Updated: Jun 25
I’ve been watching what’s happening in the US. It’s been a few days of feeling angry, outraged, helpless, sad, and many other emotions. Every time I feel that way, I have to remind myself this isn’t about me. This isn’t about how terrible I feel. If I feel bad when I see ongoing injustices that black people are being subjected to in the US and all over the world, how must it feel to be at the receiving end of those injustices?
Today, with a broken heart, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry to the man I work with whose ancestors come from Africa; I am sorry to the woman who lives next door, who identifies as ‘African-American-Canadian.’ I am sorry I haven’t said anything in the past few day; I didn’t know what to say.
I am ashamed for the world we’re in, and I’m ashamed that we, as a society, have failed you, our black community. It’s not like any of this is new, it’s just that everything that has existed for centuries is surfacing now. It must be so hard to re-live it, see it, live with it every single day of your life, and to have experienced it for generations. It must be exhausting.
While in a conversation with a friend today, she confided in me some of her most vulnerable moments. This 40-something woman, crying, narrated the experience of being questioned by her daughter. ‘Mom, why after 400 years, do we still have to endure this?’ She said, ‘Daughter, save those tears, be strong. We have to live this reality for many more years and decades to come.’ Imagine comforting your scared child with words like ‘stay strong because you have to experience this injustice for the rest of your life!’ How defeated and hopeless this otherwise strong and fierce woman must have been to say that to her daughter? Can you begin to imagine the pain, the trauma this woman carries?
Don’t you dare tell me ‘but this isn’t the case for Canada’ or ‘it’s worse in the US’. As Canadians, we may not be out and about shooting black men on the streets or shoving one’s knee into their throat until they can’t breathe. There are human beings in Canada who experience a similar fear of the uniform. Do you need me to remind you of the numerous indigenous boys who are targeted by the local police for seeming ‘suspicious’? Do you need me to remind you of the systemic injustices that indigenous people have endured and suffered for generations? The countless indigenous women who disappeared into thin air, never to return? The fears that a black mother has for her child’s safety in the US, are no different from the ones of an indigenous, or a black mother in Canada. These parents have good reason to be fearful, and angry.
The racism in Canada, at its surface, may seem a little different from the one in the US, but don’t fool yourself into believing it doesn’t exist. It’s not a matter of pride to be comparing and finding comfort in ‘it being better here.’ And it’s not just racism against indigenous peoples, racism very much exists for all people of colour (POC) - black or brown, or people of Asian heritage.
If, even for a minute, your heart feels the pain when you see a black person, an indigenous person, or a POC being targeted and treated unfairly, or worse yet, being silenced to death, will you stand up and speak up? Can you educate yourself, to learn and listen more? Can you recognize and work on your unconscious bias? Can you be a better friend, a more just member of society? Can you commit to be an ally? Can you take a pledge to #BreakTheSilence?
Sanchit, a horrified brown settler in Canada