call the police and then they will take you away from me. They put kids in other people’s homes. It happens…”
My parenting parrots my parents and I have said it as a warning to him but also from a place that is wrapped up in shame in fear. This place says that I’m not good enough, never will be good enough in the eyes of White people with power. This place has internalized the stereotypes I have ingested over a lifetime. Most I have discarded but there are remnants that continue to poison blood and the lines that they run through.
They have taken our children historically.
Most children in the Child Welfare system are Aboriginal.
Being Native is already a strike against me as a mother.
I have to work twice as hard to prove myself to be a good parent.
My parenting can come into question at any time.
If this ever should happen, the social worker will not understand me, our situation, our struggle, our strengths.
I have no reason to be afraid of the Ministry of Child and Family Development ever having cause to take my son from me….. but I still fear that they can and maybe one day they will.
I live with absence of privilege and the worry of the presence of power peering over my left shoulder tallying up my deficits as a mother.
I am a good mother.
I AM A GOOD MOTHER.
If I, an educated Indigenous woman, single parenting, who has (for the time being) lifted herself above the poverty line… still feels this power presence, I wonder about the others out there. Those who feel the reality intensified, those who get the knocks on their door, those whose only issue is poverty, those who’s power has been taken away.
You can check your privilege at the door, because it ain’t welcome here today.
Decolonization, the journey continues.