"Untangling White Supremacy in Myself" by Melissa Chung-Mowat
Melissa Chung-Mowat is of mixed-heritage, her father is of Chinese descent from Hong Kong; and her mother is of Metis descendant of the Red River Valley Metis. She was raised by her mom in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, and the interlake region of Manitoba. She has spent her adulthood exploring her own identity as a mixed-heritage Indigenous woman in her studies, personal life, and in her career. She currently works for an Indigenous-owned company called AMIK, which is located on Swan Lake First Nation in Headingley, Manitoba.
"I can remember my very first experience of racism vividly. My mom and I were living with family in a tiny village about 2.5 hours north of Winnipeg and had recently moved into a new house on the other side of the highway. I was about seven years old and on this particular day I was playing with a new friend in her backyard. We we're having a lot of fun when all of a sudden she says "I am going inside now and you can't come with me." I was so confused and asked her why. Her response was, "My parents don't let native kids in the house." I remember feeling ashamed and in that moment I responded to her with, "I am not native. I'm Chinese." She asked her parents if I could come in because I wasn't native, and they allowed it.
This experience hurt me and changed me in so many ways. For years after that, well into my adulthood, I did my best to hide my Indigenous heritage and play up my Chinese heritage. I remember pretending to be able to speak Chinese to friends. I remember hearing racist comments and not saying anything. I remember dodging questions about looking Indigenous or my mom looking Indigenous.
I carried so much shame with me for so many years. When I started university, I began to untangle this complicated expression of White Supremacy within me - where radicalized groups are pitted against one another and hierarchies between races exist to uphold White Supremacy. I began exploring my identity, building connections with Indigenous peers and mentors, and seeking out opportunities to engage in culture. I remember the first time I introduced myself and openly identified as Chinese and Metis. I was 24 and it was the most liberating experience I have had so far.
The friend that finally let me into her house, well we went on to have a long friendship. I spent many days and nights with her family. I wish it wasn't tainted by my first interaction with them. And I wish I could go back and speak out against their racism. Because even though we had a wonderful friendship, one of the toughest places to confront racism is within ourselves and with people closest to us. It must start there."