Walking the walk: My response to past #IdleNoMore comments

February 6, 2019

 

I work to end violence against women which often means it’s my job to call out the elephant in the room.

It seems that in some spaces, I am the elephant these days. So, Hi.

On December 29th, 2018 I mindlessly checked my Twitter before going to the gym and although I couldn’t see any specifics, I could see that people were pissed at me. When I checked my DMs, I had a message from an Indigenous woman informing me that #NativeTwitter was upset with me over some old tweets and so basically, “I’m calling you in”.

Because many of the folks upset with me had already blocked me and because I have strong mute functions on my account, I could see that I was in shit but only in vague terms.

I threw up a quick acknowledgement tweet to say I hear you. I don’t have details. But I’m looking into it and I’m so sorry.

I was then sent the screengrabs in question.

It seems that back in 2012, I had tweeted about #IdleNoMore and although I tweeted a whole bunch in support and about the inhumane conditions in Attawapiskat, I also got really frustrated with the leadership of Chief Spence and in particular, her hunger strike.  

The tweets in question are short (because it’s back in the day when Twitter only allowed 140 characters) and punctuated with my usual blunt language.

Floating in cyberspace without context, they are cringe worthy as fuck. 

I wrote a thread on Twitter, where I posted the tweets for full accountability and apologized for my shittiness and recommitted to reconciliation. (I am not posting the tweets here because I’ve been told by some folks that re-posting the tweets just reproduces the harm, so I haven’t deleted them from my Twitter feed but I won’t be reposting them here).

If you’re here, then I’m assuming you know that I am a self-employed educator and consultant. I work with various organizations as an educator, a writer and an advisor.

One of the organizations I had been working with at the time was a non-Indigenous organization on paper but in actuality, do most of their work in the area of reconciliation and community building.

I e-mailed them right after writing my apology on Twitter to say “Look, I’m not sure if you saw but some old tweets of mine were dug up, they’re awful and Indigenous folks are upset with me. I wanted to let you know right away as I care deeply about this work. Please let me know if you want me to step aside.”

A week later, I was fired.

Then I was contacted by another group who had previously asked me to present at their International Women’s Day event. They fired me, too.

Then another organization.

What many folks saw was the 300+ Twitter followers I bled in less than 12 hours or the hundreds of tweets calling for me to “be cancelled” or for folks to no longer work with me.

But I want to be clear that I’ve also officially been fired from 3 contracts and have also not heard back from a couple other organizations who had committed to working with me in 2019. So you can draw your own conclusions on that.

As the youths would say, I spent days in my feelings.

Fucking up is hard but fucking up publicly is its own nightmare.

I’ve been asked to answer for 2012 me and honestly, that exercise seems futile. All I can say is that I was 24 years old. I had very few Twitter followers and no platform to speak of. I wasn’t on the news. I didn’t work for myself. I was a student who thought it possible to separate criticism of Chief Spence (who I did not support) from the broader conversation around #IdleNoMore (which I did support). I didn't stay in my lane. 

All I can say is that I’m sorry.

All I can say is what I say in all my presentations: When you know better, you do better.

And I’m still here.

To many people, my still being here is the last offensive. That my refusal to stop doing this work is a sign that I’ve dug in my heels. That I’m doubling down on my bullshit. That I’m refusing to give up space.

To many people, I’m choosing the easier path.

But I just can’t agree with that.

How many of us have fucked up and wanted to retreat from it? Run away from it? Never face it again? I spent days panicking about my future and what I would do without this work.

Ending violence against women is my life. I started this work years ago because a university education opened my eyes to injustice and all of a sudden, I saw it everywhere. And when the work got hard and I realized how difficult it would be (we’re all overworked! Underpaid! Drowning in hate mail from fragile men!), I kept doing the work because I kept thinking of my 20 year old self, reeling from an abusive relationship and set up for 10 years of being stalked.

I work to end violence against women because I’ve seen progress. I’ve seen concrete changes. And I will always be proud of the work I’ve done. The work is the reward and I reject those who won’t allow us to enjoy the victories when they come. I won’t apologize for being proud of my work.

But I will continue to apologize for the harm that my tweets caused. I will continue to apologize when I fuck up.

I have no idea who dug through years and years of my tweets to find them. I will never understand what compelled them to do so in the first place.

But I never deleted them. I never intended to. They’re still there.

And I’m sure there will be more in the future. I have never, and would never, pretend to be perfect. I don’t even believe in perfection. Years ago, I was taught that perfection is the enemy of good and I believe it to my core.

This is not to excuse my bad behaviour or the bad behaviour of others. This is not to excuse racism (or ableism or transphobia or any other ism).

But if I walked away from this work right now, tails between my legs, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve spent the last 16 years committed to learning, unlearning and showing others how they can learn, too.

If we’ve ever met in person or you’ve attended one of my workshops, then you know how deeply committed I am to the belief that when you know better, you do better.

I am a progressive because I believe in progress.

If I didn’t think people could learn, then why would I bother working in education?

If I didn’t believe people could heal, why would I bother working with survivors?

I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere because 148 women and girls were killed last year in Canada.

I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere because 1 in 3 women in this province will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere because I’m not a hypocrite.

I’m not going anywhere because I really truly do believe that community accountability means owning your fuck ups and that “I’m sorry” is a verb.

I’m still here because I’ve spent years teaching people that progress is possible but it’s also really fucking hard. That it hurts.

And I can’t demand that men sit with their uncomfortable feelings around privilege while I run away from my own.

That’s not how this works.

The way forward is difficult but I’m committed.

I’m still here.