For the past few weeks, I’ve watched the world raise a collective fist on bended knee in support of #BlackLivesMatter.
I have not publicly spoken about the protests and George Floyd until today.
I needed time. Time to process my feelings. Feelings of disbelief that in 2020, systemic racism continues to exist. I am dumbfounded, stupefied, appalled, and ashamed. As Barack Obama said this past week, “This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal’.
I also needed time to think about my response and what we need to do to effect change.
I believe change will come from two driving forces. The first will be companies, organizations, police bodies, justice systems and governments that will begin the slow process of addressing systemic racism, gender inequality, ageism and other forms of discrimination.
The more powerful change will come from us as individuals within. It all starts with the man in the mirror.
Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd but there were three former police officers who stood by and watched and did nothing. If even one of those men had intervened, George Floyd would be alive today. What do those men see when they look in the mirror each morning? What change will they make within themselves to make the world a better place?
Some are shaming individuals and brands for not speaking up and showing their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, saying if you don’t speak up, you are part of the problem. Not only is that not helpful, it is hateful and perpetuates the same type of ignorant assumptions that the anti-racist movement is fighting against.
One of the reasons I’ve remained silent until now is I didn’t want to be a hollow voice in a chorus of “convenient outrage” as the son of Royson James, a black journalist with The Toronto Star phrased it. Royson, who admits he is “jaded, exhausted” having lived through too many promising moments and forgotten promises asked his two sons their perspectives on this unique period in history. One sees progress and opportunity but fears “convenient outrage” will ebb as in past moments in the history of the civil rights movement.
I am also shocked and frankly a little frightened of how people are vilifying every word, syllable and utterance that can be perceived negative towards the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Many celebrities who wanted to show their support and posted black images on their feeds on #BlackOutTuesday were criticized for not using their platforms to educate people.
Wendy Mesley, a respected 40-year veteran of the CBC was suspended last week after using a racist phrase. It was not on the air, and it was not her own words. She was quoting a source or fellow journalist in a staff editorial meeting. A Toronto Sun column hailed this despicable move by the CBC as the “death of modern journalism” saying Wesley was offered up “as a human sacrifice to vultures on a diet of cancel culture.”
We need to change. We need to commit. We need to act.
But the commitment and actions must be pure and swift, not hollow platitudes or hateful criticisms. There are important conversations taking place right now about anti-racism and discrimination in boardrooms, police organizations, governments, and households. The most important conversation is the one with ourselves.
Because it all starts with the man in the mirror.