It's Time To Speak Up

I’ve been trying to sort out why I was so affected by this story and the honest and candid telling of it by Canadian journalist, Sunny Dhillon. When it came across my feed, something compelled me to read it. I wasn’t previously familiar with Sunny’s work, but as I made my way through his words I felt something loosening inside of me. I think the issues he addresses have been whispering at me for a long while, asking me to step out from behind the role I am most known for in this space. Stories of my present life have been safe stories to tell, and I am glad to tell them. But as my children inch closer to adulthood, the whispers are getting more persistent. “What are you doing about the other stories you can tell?”

On which issues do you weigh in? On which issues do you not? What do you pretend you didn’t see or hear? When that isn’t possible to what do you cowardly chuckle along?

The world has gotten uglier in recent years — I wasn’t exactly thrilled with how we were doing on race before that — and for me it has become more difficult to let things slide.

~ Sunny Dhillon


I have been discriminated against. I have chuckled along politely. I have been ashamed of my ethnicity, and I’ve made good-natured fun of it, too. But I have finally come to a place of deep love and respect for my culture—especially after becoming a mother and realizing how much it mattered to me that my children knew who they come from. As they try to find their own places in society, I’ve become more intolerant and outspoken about prejudice against any marginalized people. They need me to be that role model for them. There’s no way to shield them from the ugliness, and we welcome them to ask questions. I don’t want to raise them in a way that quiets their compassion or robs them of their power to bring much-needed change.

We have reached a crucial time of reckoning, when voices of the other need to be louder than ever. Being biracial, and especially carrying my father’s last name, means I have to take a hard look at the ways I have aligned with my white identity—which I also love and deeply respect—to protect and/or makes things easier through my life. It’s time for the harder experiences I’ve had as an other to make themselves known, too.

The world feels like it’s burning in all the wrong places. I was deeply affected by Sunny Dhillon’s story, because it made me feel like he was lighting my fire and asking me to turn and light the fire of the person next to me. His actions reminded me that it starts with me and continues with you.

Here are some more pieces that really resonated with me this year:

“What is White Privilege, Really?”

“Why I’m Not Racist Is Only Half the Story”

“Nanette is the Most Discussed Comedy Special in Ages. Here’s What to Read About It”

It’s time to teach ourselves, look at closely at the issues, and speak up for others.

The Right Words


Because it's January, I have once again succumbed to the pressure to purge and get organized—though neither of those activities can be listed as a strength of mine.

And because going through the more mundane objects like outgrown clothes and unused kitchen gadgets does nothing to help me stay motivated, I always end up breaking ALL the KonMari rules and going straight for the bins of sentimental stuff.

Letters, cards, loose photographs. All of the treasures that remind me of days past. I devour them and get lost in the nostalgia of remembering myself the way I used to be.

Last week, I made some real progress and uncovered a long-neglected box of some of my school papers and projects. I did a lot of school, I wrote a lot of papers. It was fascinating to look inside and find the pages I must have decided were worth keeping. There are projects from grade school, book reports from high school, research papers from my undergraduate years, as well as the very last academic paper I wrote (for a course in Investigative Journalism). And the theme that ties all of them together is found in the written comments, made by the reader and grader of those papers. 

You have a gift for words.
You are a wonderful storyteller.
Louise, I don't know what your career plans are, but I really hope you find yourself working in print journalism. 

What are we supposed to feel when we read words like these about ourselves? I was almost blushing as I let the pleasure of seeing those comments written about my work wash over me. I felt like I should look away embarrassed. I probably knew I'd feel that way when I came upon them again; that's why I kept them. 

I don't know how much my teachers and professors thought about the weight of those words. Surely, they wrote many over the years and had little time to dwell on their impact. But their weight has indeed stayed with me. 

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Two months ago, I was invited to be a guest speaker in my cousin's grade five classroom. She is a dedicated and awe-inspiring teacher who has been teaching in an inner-city school for over two decades. She was one of my first teachers (running a mock school in her parents' basement for all her younger cousins every summer) and makes such a difference in the lives of the many children who rely on her comments to lift them up. 

She wanted me to come in and talk to her class about what it was like to study journalism and pursue work in the field. She hoped my visit would open the students' eyes to less mainstream career ideas. And like most teachers, she never shies away from an opportunity to emphasize the importance of communication.

I was terrified, to be honest. 

I'm the parent of a grade four and grade six kid. I know it's a tough crowd. I worried about holding the attention of a room full of kids whose families likely consider a newspaper or magazine subscription a luxury beyond their means. I brought print clippings and books to which I've contributed anyway. And I structured my lesson plan around my more recent publications on the Internet, hoping it would be something they could relate to.

I was on the right track. Before I had a chance to launch into my talk, some of the students offered up my social media statistics for the rest of the class. And though I consider myself a very small fish in a very big ocean, my numbers were deemed high enough to lend me some street cred.

But it was the moment I asked them to raise their hands if they were storytellers that our song and dance really began. I watched them look at one another and at their teacher, unsure of what I meant. I waited only a moment before pointing at each of them and saying, "You and you and you and you, too." 

And I watched their faces light up with understanding. 

They raised their hands enthusiastically, videotaped me, and asked really savvy questions. They all watched me carefully and listened well. The only groan came when I told them I was leaving them with a story assignment. 

The envelope filled with those stories arrived over the holiday break, and I've been regarding it like an unopened Christmas gift since. I know it's more than a completed assignment for some of the kids. I wondered how many of them imagined themselves a storyteller while working on it, and I knew I might see something special in those ordinary stories. 

I opened the envelope today and began the work of reading their words and writing my comments. What do I want them to feel when they read my comments about their words? I hope I can help them blush with pride, too. And whether or not they keep this story in a box for safekeeping, I would be glad if the weight of my words stays with them for a long time to come.