“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” — Elie Wiesel
Today, I’m keeping this short because, honestly, I’m at a loss. So much pain and sorrow. So many people standing with their hands up and peacefully saying no more. They’re asking for the right to live, to breathe and they’re being beaten for it. How is a breath of air too much to ask for? They shouldn’t have to ask. I don’t have to ask! Why do they? It makes no sense. I don’t understand any of this.
I don’t have the words.
I’m at a complete loss.
I was born in a country ruled by apartheid. Race and inequality were staples of daily living. Living there, seeing the violence and the segregation, I was well aware of the privileges I add. It was blatantly obvious, and it was flaunted, by many, with violent glee. The pain. The fear. I’ll never forget.
Then we immigrated to Canada and those inequalities were hidden. I thought it was over. I thought I was living in a different world. I was young and naive.
Turns out, the machine works hard here too but the engines are a lot quieter. Its disguise is pretty damn convincing or maybe I just wanted to believe that things were different. Either way, I’ve lived inside of a system that’s designed for my convenience and success. I ignorantly, and sometimes arrogantly, believed that systemic racism wasn’t in this country. I happily believed, so I never thought twice about the life I was living. I never noticed the privileges afforded to me because of the colour of my skin.
Ignorance is bliss until you learn the truth.
The truth is a powerful punch to the side of the head and my head’s still spinning. It’s been many, many, years since my eyes were opened by very kind, very wise, people who took me aside and shared their stories. They owed me nothing. The didn’t have to teach me but I’m grateful for their compassion and grace. They opened my eyes and for the first time I saw what they went through and I’m…I have no words. Plenty of tears, anger, and confusion.
But the words? I don’t know what to say.
As a general rule, when I don’t know what to say, I try not to say very much. In this case, I think that it’s best to listen to the voices that have been silenced for way too long. Not just listen! Hear them. See them. Respect the courage it takes to speak truth to people who are afraid to listen. Thank them because I’ll say it again, they owe us nothing.
But if I stay silent for too long, then what? I would call myself anti-racist but if I stay silent then I empower the oppressors. If I stay silent, I become the thing I despise. That’s not something I can live with, so I’m taking a deep breath, and with all my strength, I say: BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Please don’t come at me with all lives matter because if they did another black man, George Floyd, wouldn’t have lost his life. If all lives mattered then a black woman, Breonna Taylor, wouldn’t have been shot to death in her own bed. Ahmaud Arbery wouldn’t have been killed while exercising if all lives mattered. There are so many more. How many black and indigenous lives have been taken? Stolen. Silenced. How many names have been lost to history?
They didn’t commit a crime and even if they did; I doubt I would’ve been treated the same way in their position. That’s privilege. The colour of my skin would’ve, I’m sure it already has, saved my life. Again, that’s privilege and we can’t have equality with that imbalance in place. We can’t claim to be a just society until we have equality for everyone.
I know it’s uncomfortable, no one wants to believe they’re on the wrong side of decency, but being uncomfortable isn’t fatal. Being silent is! People are dying. People are suffering. People with dreams, hopes, aspirations, and loves are losing their lives. That should make us all very uncomfortable. It should make us all very angry. It should, but we’re so focused on what we’ll lose if this system, the one built for our comfort, is dismantled.
The thought of losing that power and privilege is worse than the lives being lost? Really? That makes no sense! I’d rather lose my privilege than watch someone lose their life because that life is precious. That life is needed. That life deserves the chance to shine bright.
Something has to change, but I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know what to do. I’m not the strongest, my voice isn’t the loudest, but I’ll help in any way you need. For whatever it’s worth, please know that I am listening and I’m learning. I see you. I’m here for you. I have your back. I am an ally and a friend.
Now I’m going to step back, shut up, and let you speak. It’s your voice the world needs to hear.Now more than ever:
- Why I’m No longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Natives by Akala