The past few weeks have been tough (for lack of a better word) and I spent the majority of the weekend going back and forth on whether or not to even write this post.
I was very sheltered growing up. My parents protected my brother and me from the evils of the world by creating a care-free bubble where we were happy, loved and most of all safe. Despite the fact that I’m as multinational as they come, the idea of race or skin colour never really came up because they simply referred to us as their ‘golden’ children.
I was exposed to my first real case of racism in grade 2 while hanging out on a swing set after school. I don’t remember what triggered the situation but I’ll never forget what it felt like when my white best friend spat real-life saliva at my black best friend. Without even blinking an eye, I stepped in between them and slapped my white best friend. I don’t know where it came from and I’m definitely not saying it was the right thing to do but it was the only way I knew how to stick up for my black best friend at that moment. I don’t think I understood the severity of what took place until my mother picked me up and talked to me about it. But I eventually forgot about it (as kids do) and I was able to continue living in my original bubble for a few more years.
I experienced my second blatant moment of racism when I was 11 and living in Germany. My dad was away on a business trip and my mother, brother and I would take long walks after school to explore the area around our house. I remember watching tv one day and seeing my mother get up to close the curtains. It was a little out of character since we didn’t have neighbours across the street and no one could see in the window unless they had walked up our front path but low and behold that’s exactly what had happened. In the days following, we noticed a group of people hanging out and the size of the group grew larger by the day. I don’t remember feeling scared but I remember how little things about our life changed – no more walks, no open curtains, no playing outside and then most alarming of all – no sleeping in our own rooms. It was a classic intimidation tactic but it eventually escalated to a point where they began burning animals outside our house and after waking up to charred remains one morning, it took my mother less than 24 hours to pack our belongings and get us out of the country.
I have tons of stories of obvious moments like this but what’s scarier is that I have hundreds, if not thousands, of stories that aren’t as obvious and to be honest I find the subtle moments to be considerably more terrifying.
- Preconceived notions of how a black person should behave, think, feel and even what they might like based on the colour of their skin.
- Seating black guests inside a restaurant instead of on the patio when there’s clearly room.
- Nightclubs with secret policies on how many black people can physically be inside the club at a time.
- Sorority girls calling a black athlete a liar when he tells them he’s on the varsity hockey team.
- Music by some of the most talented artists in the world being labelled as ‘urban’ simply because these artists are black.
I could go on, and on, and on…
…but I won’t. Because the purpose of this post isn’t to cry about the past, it’s to encourage you to be better in the future.
I don’t assume you all have the option to make a monetary contribution to the frontline organizations who are fighting for change each day (but if you can there are some listed below).
I will assume that if you are an adult, reading this post, that you do have the option to distinguish between right and wrong.
I urge you to be mindful of your thoughts and your unconscious biases.
I implore you to speak up for your colleagues and peers who may not know what to say and where to start.
And from the bottom of my heart, I beg you to have our backs and fight this fight with us because it takes a village to raise a child (or in this case humankind).