I have harboured a lot of anxiety and stress witnessing what’s been happening in this world lately, and the events of the last couple of weeks have only amplified that. I struggle with finding the words to express just how I feel and struggle so endlessly with all of the things that need to be addressed. I know I only have a semblance of a platform, but it doesn’t feel right to not say anything. It may not be the right thing, or I may leave things out, and I know that. Saying something is better than saying nothing at all, so long as you don’t spread misinformation, and even though you may not be able to articulate everything eloquently, or can’t address every injustice, you can still make an impact.
I cannot, and have never, been able to wrap my head around why racism exists. I grew up being taught that people were people, and it’s our job to love, to help, and to uplift. I was taught that each person was valuable and equal and not only are we supposed to treat others with love and respect, but we are also supposed to stand up for others when they’re being wronged.
The first time I remember learning that racism was a thing was in high school. Sure, I was taught about slavery before then, I’m sure, but not sufficiently. I remember being in a literature class and reading To Kill A Mockingbird. We essentially read the book as a class, and would discuss the book in segments. If you haven’t read it, a very, VERY basic synopsis is that it discusses racism through the lens of a Black man being wrongfully accused of a crime, and him being represented by a white lawyer, in a time where systemic racism was rampant. I remember thinking – this is just a book. This stuff doesn’t happen. There’s no way. However, my teacher, who happened to be a white woman from South Africa, shared her personal experiences with racism and things she had witnessed that made me realize – this does happen. It’s not just a part of our history. People of colour actually get treated lesser than. People of colour are targets of ignorance, violence, lack of opportunity, targeted crime, insufficient judicial protection, and – as we’ve learned this week with George Floyd – murder. Just downright murder. For the colour of their skin. For trying to pay for something at a grocery store. For walking down the street. For doing things that you and I can do without a second thought. On an unprecedented level. Still. In 2020. With all of the progress we’ve made. With all the lessons history has taught us.
One of my random and recurring thoughts: why is it that Kaitlin Bennett can walk into her graduation with a weapon proudly displayed on her back and build a career out of it? Someone who proudly speaks hateful language and constantly threatens people with the fact that she’s armed when they simply don’t agree with her half-assed attempts to appear like she knows things – and she gets to be on YouTube. But George Floyd can’t use a $20 bill without having the cops called on him, and have a cop choke him to death with his knee despite pleading that not only is he innocent of a fairly innocuous and non-violent crime, but that he cannot breathe. Why did he have to die because of this? All while the police officer Derek Chauvin just continues, while being filmed, to purposefully kill him. There’s video evidence of this murder – horrific, heartbreaking evidence- of him being killed, and yet a coroner (who needs to lose their job because CLEARLY they’re incompetent) can attempt to explain away the death as if pre-existing medical conditions caused the death? Sure, maybe he had pre-existing conditions, but it’s plain as day that he was killed. This should be a cut and dry case. Having video evidence of a crime is like a prosecutor’s dream. He’s not the first to die an unjust death. But this has lit a fire under the collectives’ ass, that’s for sure. I could be wrong, but having video evidence of an entire act of unjust and cruel homicide, I think, finally helped the world see that this is a problem that has existed and does exist for a long time. Too many innocent Black people are being murdered, and it needs to stop.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the case of George Floyd pans out in the media and in the judicial system. There is a lot of opportunity and potential for this case to be one that breaks ground; one that sees an overhaul in police training, stronger psychological and background checks for police officers to try and detect any pre-existing prejudice, protocol that allows other officers to hold their colleagues accountable for corruption without fear of reprisal, a zero-tolerance policy within the judicial system that doesn’t allow police officers to take what’s essentially paid vacation when they’re involved in a race-fuelled murder, and harsher consequences for police officers who use their power and authority to target the Black community in every way. This is not an exhaustive list of the change that needs to happen. This case could also lead to more American citizens to contact their government, speak up for the change they want to see, and use their voting power to ensure that the people placed in government positions are not racist, do not promote race-based violence, or who support freedom-based rights as a whole, and not only when it serves them. This case could finally be the thing to wake up the part of America that voted Donald Trump into office, to see that none of the potentially positive policies he may have rallied for matter anymore. He is racist, he is ignorant, he is not an intelligent person, and he needs to no longer be president. He has openly and proudly advocated for violence against the Black Lives Matter movement. He has shown his true colors by standing up for protestors who want to get haircuts during COVID-19, and reacting with histrionically supremacist-fuelled statements that have been well-documented to be such to those who are protesting the systematic oppression of the Black community. Let’s see more people than ever register to vote, and educate themselves before they vote, because the right to vote is one that was fought for so heavily for so many people, and it’s one of the most powerful things we can do.
This is part of what I hope for. I do have a sick feeling that things won’t all fall into line like this. I’m sure Derek will hire attorneys that will fight for the least harsh punishment possible, bastardizing the legal system to delay the process as much as possible, and use the publicity of this case to decree that there’s no possible way he will ever get a fair trial. It wouldn’t be the first time an officer or a racist murderer got off easy, and we can already see evidence that the judicial system is being skewed in his favour. This is one of the several reasons we as a society have to continue to speak up, to protest, and to cry out and challenge the judicial systems in place right now. I am so damn hopeful this doesn’t happen, but we need to be prepared, and we need to stay informed. Sign the petitions and research the laws not only in the United States, but in your own communities.
I think that my generation, and the generations below me, will be an instrumental part in seeing a lot of this much-needed change come to fruition. As we begin to come into positions of power and influence, we are not afraid to stand up for what is right. We are not afraid to use our voices and action for good. We may be generations raised by some of the ideals of the past, but we know how to educate ourselves to unlearn those behaviours and thoughts, and shift attitudes. While I don’t like to generalize generations, and there is good and bad in all, and again, my experience was that I wasn’t raised in a racist household, I think there’s a lot of evidence to support that many of the people in power right now are from generations before us and hold a lot of these toxic ideals that are destroying our world, and are oppressing the Black community.
My final message for this particular post is to those who are racist, who are against the current protests happening right now, who think they aren’t racist but have preconceived notions of the Black community, have been raised in racist households, or who occasionally make racist jokes or remarks with or without malice. There are no more excuses for your behaviour. It’s time to grow the F up. It’s time to educate yourself. It’s time to imagine how it would feel to live a life where you constantly feel like your freedom, or even your life, is in danger for driving to work, going shopping, walking down the street, or leaving your home for any reason, or even just being in your home. Unlearn what you have been taught. Don’t use your upbringing or your environment as an excuse to be ignorant. Don’t allow others in your circle to get away with it either. Don’t even dare try to take the focus off of the Black community because “all lives matter” or because others are discriminated against too. If you don’t have anything of value to contribute to the conversation, or are just looking to incite a reaction out of people who are using their voice in a positive way, kindly shut up. Walk away from your phone or computer, look in the mirror, and consider why you are so insecure and bored in your life and consider other ways you can use your time.
I do have more to say. I would like to share more information about ways to donate and contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the protestors, and to organizations who have been and continue to lead the charge of eliminating the systematic oppression of Black People everywhere. I would also like to share information and facts to try and help others visualize just how persistent this problem of oppression and injustice towards the Black community is. It will take some time, so please be patient. The conversation isn’t over.