Hello Privilege; It’s me, James
Okay, so I shamelessly borrowed the title for this week from a recent Netflix production about the experience of advantage and disadvantage in America. While that’s not exactly the theme of this reflection, the title still kind of fits because I, like so many, have begun (finally) to reconcile how my story intersects with the stories of others. Part of that process involves the recognition that ‘privilege’ persists, partly, through the prioritization of a particular voice or story over another.
Like most every other kid in Ontario, I took Canadian History in high school. But the history class I took was pretty different from the one students take today; there seemed to be a reluctance to shine light into the darker chapters of the collective Canadian experience (whatever that is). So, we never heard about the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII, about the refusal for asylum of people aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939, or about the long history of residential schools. There were important stories I didn’t hear, and I think that not hearing these stories allowed me to exist within a single cultural narrative and a narrow, sanitized framework for a long time.
This past Monday, students at HDCH participated in the “Every Child Matters” orange shirt day. About seventy students also had an opportunity to visit the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford to see a residential school and to hear about the experiences of survivors. When someone challenged me on the value of this day, I thought about the opportunity it provided for us to engage with the reality and legacy of residential schools and to adopt the position of listener and learner. I’m grateful that the students of HDCH had a chance to hear these stories and to reflect on how these stories intersect with each of their own.
One of the compelling things about Christ’s ministry is exactly this: the radical desire to challenge a dominant cultural narrative, the commitment to hear a person’s story, and the empathy to understand how that lived experience shapes the individual’s journey. In doing this, Jesus certainly ruffled a few feathers, but He unequivocally demonstrated that a person’s worth is not determined by culture, status, origin or experience. He lived the idea that belonging is about listening, learning and loving.
For a second year, our school theme is “belonging.” As we journey forward as a school community committed to being a place of belonging, the model of Christ’s desire to hear story and understand context is worth emulating. I’m grateful for the stories our students get to hear, and I’m excited to think how diving into a wide variety of experiences and expressions helps us all to strive toward living in humility and love.
Director of Student Services