I am a black woman in pain.
Racism is a virus that black people have been dealing with long before the coronavirus became a pandemic. From birth, our skin color determines how the world will see and treat us. Having this skin color comes with oppression, discrimination and even murder. On top of that we have to deal with the hardships that already come with life.
On May 25, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered in Minnesota at the hands of a racist police officer while three other police officers stood by and did nothing. Video evidence of this murder immediately went viral. Watching this brutal act reminded me that many people, including Floyd’s killer, see black lives as disposable.
Black people and allies took to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, and all the other black men and women that keep getting killed at the hands of police brutality. These protests have spread all over the United States and into many other countries, including Canada.
On social media countless people have shared the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in support of the movement to stop police brutality and all other racist acts on black people.
It’s easy to dismiss it all living on a small island like Newfoundland because there is denial that racism exists here. It’s also easy to dismiss it all if you’re white. However, black people in this province can’t afford to think like that.
We see ourselves in George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, D’Andre Campbell, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Andrew Loku, and all who have been killed solely because they were black.
While those who deny racism feel content with denying that there is a problem, racist acts continue to happen in this province. The reality is that because these types of acts will never happen to white people, it makes it hard for many of them to recognize that there is a problem that exists in our society. This is not okay.
The reality that I face includes incidents such as two white men yelling the N-word at me and telling me to get off the road while walking on the streets of St. John’s. Sadly, I know I am not the only one in the province who has experienced this type of racist encounter.
This illustrates that simply being black is a good enough reason for a racist person to attack you. It doesn’t matter what your nationality, your gender or social status is.
This is unacceptable.
All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. We can’t be quiet on an issue that is costing black people their lives. This is why people are still protesting. In places where protests have yet to take place such as this province, we are doing all we can to show support. We are signing online petitions demanding change and justice. We are donating money to the families of victims. We are donating to organizations such as Black Lives Matter. We are donating money to bail funds to help protestors who are risking their lives on the frontlines. We are constantly sharing and reminding people on social media that racism is an enemy we must all conquer.
You can’t love black culture and not care about black lives. Our music, art and culture are constantly consumed. Many even profit from it. It is not right to stay silent on an issue that affects the very same people whose culture you enjoy and profit from.
It is important to start having open and honest conversations about race in every household as our province becomes more diverse. We can’t keep ignoring it because it is seen as an uncomfortable topic. Those who chose to do so must realize that they are part of the problem.
It is important to teach the history of black people in our schools. Our school boards need to realize that black history in this country is part of Canadian history. It is not a separate entity that should be disregarded. Black people are tired of having to bear the responsibility of educating people on the significance of black history.
Black people have contributed so much of what makes Canada the country that it is now. Therefore, it is unjust to not highlight the black presence because by doing so we are denying people the opportunity to learn important history.
White people must recognize that they have a privilege that protects them from being oppressed and marginalized. Therefore they must educate themselves on what it means to possess this privilege. Furthermore they must educate themselves on how they can use it to help their black brothers and sisters who are in pain, and tired of being mistreated.
Thandi O’Grady is a journalism student at College of the North Atlantic.
Top photo by Sarah Smellie.
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