“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Those were the words of Malcolm X. On this day in 1965 Malcolm X was shot to death. While he had espoused violence in his early days, his last years were marked by a sense of fighting racism and not fighting the whites or others of different race. It is sad that when his more moderate message began to take root, he was snuffed out by violence. He was a young man whose life was marked by moments of violence against himself and his family for no other reason then the colour of their skin. His father who was a Baptist preacher was murdered in Lansing, MI for preaching equality for all persons. In his life long journey for justice Malcolm learned that “You can’t legislate good will – that comes through education.” I believe those words of his are very true. Having said that, I think that legislation itself can be a detriment to people being advanced or moving forward. Racism is a terrible disease fed mostly on a diet of ignorance.
Last night we were privileged in this parish to hear Mr. Dean Jacobs from Walpole Island.
He is a tremendous man who is a strong advocate for his people, for his home of Walpole Island, for the environment and for justice. Racism in Canada has a dark history indeed. The feelings of white people toward First Nations peoples has spotted and often embarrassing history. When thinking of legislating good will, one gains a new perspective when reminded by Dean Jacobs that prior to 1951 he was not considered a person in Canada. These non-persons were ironically permitted to go to two “Great” wars and die for a country which did not consider them people. Further to that, until 1960 he and his First Nations brothers and sisters were not allowed to vote. It is remarkable to be in the presence of a Canadian who can witness to a day when he was neither considered a person nor afforded the right to vote. Consider all that in the context of the fact that 1870 marked the 15th amendment in the US which provided that governments could not prevent people from voting based on their race. The Indian Act in this country prevents, still today, First Nations people from using their property as leverage to borrow. Malcolm X was right in asserting that goodwill comes through being educated. Anyone who listens to Dean Jacobs can see that. On the legislation end, it would be fair to suggest however, that governments can go a long way to encourage goodwill by removing legislation that continues to oppress people, and encouraging legislation that respects the dignity of all persons.
The work of Dean Jacobs and the smart minds of BKEJWANONG are working constantly to advance the environment, the heritage of their people and to bring justice to land claims. They are leaders in the country when it comes to these areas and they are great Canadian examples of what we might be if we all worked to sustain who we are and how we live. We can all learn a lot when we listen to each other. God has called us to seek to find ways to identify our own ignorance and educate ourselves and the generations that follow us how to live better with each other. I rather like the words of Martin Luther King Jr.; “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”