Toronto / June 2020 - The Spring of 2020 is filled with deep collective pain and rage for North America’s Black communities. For Canada’s Black communities.
In Toronto, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young Afro-Indigenous woman having a mental health crisis died after falling off her twenty-fourth floor balcony. Her family has implicated the Toronto police.
In April, D'Andre Campbell, a Black man living in Brampton, called police for help during a crisis. He too ended up dead, shot to death in front of his family. We remember Andrew Loku, Abdirahman Abdi and other Black men and women who in mental health distress lost their lives due to police actions.
The intersection of race and mental illness (racism and sanism) is a deadly place for Black, Indigenous and racialized folks, who call on the police to assist.
George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered on camera by a cop in Minneapolis - a modern day lynching broadcast as Black pain porn over and over by mainstream and social media. His cries for his mother as his life was snuffed out of him seared my soul and I imagine the souls of all Black mothers who heard those cries for help.
The week before this latest public lynching, a white Canadian woman called the cops on a Black man birdwatching in a New York City park, knowing that white women’s tears and accusations more often than not result in the end of freedom and probable death for Black men and women.
Decades ago, in a speech to a primarily white feminist conference, Audre Lorde, celebrated Black Lesbian-Feminist author asked, “what woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heel print on another wo/man’s face?”
Yes, these are uncomfortable truths.
Black people are dying because of racism and white supremacism.
While it is easy to point at the US as we witnessed yet another lynching of a Black man by police on social and traditional media, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism is steeped in our institutions, public policies and systems here in Canada. Today’s police institution was founded as a control for rebelling enslaved Africans and Indigenous nations fighting for their lands and their very survival.
Anti-Black racism is evident in the over-surveillance and policing of Black neighbourhoods, while leaving them under-protected. We know from the data and the many studies done about the overrepresentation of Black people in police encounters such as carding or ‘stop and frisk’ and we see it in media portrayals of Black responses to this relentless attack on our collective Black body by the State and its institutions.
And non-Black folks know it in themselves: It’s the racist jokes that are told and go unchallenged. It’s the learned belief in white supremacy which results in less trust in Black professionals like accountants, doctors or teachers or immigrant settlement practitioners than in their non-Black counterparts. It is the complaints of the difficulty in pronouncing non-European names and the egregious practice of renaming because the given name is too hard to say - can’t say Kikeola, but Tchaikovsky rolls off the tongue.
It is the statements of erasure like: “I don’t see race or colour”. For those with decision-making in hiring, it is the resume slipped to the bottom of the pile because of the name or the postal code of the applicant (for folks who don’t know- research has shown that employers pay attention to the neighbourhood of applicants. So Black and other racialized folks, immigrant and not, who tend to live in low-income neighbourhoods which are often stigmatized, are screened out of work they are qualified to do).
It is the media refocusing the story to the violence of Black and not the violence against Black by the police. It is CBC – Canada’s publicly owned news outlet, editing an image of police ramping their vans into protesters to suit their revisionist telling of the ‘story’. It’s denying that white privilege exists.
Leadnow an independent non-profit advocacy organization in Canada issued this call to action: “Unless non-Black people, especially white people, start learning about how anti-Black racism and white supremacy has shaped us and the societies we live in — and start challenging these systems — racism isn’t going away and Black people will continue to die.”
Black Health leaders in southern Ontario in their statement about this moment, called for Anti-Black racism to be declared a Public Health Crisis. And called on allies to “make commitments to address the many iterations of white supremacy and anti-Black racism by standing in solidarity with Black people, committing to interrupting cycles of violence and refusing to make this issue only Black people care about. This is everyone’s business”, they say.
We are in a moment of flux, at the proverbial cross-roads. Progressive, anti-racist, anti-colonial change is necessary and possible. Which path will you take?
Thanks to the allies at Leadnow for sharing this resource list.
Anti-Black Racism Resources:
- Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice
- Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard
- White fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
- Black Life: Post Black Lives Matter and the Struggle for Freedom by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi
- Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
Articles and Other Readings:
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person
- How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
- In Conversation: Desmond Cole and Téa Mutonji
For additional resources you can check out this curated list here.