I do not want to speak out of turn or say the wrong thing. I do not want to hurt or harm.
But to be silent is to be complicit. I will be silent no more.
Black lives matter. It needs to be repeated until we all agree. This is not about George Floyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, or so many others. This is about the systemic oppression and abuse that Black people have suffered for hundreds of years at the hands of white people.
I am aware of my incredible privilege as a white man. Even if I am not intentionally complicit in this system, I am in it. I did not choose this role, but neither did those the colour of my skin has oppressed. The first step towards reconciliation is acknowledging my part in this system, and listening.
It is also the time to acknowledge the grief of the Black community. It is time to enter into that grief with them. There are so many men, women, and children that have been taken from us. Imagine if it was your brother, father, son, uncle, partner, or daughter.
As a Canadian, I admit I am weary of being told Canada doesn’t have a racism problem. We do. We’re simply polite about it. We are not immune to police brutality, racist police forces, and cold-blooded murder. The racism in this country is insidious, hidden behind closed doors and off-the-record legal settlements. (I live in Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and yet our police force has one of the world’s largest carding programs.) Our police forces disproportionately target Black and Indigenous people. It keeps me up at night.
These protests, and the police-instigated violence and cruelty, have also kept me up at night. The videos I have seen are disturbing, but no longer shocking. In the past ten years, I have seen many real videos of white cops murdering unarmed black men. It is insane to me that I have seen even one.
It is not unreasonable to expect that police officers should uphold the law and protect people, rather than abuse it and kill people. If they are unable to fulfill their basic duties, they should be disbanded. (And once we’re done with that, let’s tackle prison reform.)
Black people built America for free. They are owed much more than equality and justice.
I do not know all the right steps to take. I am listening and learning. I am sure I will make mistakes, though I do not want to. I am aware of the ACLU, and the Equal Justice Initiative. Are there organizations in Canada that need support? I would love to hear about Canadian organizations focused on these issues that I can support. If you have suggestions, send me a message on Twitter.
For now, I am listening. To my Black friends, and to the Black people in my community: I see you. Your life matters.