My name is deb singh and thanks to Shameless for inviting me to blog! And thanks to the girls, trans youth, young women, and everyone who reads the Shameless blog. Big thanks to the team at Shameless for asking me to write!
This blog is going to be about me: introducing myself to you, but also connecting myself to the land we call Canada.
Many of you have heard about the ideas of privilege and oppression from reading Shameless, among other sources, I’m sure. The following is my self-identification, which can be where I identify myself on a spectrum of social locations, places where we all find ourselves via multiple places on the spectrum, if we decide to look and name them. Anti-oppression politics, to me, is about seeing those social locations and naming them as they contribute to our lives and how we get treated by others.
So here goes: I’m a Canadian-born Indo-Caribbean. I’m Brown. I have Canadian citizenship status. I’m a queer woman of colour. I’m a woman-identified, non-trans person. I’m non-disAbled, with parents who have mental health and addiction issues. I’m working class. I am a survivor of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, and I work at a rape crisis centre. I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. I’m urban. I have an
undergraduate degree at a University. I grew up with a single mom. I’m not fat and I’m not thin. I’m 33 years old.
And I’m a settler on Turtle Island.
Some of you may know what and where Turtle Island is, but just so we’re all on the same page: Turtle Island is a term used by Haudenosaunee, Iroquois and Anishnaabe, as well as and including many other Indigenous communities, for North America. This would include what’s considered Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada and the United States of America. (FYI: Haudenosaunee, Iroquois, Anishnaabe, Cree, Metis, Six Nations, are just some of many Indigenous nations which have their own distinct cultures and languages, and not all Indigenous people call the land Turtle Island.)
There are many stories that give way to why Turtle Island was named after the turtle in many Indigenous stories/traditions. I will not retell the story here as a settler. What I do want to share is my experience of recognizing that while I am a woman of colour, who experiences racism, I am also an invader/perpetrator of occupying land which is not mine.
Invader? Occupier? Turtle Island? This all sounds very serious! What does it all mean?
Most of us are not taught the stories of how Canada was colonized and continues to colonize today. As I grew into my activist self I learned more about Turtle Island’s Indigenous activist leadership, the issues of Indigenous peoples because of hundreds of years of colonization, and the powerful communities that were here before immigrant settlers came to Canada. I learned about how my parents were allowed to come here because of anti-racist efforts, but not allowed to be and stay here like European counterparts. I also learned that this land was the right of a people who were here, much before European, South American, African, Asian and Caribbean settlers.
My experience has been a great challenge. How have I been recognizing my settler privilege in spaces with other settlers? With Indigenous folks? How do I talk about issues of being a settler, not having to endure residential school or be subject to lines like the reserve vs. the city? How do I activate my learning into action that truly supports Indigenous friends and community?
The answers to these questions are not short! But to name a few: I go to a group about being a South Asian settler on Turtle Island. I acknowledge the land I am on. This can mean being in places and events that centralize Indigenous peoples and their land, or that Indigenous groups run the events themselves. I take leadership from Indigenous peoples on how to occupy this land as a settler. I co-create work with Indigenous communities at the centre, and I think about how living on this land translates to either protecting the planet or perpetuating its destruction with being environmentally conscious. Further, I spent time thinking about where the products I buy come from, who made them and at what cost to those communities.
Recognizing my settler conscience, my body, my actions is not an easy journey, but it is one that I thrive on. Because my experiences of power and privilege are all layered with what happened on Turtle Island before my people came here.
Check out these links! (These links contain Indigenous knowledge that directly and indirectly relates to our work as settlers)
My all-time fav: Andrea Smith on Sexual Violence and the American Indian Genocide
The Truth about Stories by Thomas King
Daughters are Forever by Lee Maracle