Becoming Black

Thoughts on Race and Racial Injustice.

Huey_Black Lives

My heart is heavy. It seems like every season there is a new hashtag and a new black body being violated and paraded. Videos of brutality being shared, beautiful quotes and deep passion and then silence. The silence only lasts so long until we have another video, a fresh wound, another tragedy and the cycle resumes. I am exhausted as like many others. Tired of fighting the battles of ignorance every time someone opens the gateway to their gut to utter “All Lives Matter”. Throwing that statement around like I am too stupid to see the reality of that statement. Every thing about that phrase is an intentional decision to remain clothed in the steaming warmth of your ignorance. It is an unyielding weapon used to scar and irritate the wounds that have been inflicted on us repeatedly.

I believe that Black is something you become and I can say this knowing that I have not always had to be Black. Growing up in a predominantly racially homogeneous setting, my race was always secondary, it was something that existed on the screen but not in my daily life. Imagine my surprise when I moved to Canada and suddenly Blackness was no longer an option. It was a mantle that was thrust on me with every interaction. If you started in this setting, it is easy to think that Black is how you were born. I had a professor who told me once that Blackness as a construction is simply something that exists in contrast to Whiteness. At the time I was deeply offended by this but slowly I came to understand that Blackness is not birth, it is history. A deep and complex history that is often over simplified. I say all of this to say that when someone makes the statement that BLACK lives matter, this is not a light and witty comment. This is not as basic as the colour of one’s skin, it is not as simple as stats even though statistics often help to buttress this point. It is a statement that speaks to historical pain. It refers specifically to the consistent systemic disregard for the humanity and well being of a specific group.

The media is quick to isolate the incident and the individual. “Black man shot by police”, “Black man with criminal record shot by the police” “Black man with criminal record who may have been armed shot by the police”. The use of his Black identity constantly feeding into this historical brand that distances him from his humanity. He may have been a father, a community leader, an innovator or as has now been made relevant; a great swimmer, nonetheless his Blackness takes precedence over his humanity. The search for reasons why he deserved to be killed begins; did he protest? was he armed? did the Officer perceive him to be a threat? how Black was his Blackness? At this point I am shaking.

I recently had a little old white woman ask me or rather tell me that she doesn’t understand why people have to bring race into everything. She felt comfortable to tell me this “because I sounded so educated” (Yes I had to pause and talk myself off the ledge of clawing at her face). I proceeded to let her know that there is a reason she doesn’t understand, but in her lack of understanding she CAN NOT tell a person of color where they can or can not bring up their race because race was not something that they decided on. No one asked them whether it was convenient to kill their people or to deny them of employment or to disrespect their families and their cultures or to enslave them. Race was not a choice that we made so when someone makes the decision to speak to you about how their race impacts them you have no right to silence them.

Ignorance is a decision. There is a wealth of rhetoric explaining why Black lives matter so before you decide to spew garbage, educate yourself. The importance of Black lives, or Indigenous lives or Latin lives does not diminish the relevance of anyone else. This needs no explanation.

And to the individuals in Dallas who thought it was wise to also commit murder, who you epp?! No, really, who sent you? Anger is justified, murder is not. Don’t be so consumed by fury that you become the very thing you hate.

Rest in Power!

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