On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a resident of Minneapolis, was pinned face down on the ground, in handcuffs, by a white police officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd died.
Protests against police brutality are spreading across the U.S and into Canadian cities.
“The protesting and anger you see on TV is a direct response to the systemic failures that have plagued Black communities for decades,” said racial justice organization Color of Change.
Racism is systemic in Canada as well.
“White supremacy and state violence in Canada persists, and coverage of the current COVID-19 health crisis, which is said to impact us all, obscures the specific ongoing crises of black and Indigenous health, safety, and survival,” said Desmond Cole, a Canadian journalist, activist and author of The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power.
Between 2000 and 2017, black people in Toronto made up on average 8.3 per cent of the population, but represented nearly 37 per cent of the victims.
In Winnipeg, Indigenous people represent on average 10.6 per cent of the population, but account for nearly two thirds of victims.
What can white people do?
“First, just listen,” wrote Dahleen Glanton, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. “When black people talk about racism, don’t automatically accuse them of ‘playing the race card.’ That’s merely an attempt to stifle meaningful discussions about race and maintain the status quo.”
Read books written by black people. Listen to podcasts and music. Follow black people on social media. Watch movies made by black people and movies with black characters. Share that content. Make space for those stories.
And take action.
Hold your friends and family accountable. Talk about racism. Call out those lightly racist comments.
Educate yourself and pay educators. Anti-racism education is work. Look for the answers yourself.
Demand changes to discriminatory laws, policies, systems and organizations.
Vote for politicians who are anti-racist.
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist,” said Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want To Talk About Race. “Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And that’s the only way forward.”
And, don’t tell black people how to feel, protest or mourn.
“This is not your movement and it’s not your place to ridicule black people and other POC for the ways they may or may not express their struggle,” said Nina Berry-Lofthouse, in an article on 14850 Magazine, based in Ithica, New York. “Use your privilege. Uplift black voices. Follow the actions and guidance of black protest leaders if you make the choice to protest.”
A writer for the LA Times, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar said, “I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.”
Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter said “You cannot tell people to ‘go home’ when you haven’t addressed the reason they are on the streets to begin with.”
We need to stand together.
“It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out,” said Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States. “It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”