Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#BlackLivesMatter

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.

She's right.

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. 

Further reading:






6 comments:

Babz Rawls Ivy said...

Thank you. You have given others permission to look at this issue from a place of understanding rather than fear. You spoke beautifully raising your voice with such clarity and truth. I appreciate you feeling this and acting in a way that makes sense but also helps uplift and raise awareness.

Truly, I appreciate you and your gifts and this platform.

rosiecb77 said...

Thank you for writing this today. It needed to be said. Like you, I am also Canadian and a breast cancer survivor. I have 2 black teenage children, a girl and a boy. I worry particularly about my son as he is 6' and 225 lbs. He is also only 15 but his size and colour make him seem dangerous to those who never get to know his gentle nature. The thought of him lying shot dead in the street for over 4 hours brings tears to my eyes. Like Trayvon Martin before him, these boys could be my son. I know as Canadians we think this kind of act could never occur here but racism is alive and well in this country, at least in Vancouver.

I appreciate reading your posts and I hope you don't stop writing them for a long time to come.

rosiecb77 said...

Thank you for writing this today. It needed to be said. Like you, I am also Canadian and a breast cancer survivor. I have 2 black teenage children, a girl and a boy. I worry particularly about my son as he is 6' and 225 lbs. He is also only 15 but his size and colour make him seem dangerous to those who never get to know his gentle nature. The thought of him lying shot dead in the street for over 4 hours brings tears to my eyes. Like Trayvon Martin before him, these boys could be my son. I know as Canadians we think this kind of act could never occur here but racism is alive and well in this country, at least in Vancouver.

I appreciate reading your posts and I hope you don't stop writing them for a long time to come.

Thandi said...

THank you. I once wrote about experiences that I had had in my childhood (on my blog. I was talking about who I am) and a white Christian lady told me to get over it and that it was in the past. Um, why should we ignore our childhood memories just because they make people feel uncomfortable? Thank you for your post. I'm black in South Africa so you can imagine how our very recent past makes this Ferguson thing resonate very deeply. I saw such things in my own neighbourhood. I know the stench of tear gas.

laurie said...

Thandi, Rosie, Babz: Thank you so much. I floored by the power of your words and the generosity of your support. I am moved to tears and determined to keep trying.

Eve Goldberg said...

Thank you for this post Laurie -- it is so important for white people to speak up on this topic, publicly and often.

A suggestion for an organization to support: The Southern Poverty Law Center in the U.S. does great work around civil rights, hate crime, and economic injustice.

http://www.splcenter.org