I don't write in this space very often these days and I don't know how many people still read my words. I'm not sure if I've done a good job of expressing myself. My friend made me realize last night that I have a responsibility to use the platform I have, to say something to anyone who might be willing to listen.
Yesterday evening, I sat down at the computer to check Twitter, as a stalling tactic before cleaning the kitchen. It was well past midnight when I stood up again.
I was reminded as soon as I logged in that the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri - about whether or not to indict the police officer who killed a young unarmed black man - was due to come down shortly. In the end, it took a couple of hours for the announcement to be made. Though most people commenting in my Twitter feed were not surprised by the outcome (the delay in announcing had made many suspect that the result was a foregone conclusion), they were outraged. This was exacerbated by the terrible way in which the grand jury handled the release of the verdict: at night, with many hours of anticipation during which the world saw heavily armed soldiers and military tanks line the streets of the town. The lengthy speech made by the prosecutor seemed designed to fan the flames, as he first blamed social media and then further trashed the reputation of a young man who is no longer alive to defend himself.
Last night, I didn't comment much, choosing instead to share the words of others, mostly black women and men directly affected by this decision and overt and systemic racism. I felt it was my place to listen and to share their words. You can read all the Tweets I chose to share on my Twitter feed. There was so much more and I could not look away.
Eventually, though I had to go to bed. One of the last things I saw were the words of a black friend, saying that it's not enough for those of us with loads of white privilege to express solidarity. We need to do more.
We need to do more because of what happened in Ferguson.
We need to do more because a 12 yearold black boy with a toy gun was shot by police officers in a neighbourhood park.
We need to do more because there are so many more stories like those I've just mentioned that don't even make the news.
We need to do more because racism is alive and well at home and around the world. And yes, that applies to those of us in Canada, too.
I'm still figuring out what “doing more” means for me. Here, to begin, are my own personal guidelines for dealing with racism in my world. I don't always succeed in adhering to them but I'm working on it:
Speak up when I see racism in my own community, city, country. Every time, even when it makes those around me uncomfortable.
Talk to my kids about what happened in Ferguson and about racism. Often. And not just when it results in someone's death.
Listen when others share their experiences. Ask how I can be supportive. Follow through.
Never be defensive or fearful when others raise the subject of race. Accept that when a person of colour says, “racism exists here”, “that is racist” or even “what you did was racist”, they are stating a fact that hopefully can be fixed and not saying that I'm an irredeemably horrible person.
I'm sure there's more. Like I said, I'm still figuring it out.
Every year, the adults on my spouse's side of the family make donations in each others' names instead of giving Christmas presents. In past years, we've donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, EGALE, the Canadian Breast Cancer Network, the Ottawa Hospital Foundation and the Ottawa Food Bank. This year, I'd like to propose that my family direct our donations to those working to bring an end to racist inequality and injustice. I'd suggest that those of you who can, consider doing the same.
And if you have advice, as to where donations should be focused, please share.
THE NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION RESPONDS TO THE GRAND JURY’S DECISION NOT TO INDICT POLICE OFFICER DARREN WILSON IN THE SHOOTING DEATH OF MICHAEL BROWN