I’ve been thinking a lot about a simple phrase – “these people”.
It comes up often in discussion about the DTES. Often it’s pejorative, othering – but it’s also frequently said in solidarity. My personal north star in how I understand the complexity of the DTES, Gabor Mate, often mentions “these people” – “these people need compassion. These people are suffering”.
And I wonder how differently we would feel about the DTES and other communities that present us with social challenges, if we changed the pronoun to be possessive.
How different is it to appeal to you about the plight of “these people”, than it is to appeal about the plight of “our people”? Our people need compassion. Our people are suffering.
And I know there’s politics around claiming a people who aren’t your own. But aren’t they ours? Aren’t we also theirs? Isn’t it our people, not just these people?