I have spent the better part of the last couple of weeks having “out loud” conversations with myself about what is happening in our world. Asking myself questions that are inconceivable. It essentially boils down to one question though: Why. Why are there people that feel so differently than me or you or most God-fearing people?
Why is it that in the year 2020, when we look outside or on our TVs, we cannot see the difference between today and 50 or 60 years ago or the last 400 years? Why is it that black men and women can be killed in the streets, by the police no less, and there is no one that can stop this? And the most difficult of questions, why is it when we hear of another black man being killed in broad daylight, having the life choked out of him, slowly, by the police, while we can hear him begging for his life; why is it we are not surprised? We are horrified but not surprised and that is stomach-churning. If you were not from this world, you would certainly not believe it.
I’d like to think that if any one of you had witnessed this that you would have tried to intervene. How come no one even tried?
Throughout the past weeks I have been trying to understand how I feel, I mean beyond the obvious outrage. My father is black – born and raised in Trinidad, West Indies (the Caribbean). My two sisters and my brother are also black (or brown some would say) and somehow, I came out white; well my mother is white, so I am not a total anomaly.
Someone once asked me if I identify as black and it was an interesting question and is still difficult to answer. How can I identify as black when I am as white as they come but how can I not when most of my immediate family and my father’s side of the family are? I am immensely proud of my Black and Jewish heritage, but I would be disingenuous if I did not admit that there have been times when I have felt fortunate to have been born as I am.
This is not a racist thought, obviously, but it is a guilty feeling. That I feel safe, safer than my own siblings likely do and we live in Canada, a “safe country,” is a feeling of guilt and frustration for me — a guilt that there are two realities for people including my own family, that although we don’t see each other as different or anything other than family, that we have had a much different experience, I’m sure.
AdonnaThere are times when these differences are highlighted, like the other day when my mother told me she called her other son, my brother, to remind him to be careful; Something that, I am embarrassed to admit, didn’t even cross my mind as I live in this racial fog that is my reality. Likely my brother and sisters have had to have the “talk” once again with their kids about what to do it they ever get pulled over by the police. That’s a conversation I will never have to have with my white kids, at least not in the same way and with the same fear.
My nephews and nieces range from 16 to mid 20s, and I’m sure they know what they have to do if they ever get pulled over; keeping their hands in plain sight on the wheel… and answering, yes sir, officer, yes ma’am, officer… Imagine being so fearful, especially of those that are supposed to be there to protect you. It is important to acknowledge that there are mostly good cops out there, some of them are my friends, but you don’t want to take the gamble in the off chance you are the unlucky one to have drawn the bad apple and as recently witnessed on “live” TV, George Floyd drew a number of bad apples that day.
What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis and countless other times for decades, even centuries, is despicable; if you are a member of the human race, you must feel outraged. Although we live in Canada, and things appear less amplified, white privilege exists. I’ve enjoyed it without ever really knowing or thinking about it. It really wasn’t until I watched Alex Haley’s “Roots” in the late 1970s when I really understood the history of black slavery in America. I remember to this day how moved, emotional and sad I was. I was around 11 years old at that time, and my dad was black and I couldn’t believe the world he had to live in. I could not believe the white world of yesterday but I was certain that it was history and the world had changed…
When I think back to that question that was asked of me, I don’t identify as black, how could I? I have never walked in that skin. I think of it on occasion but mostly I don’t think of it all. And I guess that’s it, really; I don’t think of it because I can blend into the scenery where in most places, in predominantly white countries, people of color cannot. And, as we have seen for decades and even centuries, this has been the cause of so much inexcusable brutality.
The question now is NOT why? The question now is WHEN. When will we push long enough for change to be implemented? When will we step out of the comfortable scenery that we, the white privileged have been blending into for so long and use our voice, our vote our collective power to demand a change? Posting black squares on Instagram, as I did, is a start but I, we, you must do more.
“…the blackest of berries yield the sweetest juice…”
“It is a cruel jest to tell a bootless man to lift himself up by his bootstraps” -MLK Jr.