This weekend, practically all my family talked about was the death of George Floyd, the response of the criminal justice system to the acts of the police officers involved, the protests all across the United States and here in Toronto, the law enforcement response to those protests, the political response, and the political failure to respond. And I shared the true pride I felt as a Torontonian at the approach to protest with a careful eye on public health shown by the #notanotherblacklife organizers of Saturday’s protest complete with physical distancing info-graphics and masking requirements.
We alternated between being glued to the news, and turning away, unable to watch any more. We debated. Voices were raised. Articles were read and new discussions ensued. Posts on social media were shared on our accounts and amongst ourselves. And it continued into Monday morning – the first thing we started talking about even before morning coffee had kicked in.
Let me tell you about my family. In the dictionary under “privilege” there is a picture of us. White. Highly educated. High incomes. Two out of three kids in university that we can afford to pay for. Own our house. Live in a fancy neighbourhood (yes one of those that is the lightest of pink on the City of Toronto COVID-19 map). Drive nice cars. Healthy. I could go on but I don’t need to – you undoubtedly get the picture.
This wasn’t the blog post I expected to be writing on June 1, 2020. It’s Pride Month so I might have been writing about LGBTQ2SI diversity and inclusion. It’s National Accessibility Awareness Week so I might have been writing about accessibility and disability inclusion. It’s a global pandemic so I might actually have expected to be writing (again) about something related to COVID-19.
But instead I am writing about racism and violence and police-involved deaths of Black and Indigenous men and women. If we have over-used the word “unprecedented” in the wake of the pandemic, anti-Black violence is sadly, infuriatingly, with shameful precedent.
I’m no expert on anti-racism and anti-oppression. For white people like me, using our voices to amplify Black voices, using our power for anti-racist activities, reaching out to check-in on our Black family, friends and employees, enhancing the employee resources we have to explicitly address the mental health and wellness consequences of racism and the trauma of witnessing racist violence, using our leadership to make our organizations stronger voices for equity and anti-oppression, and in the case of our hospital, advancing our work in reducing health inequity and identifying how the social determinants of health – including race – impact the children and families we serve, are just a few things to do.
For myself, something I’m not comfortable doing is copying and pasting tweets about fighting racism, retweeting and tagging more white folks. I say this personally not because I think anyone who has done just that is not truly championing anti-racism or truly intending to be making change. I say it because for me, I fear I run the risk of feeling like I’ve “done” something by posting a tweet and worry that I would let myself off the hook of doing more IRL (as we say on social media). I will still tweet quotes and affirmations. I’ll share resources over social channels. I’ll especially share the posts of Black voices.
So back to my family: talking, thinking, debating and talking some more. This is valuable. This is worthwhile. This is actually even a tiny bit hard. Each one of us energized to expect more of ourselves and each other to do something, even if we don’t all agree on what.
This has been a harder and sadder week than we had expected. You would have thought a pandemic might have been the toughest thing our society would have had to be dealing with. But no, that’s not what the end of May 2020 will be remembered for.
Please share your thoughts, resources, criticisms and advice with me here on this blog or on any of my social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) or directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org