Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Too many live in 'prisons of the mind' : Have your say

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A 20-something Eric Robinson (centre) celebrates his daughter's first birthday with his father and wife.

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A 20-something Eric Robinson (centre) celebrates his daughter's first birthday with his father and wife.

Re: A beaten mom, a son changed (Aug. 29). I can understand the horror of what Eric Robinson must have experienced and endured on many levels as a child. I see direct parallels with what other people of other races have experienced and can see why he would be quick to make racist statements.

Nonetheless, he has to learn to rise above this, just as he has with his alcohol abuse and other challenges. Not all white people are wife-beaters and not all white people are drunks.

Accordingly, it is incumbent, especially in a multicultural nation like Canada, that we learn how to rise above our bad experiences and past troubles and become not only contributing members of society (which Robinson appears to be) but clear in the knowledge that not all white people are bad.

ED J. BELANGER

Winnipeg

 

It is ironic that all too often we are still at the same points we were 50 years ago. The movements of liberation that swept the world, challenging old world orders in Africa, Asia, South America, North America and even Manitoba, have become unachieved dreams.

We have come a long way, but the case of Eric Robinson and Osborne House shows us that too many of us still live in prisons of the mind. The 1963 march on Washington by the American civil rights movement and the address of Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrate we must still work for the human rights of every individual, even today.

The dream that King held for his children -- not to be "judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character" -- is true for every human being. Should Euro-Canadians or "white people" have a role to play in the terrible conditions that plague too many aboriginal people? Yes, of course, for we all live together and the issues that affect my neighbour affect me in some small way.

The issues affecting Osborne House concern all citizens, because violence against women is an example of breaking King's dream. We need more "do-good white people" and we also need strong government ministers like Robinson. Debate is good and we need more of it in society. There are too many fundamental truths that we have not been addressing in Manitoba, preferring the ignorance of current injustice.

I, too, dream of when my five young children will be able to travel across our city without fear of violence. I dream they will not live in a prison of the mind, shackled to past oppression and injustice, but face the future full of hope and confidence.

ROBERT-FALCOLN OUELLETTE

Winnipeg

 

Jennifer Howard has been chosen to represent a government so arrogant and morally corrupt that it chooses to attack the good folks who run Osborne House rather than simply do the right thing -- which is to admit that Eric Robinson made a racist remark.

If Robinson's remark was not contentious, why did he attempt to hide it?

This government is drunk on its own power and should be voted out. This attack on Barbara Judt is a thinly veiled, vulgar attempt to deflect from the real issue.

ROBERT COLLINGS

Winnipeg

 

I think the women at Osborne House are making such a big stink about Eric Robinson's comment to deflect attention from the role they played in having a burlesque fundraiser to benefit Osborne House. That is what should be the focus here.

Holding a burlesque show to benefit abused and exploited women is like having a toddler-and-tiara fundraiser for child sex offenders.

BONNIE ROSS

Winnipeg

 

Thank you for revealing rich complexities regarding Eric Robinson's "do-good white people" comment. Of course, Robinson is fundamentally suspicious of charitable actions when he was molested as a child by a priest.

Even so, Robinson has spent his life admirably trying to do good. Having grown up in a white, brown and red household, burlesque-show organizer Pamela Fox represents Canadian multicultural society, which also wishes to effect change for the better.

Doing good is a risk we undertake as we seek to deal with the consequences of the atrocities committed against aboriginal Americans in the name of colonization through which, from 1492, 90 million of 100 million aboriginals perished. Unfortunately, in spite of our best intentions, we are all susceptible to the undermining actions of the human shadow.

Our best protection is dialogue, self-awareness and attempts to become conscious of our failings -- as exemplified by Robinson in his public revelations. Surely, readers should extend understanding, given the cruelties of the residential-school fiasco that impacted Robinson and his family.

MARGARET SHAW-MACKINNON

Winnipeg

 

As a white, female survivor of violence and childhood sexual abuse, I feel compelled to defend Eric Robinson. He has apologized for using "white," so let's take that out of the equation and look at what the real story is.

Clearly, there is a toxic management style at Osborne House. Whatever is going on with the funding and running of the women's shelter, Barbara Judt's manner of engagement on the issue is only harming the cause. As someone who presumably daily interacts with victims and survivors, she should be well trained in a calm, positive communication style and de-escalation-of-crisis thinking.

Instead, she is publicly combative, defensive, righteous and angry. I do not question her dedication or her concern over what may well be legitimate frustrations, but I do question whether she is able to provide mature leadership or engage in constructive discussion.

ZOE DAY

Winnipeg

 

Re: Robinson denies anger driving him (Aug. 28). Dan Lett directs us to "accept a few undeniable realities," then proceeds to state that white people have killed people "by misguided kindness and generosity." Killed? Who? Aboriginals?

Lett is quite wrong. I do not "own" that, and I am not "completely, utterly comfortable with the hypocrisy" that he refers to. Furthermore, I disagree that "Robinson should be proud of his record." His language is shameful.

ANTHONY BROOKES

Winnipeg

 

Eric Robinson made an unfortunate comment. He apologized for it. That should be the end of it.

How many more trees have to die to keep this non-issue alive?

MARTHA OWEN

Pinawa

 

I consider myself one of those "do-good white people" that Eric Robinson disparaged. I remember being at the Peace Village at the Manitoba Legislative Building grounds in 1990 in support of the Mohawks in the crisis centre.

At the time, Phil Fontaine, then-grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, recognized the groups of "white women" who gathered there and became friends with each other and the people in the Peace Village.

We did our best to be supportive and to learn about what was going on. Fontaine recognized us and gave out Peace Village shirts to thank us for being there.

Nahanni Fontaine and Robinson should follow his example. A political agenda to help aboriginal people get jobs and other programs would not be possible without the support of do-good white people. I was hurt by that remark.

RUTH SWAN

Winnipeg

 

If Eric Robinson committed a racist act by referring to Euro-Canadians as "white people" in an email, then all news organizations in North America are committing a racist act whenever they publish photos or print the names of the sports teams Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians.

I now truly understand what Malcolm X meant when he said, "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing."

CRAIG CHARBONNEAU FONTAINE

Sagkeeng First Nation

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 A8

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