Involvement: When is Enough, Enough?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

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  • GIve your own story.

    GIve your own story.

By: Zoey Ross

How much should I care? Furthermore, when is it appropriate to care? In the middle of a not-my-problem society, when does the fuzzy line between personal and public strife begin to resolve? It must relate to the cause and group in question. Right?

I would never tell the story of being a Bangladeshi-Canadian. Without heritage or understanding how could I possibly begin to explain the success or struggles of an entire culture group? The expression, to "walk in someone else’s shoes" does not cover the immense detail and deep feeling needed to honestly portray someone’s life that you do not have a connection to.

Ryan Haque, a computer science major, at the University of Guelph is a Bangladeshi-Canadian and he had some thoughts on the importance of story.

“A story regarding an individual or a group yields the power to transcend time and space, and continue to affect and influence others long after the actual character(s) have lived,” said Haque. “A picture paints a thousand words but a story can create billions.”

Four generations ago, my great grandparents migrated to Canada from Europe, Russia, and Jamaica, while one grandmother left the life on her reserve to live with my grandfather. My mixed heritage is a blessing but it leaves me wondering about how involved in any cause I could become. Maybe that is my story. I have no desire to Macklemore an issue by jumping in at the last second to a nearly unrelated cause and saving the day.

The question of should you tell your own story, is not simple. It’s quite complicated and is looked at with multiple view points and opinions. The main one that arises is that an ally is an ally. Why should it matter who’s leading the cause if their intent is true? How could it possibly be harming if one person is putting their heart and soul into trying to make the world a better place? Enter Evan Munday, a cartoonist for the Toronto Star.

“I believe I cannot continue the project in a way that respects these women’s autonomy, or a way that helps rather than harms the families of these thousands of women,” said Munday.

In early 2015, after sending several tweets to Prime Minister Harper that contained individual cartoon illustrations of missing aboriginal woman, Munday realized he should stop. His intentions were good but his way of going about things may have caused unnecessary emotional pain to the families and could have diluted the cause. White privilege is thing and he has it. The media spotlight was on him, but it was not his fight to be the leader of. In December 2014, Munday illustrated the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique in 1989.

"I can't say what really compelled me to draw each of the women. I felt like I had to honour them in some way, and I've noticed that the simple act of drawing someone can really have an impact," said as reported by the Huffington Post Canada.

He then released illustrations of missing Aboriginal women a month later. The difference is the pain is still very present and very real. This time his illustrations were not a homage, they were a call out to a very deep-rooted, jarring, familial, political and social cause. If he presented the images to the families affected, not through twitter or any form of mass publication, his support could have been more helpful and fostered in different way.

“I don't think any group wants to alienate potential allies. It becomes more a question of, is this person speaking for me or at me?” said Vagina Monologues Director and Comedian Kate Ethier.  

“If you want to stand with people why not? You can learn and maybe immerse yourself more in said cause,” said Dave Par, a Toronto based broadcaster. “You can stand with people…but to be a branded a champ you have to know everything about it.”

I’m not so sure anyone knows everything about anything, but one can certainly see that it takes more than gusto and ambition to lead a social cause. Certainly everyone has a calling that is important to them and strongly related to their life, but if not the world will always need allies. 

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  1. Posted by: on Jul 8, 2015 @ 5:05pm

    I spy an editorial error - "White privilege is thing and he has it"

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