Photo of Black Panthers at a rally in DeFremery Park in Oakland, California (1966)
Horrified, scared, emotional, and overwhelmed all at the same time. Recognize those who are overwhelmed by the constant influx of images and news upon their screens, grieving for those they have never known, consciously and daily aware of the structures that have brought about these crimes. The structures in power that make you daily aware of your identity. Grateful for the awakening, grateful for the self-reflection and cries for justice and action amongst those who have not engaged before in this time old struggle. Yet also tired and emotionally exhausted for what it does to your soul and being. Become allies, become informed. Donate your time and money to the right causes. Respect and support those who are protesting, and respect and support those who are fighting more quietly beneath the battle lines.
This is what I posted to social media earlier this week in light of the Black Lives Matter protests and social media solidarity and allyship posts. In the past week it feels as if the world has imploded... more than it already has this year. I feel overwhelmed. I see the pressure to show support on social media, but I feel that a lack of acknowledgement has been made for how this constant influx of information and media pouring out about this brutality on social media can affect some people of colour, like myself. I felt I had to make a post and statement, but also felt worried about making myself vulnerable to judgement for how my words would be perceived. Of course, posting to social media is not enough. Writing this post is not enough. Starting and adding to the dialogue is only the beginning, and this is not the beginning of this movement. It is the movement to a struggle that has persisted since the arrival of colonizers centuries ago.
I am an Indigenous woman. I am also an African Canadian woman. My family are the descendants of African slaves who were brought to the United States during the Slave Trade and much of my family still lives across the United States. I am proud of my heritage and of my history and how it shapes the woman I am.
The crisis that is occurring across the United States is not solely unique to them. I have always grown up being consciously aware of my identity as a person of colour living in predominately white urban areas in Canada. Racism and the feeling of being 'other' are just actualities of my life. I am perceived by the world by the colour of my skin and it is a constant thought that crosses my mind when I go to job interviews, on first dates, raise my hand in classes, post on social media, enter a store, and walk down the street. As a single coloured female, I go for runs in the middle of the day and yet, I often take glances over my shoulder. I never walk alone at night, even if it is only a block or two. I am self-conscious of feeling eyes on me in public places. These are not fears or worries that I want to have, yet they are simply part of my subconscious in this world we live in. This is not just an American problem.
Police brutality and the condition of Black lives in America and Canada is not a new phenomena, it the result of systemic racism and structural violence dating back centuries; these incidents and crimes have become a normality in our lives. These protests are not a new phenomena, the difference is that at last it seems that the majorities of society are slowly waking up and realizing what we have been saying for far too long: enough is enough.
It is amazing to see this level of action occurring, yet it also makes me fearful. I think of my family and pray that they are safe. I want to engage in protests, and even though I know I live in an area where violence is not likely to happen, I still I fear for my own safety. I am tired. I am tired of having to engage in the topic of racism and how it has and does affect my life. I do not need to be constantly reminded of my condition as a woman of colour, or those of the people I love. I do not need to see more footage of Black lives needlessly lost... it hurts my soul.
I am grateful for the awareness that is occurring across social platforms and for the action that is occurring across the continent. I am grateful for those who are willing to put their lives on the front lines of this movement during this time. I am grateful for the engagement and will always be willing to engage in this important dialogue. I am grateful for those donating to the organizations supporting these movements (and have always worked to support these causes), and have donated myself.
So recognize and engage in the movement. Engage in the right conversations. Become informed and educate yourself if you have not already. Embrace the feelings of discomfort. Support those whose voices have been silenced. For those who can, stand in protest. For those who can't, donate your time and money to the right causes.
There are many organizations out there fighting for Black lives and these human rights causes, these are just a few:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
George Floyd Memorial Fund
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter Toronto
NAACP Legal Defense Fund