The images have flooded our social media, they have bombarded our psyche and if I’m being honest, they have genuinely shook me. It’s not a new topic to have a hashtag of yet another life violently taken at the hands of law enforcement. The images of blatant discrimination and violence against groups of people for merely existing, but what trauma does it cause every time we hear, see and witness these murders? The reoccurring storyline that of the “Black struggle”, that Black Lives Matter, but what is the lasting effect of this narrative? Explore with us.
There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race — scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct and it has benefits. Money can be made off of it, people who don’t like themselves can feel better because of it, it can describe certain kinds of behavior that can [be] wrong or misleading, so it has a social function, racism.Toni Morrison
I originally started this blog post in 2018, but I sat on this because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it, but also because I was unsure about how it would be perceived. The idea or narrative of the “Angry Black Woman” is one that I am highly uncomfortable and also very frustrated with, because of this I chose to remain silent. But in lieu of all the upheaval and ever churning conversations about race relations in the United States and abroad and especially after watching Tyrone Edwards‘ open and raw emotions on CTV’s The Social- I felt for my part- it was also necessary.
Racists exist. We all know they do. And though it has been years since I’ve been face to face with someone spewing racial profanities in my direction, what I come across with far more frequency: is micro racism. When people will comment or say something in regards to your race all the while othering you. It’s 2020 and someone will still ask me where I’m from expecting my reply to be a country on the African continent. They then make it far worse when I reply Canada and dig deeper by asking where my parents/family are from… Back in June of 2019, a very friendly lady approached me at work and we began talking about general things the weather, the ducks along the canal- she then gave me an open invitation to an “African” (her words) church. After telling her that I wasn’t African, she looked at me confused and repeated herself. I smiled and then thought how do I explain to her 1) it’s very ignorant to assume based on the colour of my skin that I am African 2) I have been speaking to her for about 5 mins with a clear North American accent and 3) Urgh. Yet again. I’m faced with the dilemma of having to explain the trajectory of my ethnicity. #urghurghurgh This is literally the internal conversation I have with myself very, very often- but why is it my job to mute myself when it’s clearly not being done the other way around? I can make a blog post solely on interactions I’ve had like this, but that’s for another time.
Imagine the impact of seeing the violence done to bodies which resemble your own? Faces that reflect those of your brothers, uncles and fathers? We read the history books, we know the notable names, the violent acts on Emmett Till, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing or Rodney King and the countless recent names like Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Ahmad Aubrey and George Floyd, but do we often think about the trauma of seeing these images on our community? Think about it…really think about it, how often do you graze the internet and are bombarded with image after image of people not too dissimilar to you who are being targeted, lynched and attacked for merely existing? What is the impact on our psyche? How do we live in the world without being in a constant state of alertness? They ask why did they run? Why didn’t they comply? Why didn’t they follow the rules? The reality is that no matter what you do while Black, you will always be viewed as a threat. No matter where you go while being Black, you will always be seen as lesser than. Think about the number of mothers who have to sit their Black sons down and tell them ways to stay alive when they come face to face with a police officer, think about the number of Black mothers who have to explain to their sons that they do not get the luxury to “make a mistake”, because they will ALWAYS be made an example of. Think of all the people like Amy Cooper, who are fully aware of the power and privilege they possess and the frivolity at which she wielded her privilege without any regard for Christian Cooper’s life. What impact does that have on you? When you know walking into a board room, you will have to be faster, smarter and yet silent. It will take you 3x more to be seen or to get the credibility you deserve. Knowing a simple mistake on your part will damage the work it took to get a seat at the table, whereas your White counterparts will get a slap on the wrist. So when we’re looking at the images of the protesters, the damaged properties and the burning buildings, one thing you must keep firmly in your mind is the fact that existing while Black is a daily never ending trauma. Waking up every morning knowing that you have to fight that much harder to earn your merit, knowing you have to attempt to make yourself appear vulnerable or less “threatening” for their comfort. Knowing that you are walking the streets and entering buildings where the blood of your ancestors were spilled in order for generations of land thieves to thwart their privilege and keep you down. At the end of the day, they are thriving on a system which requires you to comply with its injustice and hierarchy. But when you push and hold people down long enough, eventually they will push back and demand the system not only change, but be dismantled altogether. And I for one am ALL for it.
When people feel invisible long enough, they will lash out at the world to remind them that they exist.Ralph Ellison
As much as I fully feel this an issue for us to fight within our community, I also fully acknowledge that in order for us to dismantle all forms of discrimination, patriarchy and White Supremacy, it requires all of us. It requires White people to educate themselves, support their Black friends, colleagues and community, speak out and up and call out ALL forms of discrimination. They need to use their privilege to stand up and protect the vulnerable, take your phone out and record- take it to the top, use the connections you have. It’s not a fight for solely the Black community, if 1 of us face inequality, we all face inequality. The quote, “we’re all in this together” keeps floating around yet when it comes to racism, this is the one moment where you will be met with silence- suddenly it’s not an issue for the White community. So, this is a call out- do the research, reach out into your community, listen, watch and then watch again from the perspective of someone of colour. See us, respect us, listen to us, because BLACK LIVES MATTER.
How do we encourage dialogue and discourse if we are so quick to attack and label each other, this won’t allow people to look internally and assess their behaviours, their biases and their privilege. They will simply deny your label and then carry on their merry way, thus accomplishing nothing. We need to find ways to not be on the defensive and attempt to use reason and logic in order to show someone their insensitivity or biases. Simply put, run on compassion. Don’t get me wrong, I know it can be a very difficult thing to do when someone is spewing hateful things and in no way am I suggesting we put ourselves in danger in order to “educate” someone, but where the opportunity arises (safely), we should always seek discourse and conversation. Openness and education is the way forward. What are your thoughts on how we can all take collective responsibility?