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Whose Issue?

City streets are filling with demonstrators on behalf of black and indigenous victims of police brutality, and against racism generally.

But I’m not BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or a Person Of Colour). So is this really my issue?

Decades ago when Christian churches were debating whether women could properly preach and pastor, I remember the debate was often labeled “the women’s issue.”

But I wasn’t a woman. So was it really my issue?

Martin Luther King, Jr., had it right when he refused to identify his cause as the furtherance of the interests of black people in the United States. Instead, he stoutly maintained that he was contending for civil rights, not just black rights, on behalf of all Americans, not just black Americans.

We all win when we all win.

Racism and civil rights are indeed my issues.

The feminist leaders I admire most have always maintained that they were not campaigning only for the rights and dignity of women, but for the equal treatment of all human beings and the full cooperation of all people in our common life. The T-shirt slogan had it exactly right no matter who was wearing it: “This is what a feminist looks like.”

We all win when we all win.

Sexism and gender equality are indeed my issues.

So far as I know, I have no aboriginal ancestry. But I am not just an “ally” of indigenous people in Canada in their struggle to be treated properly by Canadian governments, Canadian police forces, and Canadians in general. I am a Canadian citizen who wants my country to act justly. I have a stake in this struggle, too.

We all win when we all win.

Colonialism and fair dealing with First Nations are indeed my issues.

Or do we really think we can ignore the poor, the addicted, the disabled, the disoriented, the marginalized, the disdained, and the oppressed—and not pay a huge price in social friction, crime, safety, medical bills, prison costs, and massive wastage of human potential? And not have our souls corrode and implode into tiny, self-centred vacuums?

These street demonstrations—and, indeed, the riots that have sometimes ensued—are just the flare-ups of the dysfunction and despair that blight so many Canadian lives and seethe just beneath the surface of “normal” life. They are exacting from all of us, all the time, a toll we are just now glimpsing in these days of open unrest.

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