There are times when we hear something that makes us rethink our entire life’s habits. As example, I was visiting a small town in Alberta shortly after a friend’s wedding, talking to two people from high school that I hadn’t seen in years. I started telling a funny story about a shady pub I went to once, wherein two drunk people were cursing each other out, back and forth, repeating the same two words over and over. Except in the story as I told it that day, they weren’t just drunk people: they were drunk Indians.

One of the people I was talking to turned to his friend and said, “See? I told you! It’s not a drunk person, it’s a drunk Indian. It’s always a drunk Indian.”

It wasn’t at this point in the story that I totally understood his meaning, but when I did, I realized my discrimination. And further to this, it wasn’t even about Indians, or Natives, or whatever label might be applied; it was about unnecessary details and why they are used. The story I was telling wasn’t particularly funny itself; it was the stereotype of the characters involved. These days I consider the relevancy of those extra details.

Today I no longer have black friends or white friends, Jewish friends or Native; I just have friends. And if you ask me to describe them, I’d tell you what you need to know.