LETTER – The fight against racism begins from within

Dear editor,

It’s not enough to be “not a racist.” We need to do more.

Anyone watching the news out of the United States for the past week knows that history is repeating itself in increasingly smaller cycles. On May 25, for what feels like the thousandth time this decade, a black man was murdered by a white police officer. His name was George Floyd. He was not resisting arrest (not that resisting arrest justifies murder) when a police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. He begged for his life with his last breaths. “I’m about to die… they’re gonna kill me,” he said, as he called out for his mom. The officer continued to grind his knee into George’s windpipe, compressing flesh against muscle against bone.

This letter is not about the litany of crimes that have been committed against Black Americans. There’s not enough ink in the world. It’s about us: our empathy, our complacency… and even our participation. Many of us “tsk” when we hear that another innocent black life has been taken, but we need to be brutally honest with ourselves and the conditioning that has brought us here: was there a voice wondering if maybe he’d been “aggressive?’ Wondering if maybe he had a weapon? And would that same voice have been as loud if, say, a black officer kneed on a white man’s neck for nine minutes? What about a white woman’s?

It’s tempting to pin this on the United States and its legacy of slavery, the KKK, and segregation. We’re better in Canada, we think. At least in British Columbia, at least on our little Island. But let’s take a chance to consider what remnants of colonialism have yet to be cleared from the dusty corners of our own minds – especially when it comes to Indigenous populations in Canada, but also when it comes to anyone who looks different. When the coronavirus hit, were you one of the people in the Valley who glared angrily at people of Asian descent? Do you look the other way, or change the subject, when you hear generalizations made along racial lines? Do you have a family member who uses the “n” word, but only as a joke?

What jokes do you tell?

Oftentimes racism, in its most blatant, violent forms, is easy to identify. But it lurks among us in many other forms. That’s why it’s not enough to share memes to express your sadness and solidarity with communities of racialized minorities. To be truly anti-racist, we must first take an honest look at our own internal biases, and our own internal racism. As the American writer Ijeoma Oluo says, “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And that’s the only way forward.”

Let’s find a way forward, inside ourselves and on our little Island.

Alexandra Clarke, Kate Fish, Danika McDowell, Catherine Thompson, Karen McKinnon, Danielle Boileau

Comox Valley

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