As I write this post, I question whether I’ll publish it or not.
It’s an internal struggle—I wonder if the words will come off as self-serving, and as a white man with white privilege, I wonder if my opinion really matters. But remaining silent in the fight against racism puts me on the wrong side of the line.
I’ll be idle no longer. Nor should you.
We’ve all been exposed to racism in some form or another. Maybe it was an innocent joke made by a friend or a snide comment from a colleague or customer.
Horrific acts of violence against people of colour—predominately those who are black—are written in blood throughout history. The past is fraught with examples of injustice for minorities—wrongful accusation, police brutality, slavery, and genocide for instance.
Racism is found all around the globe:
- the violent symptoms appear clearly to the south;
- its ugliness is visible across the sea; and
- its stain is spotted right here on home soil
Don’t let yourself be fooled. inequality runs as deep in Canada as it does in the U.S.
Maybe we’re more welcoming to black people. Maybe. But indigenous people have suffered at the hands of Canadians and the Canadian government for decades. Not to mention our European descendants raped, pillaged, and stole the ‘free’ land.
We’ve become comfortable with racism and desensitized to its hatred. So much so, it’s woven into the very fabric of our culture and holds power in the highest seats.
And on May 25, 2020, the world witnessed the murder of another black man by the knee of a police officer.
By now, you should know exactly who that man is; videos of the atrocious act were captured on camera and have spread online faster than the Coronavirus.
But in case you’re not paying attention, his name is George Floyd and he was 46-years-old.
Who was George Floyd?
As a black man in the United States of America, George’s story has a stereotypical narrative.
He was born in North Carolina but spent a good portion of his life in Houston, Texas. He didn’t finish high school, and he found himself tumbling down a dark road as a young man—in 2007, he was charged with armed robbery and later sentenced to five years in prison .
I won’t pretend to know the inner details of his life, but I’d wager the cards weren’t in his favour from the beginning. This isn’t George’s fault; like so many others, the system had failed him.
A fractured system produces fractured results.
Here’s the other side of the story.
“Big Floyd” as George was known by friends and family, was a father, and those who knew him said he had a quiet personality and a peaceful spirit. To this point, George had a second nickname: “Gentle Giant.”
His sister claimed he would “give you the shirt off his back,” and after his release from prison, he tried to turn his life around.
He moved to Minneapolis to find new opportunities and ended up with two jobs and a caring girlfriend. According the Star Tribune, regulars to the Conga Latin Bistro where he worked said he “loved his hugs,” and that he was happiest when everybody was having a good time.
George spoke out against gun violence, admitting his faults and warning younger generations of that path’s inevitable end.
And despite being unarmed, he was detained with excessive force for allegedly using a phony $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
He died later in the hospital with cause of death being asphyxiation.
The privilege of being a white man
Recently, I’ve questioned my own white privilege.
I’d like to think I am an accepting person regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. But I can’t deny having made inappropriate jokes in the past.
At the time, it seemed so harmless; the words held no malice, and they were always shared behind closed doors amongst close friends—some of which were black and brown, and they made their jokes in return.
White devil, white devil!
Now, however, I look back and see it for what it was. It was the culture of racism spreading its infection without us noticing.
But that’s not exactly white privilege.
White privilege is not being afraid of missing an opportunity because of the colour of your skin; it’s not worrying the police will give you more than just a speeding ticket; and it’s walking around your neighbourhood at night without drawing suspicion.
White privilege is writing these words without fear of losing a job or being ostracized and terrorized.
I am privileged because of the colour of my skin. And for being a male—sexism and women’s rights is a different discussion, but it parallels racism in its own way.
Don’t get me wrong, not all white people are racist—even those with white privilege—just like not all black people are criminals and not all police officers are corrupt.
But it’s hard to ignore the fact that I’ve been given an automatic leg up all because of biology.
With great power comes great responsibility.
We’ve been given a seat at the table, and it’s our duty to use that influence to promote equality for all. Remember, if you aren’t against the oppressor, you are the oppressor.
Discrimination is black and white—there is no grey
It’s time we get uncomfortable with racism—no more turning a blind eye or a deaf ear.
It’s time we saw it what it is: a festering wound on the face of mankind.
Together, we can build a better way forward.
But to do so, a deconstruction of our culture is required to remove the rotted foundation.
The issue must be addressed from the top down—politicians, community leaders, and those with influence must step up and address the injustice head on.
Those with authority can remove the obstacles on the road to equality. They have the means to elevate the status of black people or any other race; they have the power to erase the line between minority and majority.
We’re all humans in the end. No one is better than the other
Yes, it’s easier said than done. There’s no doubting how hard shifting culture is—regardless of colour, there is true evil in the hearts of some men and women. And they’ll stop at nothing to resist change, especially if it removes their control over others.
But it’s time to rock the fucking boat.
As my mom used to say, “Sometimes you have to upset the apple cart.”
“How can I make a difference?”
I’ve pondered this question numerous times since George Floyd’s murder.
I’m not an influencer, nor am I politician or lobbyist. I don’t hold a position of power, and I’m not a member of a large media company.
I’m just a Regular Joe.
Protests are sweeping across the continent creating waves with both positive and negative impacts.
I support the message, the movement, and the momentum the rallies are creating. But the riots, the destruction, and the violence break my heart.
So, let’s not forget about the instigators and conspirators at the core of the devastation.
They’re the resistors of change; they’re the oppressors who thirst for control and expect submission. They’re driven by greed and care for nothing but themselves.
Make no mistake, freedom isn’t given freely. Those in power see change as a threat and they’ll do everything they can to turn us against each other.
Don’t allow them to steer you away from the truth—our weakness is segregation.
- Remain steadfast in the fight against discrimination—hold others accountable for their judgements and actions
- Think for yourself and do your own research—don’t rely on social media for accurate information
- Look for opportunities to educate or be educated—open your eyes and broaden your worldview
- Use your voice—speak out against police brutality and the inhuman treatment of black people
As bleak as things are, part of me remains optimistic about the future.
We are at a tipping point in history.
The opportunity to see real change in North America—a moment when equality becomes a reality—is within sight.
But we must keep pushing forward and exercising empathy and patience. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and we have a long way to go.
Stay woke and do your part.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. If you’re uncomfortable joining a rally during a global health crisis, or you’re concerned for your safety due to the riots, that’s okay.
Change makers and disruptors of culture light their fires in other ways as well.
Consider micro activism—if we all challenge the status quo in our own small ways, the shift to acceptance grows exponentially.
This means calling out your racist uncle, inspiring your friends to think differently, and looking yourself in the mirror and accepting past faults. It’s cutting ties with toxic people, reorienting your perspective, and removing negativity from your mind.
And it means supporting black-owned businesses, uplifting black community members, and amplifying black voices.
Micro activism means committing to making the world a better place one day and one interaction at a time.
What role do you choose to play?
I can’t deny anxiety over COVID-19 lingers inside like pent-up unease. This is partly the reason for not attending the rallies here in Kingston, Ontario. My other excuse: the protests took place while I was working…
That doesn’t mean I don’t care, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean I tolerate racism.
For my part, I chose writing as my weapon—the pen is mightier than the sword.
I can share the stories I read, tell the tales I hear, and help educate on why we need to shift our culture and accept others for who they are.
If you are somebody who needs help sharing your story, or you’re afraid of what might happen if you do, let me be your platform.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and together we’ll get your message out there. You’ll remain completely anonymous while still having your voice heard.
So, this is for George Floyd and the countless other victims of racism, past and present.
Your breath is within us. Your voice is our voice. Your fight is our fight.
Together, we’ll achieve equality and justice for all.
Black Lives Matter!