Written by Daniel Yu
Edited by Bhromor Rahman
— Enough is enough.
That is the message that the protesters are putting forward as they take to the streets to seek justice for the innocent black lives that were taken and to promote equality for all.
The gruesome nature of George Floyd’s murder has shocked the world and set a nation ablaze. However, his death was a turning point not because it was unprecedented, but because it only added to the long list of black citizens that were unjustly murdered at the hands of police.
Take Eric Garner: on July 17th, 2014, he, as a consequence of racial discrimination paired with the abuse of power on behalf of the policemen at the scene, was brutality executed. As Garner was being cruelly choked, he cried for help, exclaiming, “I can’t breathe.”
They were George Floyd’s last words as well. But they did not die with him; these exact words resonate today, ever louder. We have unfortunately reached the point where protesters can use the same slogan to protest the deaths of two different victims.
Something needs to change
As these protests gain traction, they are also put under a microscope. With the looting and the rioting, the movement has received its fair share of criticism.
However, instead of trying to understand what these protests are about, some are readily available to condemn them the moment there is a controversy. When the peaceful protests turned into a looting opportunity, some attempted to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole as opportunistic and taking advantage of the protest for blatantly ransacking businesses.
I do not condone looters nor do I support riots, but the more important concern is the reason why protesters are rioting in the first place. Why are they so frustrated? Why is it that year after year, there seems to be a never-ending cycle of protests seeking justice and equality for those who are being treated unjustly? Why is nothing changing?
This feeling of discrimination is not unique to the Black community. Take the Asian community: when the COVID-19 or, as Donald Trump famously named it, the “Chinese Virus” outbreak spread westward, Asians all over the world came under scrutiny for something that was completely out of their control. This spiteful behaviour had numerous repercussions: in Montreal, for instance, two Korean men were stabbed simply because they were Asian. Instead of focusing on the problem, which is the virus itself, people have shifted the blame onto others who had nothing to do with the virus in the first place.
Nothing But a Front
These recent events have also become an opportunity for “slacktivism.” People suddenly started caring about human rights because it is trending and because it makes them feel better about themselves. #BlackLivesMatter is more than just a trendy hashtag. It is a movement that aims to seek equality and justice. To say that black lives matter is to unite in solidarity to fight for what is right and combat systemic racism. If you really do care about human rights, why did you not care when Asians were killed because of racial prejudice and where were you when the rights of Indigenous peoples were (and still are) being violated? Rather than just sharing a post and lending your symbolic support under the form of a “like,” take some action instead! Inform yourself about the current circumstances and help, by any means possible, through donating, protesting or simply signing petitions. Do not be a slacktivist.
Cash, Money, Buck
As the movement becomes an important topic of discussion in the mainstream, many companies have also lent their support for the cause. Big corporations like tech giant Google and commerce giant Amazon are openly denouncing this injustice. Though their support does contribute to unity and helps to foster solidarity within the community, there still is work to be done. Even as they say that Black Lives Matter or that lives of the minority are valued, what goes on in their establishments seems to point in the other direction. Amazon, for example, was lambasted for the lack of diversity in both gender and race among its workforce. Though many of the corporations who have issued a statement on this matter may truly support equality, they may also have ulterior motives. Unsurprisingly, many companies are using this unfortunate situation for a public relations stunt. Take Facebook: Zuckerberg’s company has come under pressure recently for not changing its policy concerning racial slurs on their platform. Hence, fearing criticism, many companies may feel compelled to deliver a superficial message with no concrete changes to back it up. Rather than simply posting a black square on their social media platforms, they should propose initiatives like donating to ally causes or even using their influence to spark real political change.
In our society, implicit bias still unfortunately exists when it comes to race and gender dynamics. With these protests concerning black people being treated unfairly, there has been an increasing amount of attention put towards “White Privilege.” Take Amy Cooper: when she was told by Christian Cooper, a black man, to obey the law and do something as trivial as leash her dog, she called the police saying in a fearful tone that an “African American man is threatening [her] life.” He caught the interaction on video where it was clear that he remained calm and kept his distances. By adopting this behaviour, she not only assumes that the police will believe her over him, but she has also assumed that the negative prejudice cast on the African American community will absolve her from her lies. Notice that she still uses the term ‘‘African American’’ even as she, a white woman, puts Mr. Cooper’s life in danger by attempting to send the police after him while she acts as if he was putting her life in danger. Her actions were unreasonable and contribute to the many reasons why minorities have to live in fear; a reasonable fear justified by the numerous tragedies that have already occurred.
Never would a white person fear being brutally shot to death while on a jog.
Never would a white person fear being killed for looking “suspicious.”
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” We should inform oneself to make an educated decision before making unfounded assumptions that can hinder another’s life.
I would like to believe that most do not use their privilege maliciously, but it is still an issue that needs to be addressed.
As these uprisings continue all over the globe protesting the oppression cast on Black people for centuries, hopefully, this time around, needed change can be brought to the table. Ending racism should not be a question up for debate.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
To Unite a Divided Community, we Demand Equality.
Fight for what is right.
Speak up for what is right.