‘We’ Were Made for This: A White Man’s Colonial History

The following video has been on air for a few months now in anticipation and support of the Winter Olympic games here in Vancouver:

“We Were Made For This” commercial from The Hudson’s Bay Company

At first glance, I had no particular attachment to the above video but having watched it appear on the television multiple times between Olympic events, I began to feel a dull, antipathetic feeling in my stomach. I have had trouble pinpointing what rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because issues of race and White privilege are often subconscious these days, but now I see it is in how Canadians are represented to be a specific, privileged class, race, and heritage.

I am personally at a crossroads with the Olympics: I see where the Olympics have come from (hundreds of millions of dollars spent for corporate interests, the displacement and oppression of Vancouver’s most marginalized people, the non-acknowledgment of BC’s historical occupation of First Nations’ land, absurd amounts of people lining up for ephemeral pleasures) and yet I still enjoy watching athletes compete on the television and holding my hopes high for another gold medal for Canada. But there are always good aspects about bad things.

Here are some reasons why I feel contention with the above commercial:

1. The “we” this Bay ad refers to is not the inclusion of all Canadian people, it is the exclusive group of white, European people who came to Canada and conquered it as their own. I think the greatest danger is in how much this requires a second or third look because this kind of racism is covert and subconscious. It’s clear that Canada, and specifically Vancouver, is multicultural and to market the narrow image of Canadians as simply white people is not a progressive, accurate message.

2. The exoticization of our land as a harsh climate, to be conquered and survived ‘together.’ First, as mentioned above, the advertisement addresses the viewer as being a part of the privileged, white culture whose roots reach from the ‘founding’ explorer’s heritage to the present-day (white) Canadian. Second, this land was being survived and supported by First Nations people long before white settlers came. Though the theme of human vs. nature is not necessarily wrong, I believe it is outdated and it is this perspective we need to CHANGE in order to begin to heal the planet of all the damage we have caused it. Third, the advertisement supports eugenics with the belief that “we” (white people) were born to dominate the land as a result of not only genetics, but also by birthright.

3. This ad is based on the history taught in schools which is mostly written about white men, by white men, for white men. The Hudson’s Bay Company ad mirrors and perpetuates the white privilege held by white men in Canada and is not a step forward in racial politics.

The ‘we’ addressed in the advertisement is clearly not the entire WE. Not all who are Canadian share the portrayed heritage and it’s interesting as citizens WHAT we are expected to adopt – a “love” of the Olympics and  a “love” of ‘OUR’ nation’s history. We will not move forward if we continue to stagnate around these issues.

how do you make your art

how do you write your poetry
do you dig inside of you and find
that darkness waiting, gasping to see air
carve a hole, an escape hatch, pave a long smooth tunnel
from your darkest centre to expose one by one the beams of daylight?
do you trace the red drip dripping footstepps, fresh
with deathsmell –no that is still a living scent, (but barely)
stalk the wounded mystical beast to exhausted ends:
do you make art with her bones? waste nothing of this body
and give your eyes the colours of each thread, hair,
shape and paint yourself in the rituals of an ancient nature.
is your art a gift of beauty to this world who
speaks out hatred, anger, tears or is your art
the mine of a wordsmith treasure boxed in traditions
no longer here, wearing away in the parched paper of books
centuries closed. do you create your art amongst a flowing
river put together broken ends and means and beginnings to
stay afloat and when drifted into the calm ocean look down into the
crystal blue lens all combinations of colour and creed or
do you dive into it, the great deep majestic, and
look around amazingly, sink slowly to the bottom.

I gaze endlessly into the sky

Sitting tall and calm on a moonless night
the air stirs cool and fresh,
reminiscent of colder times the
wind softly makes its way through
the branches
woods (trees)
huff and sway,
bending soundlessly to the rhythm
of the unraveling sky.

the city lights blaze bright under my feet and
tickle my eyes, lashes wearing tips of red, white and yellow:
glow a constant blur into my memory.

head up chin to the clouds
and the sun sets ever so gently

can never remember a constellation

tonight the stars are unmistakable.