Updated: Jun 3, 2020
The second, maybe third?, time I met my high school boyfriend’s mum, I noticed her hair was different. I said, “Oh! You got your hair done!” She gave a little laugh & patted her short, stylish cut & said something along the lines of, “Mmhmmm… I guess I did!”
I honestly think it took a few months until I stumbled upon all her wigs one day & realized OH. THIS.
This - totally embarrassing - story sticks out in my mind because I think it was the first inkling of holy smokes, Bo. YOU KNOW NOTHING. & I didn’t. & I still don’t. My understanding of being #notaracist did not include any active anti-racism work. I was, & in many ways still am, so incredibly ignorant.
I’m still learning & I always will be. Why? Because we are all racist. In our implicit micro-aggressions, in our ignorant remarks, off-hand comments, & assumptions. We have been raised within a system that is inherently racist & grounded in power over. While there are differences between our country & our neighbours south of the border, there are also similarities. The structural foundation of maintaining power & control is a big one.
As I try to make sense of all the things swirling around in my mind, I wonder - as Glennon Doyle writes, in her brilliant book "Untamed" - what my “wildest, truest, most beautiful” version of the world would be. What it would look like & how it would function…
"My privilege is moving through life without fearing for my safety due to the colour of my skin. My responsibility is to do everything I possibly can to ensure everyone has access to that HUMAN RIGHT."
Here's where I'm at:
POLICE: we need to completely restructure our current policing system. Yes, here in Canada too, where Black Torontonians are 20 times more likely to be shot by the police. Defunding the police is a big part of this process. We know enough to understand that people are not good or bad. The world is not one or other. Good or evil. It is complex, multi-faceted, nuanced, & personal. It requires that the services that are made to support, protect, & help those in need are equipped to address all of those pieces. For my Toronto friends, a template on how to email Mayor John Tory & your counsellor is available here.
MENTAL HEALTH: we need a mental-health specific task force. How many times are the police called when they are not the resource that is needed? What IS needed are skilled, empathic, trauma-informed individuals who are able to accurately & safely de-escalate situations & speak in languages of non-violence. Who are able to comfort & listen to people who are hurting, confused, & struggling. When I look around my neighbourhood, when I open my door to find a bag full of syringes, or wake up in the middle of the night because of someone screaming, they rarely need police. They need some f*cking love. They need someone to hear their pain. To hold space. To provide HELP, not handcuffs.
THERAPY: we need universal, affordable, culturally diverse, trauma-informed counselling & therapy resources available to everyone. Because how much of the pain & violence in our world is occurring because of intergenerational trauma? Because of childhood trauma? Because of a simple lack of access to resources that will allow everyone to be seen, heard, & valued?! Ummm... basically all of it. Full stop.
EDUCATION: not just teaching history, but how we move forward. We need to stop teaching racism as something that exists only in black & white photos, & instead as something that is equally present in our current systems & culture. We need to do this not with otherness, but with empowerment, compassion, open hearts & minds. Because if you grow up in a small & mostly white town, you simply do. not. know. How can you?! We need to build this knowledge into our education system. We need to create curriculums that include how to have hard conversations. How to listen with the intention to hear. How to be empathetic. How to breathe deep when we feel afraid or insecure or defensive & navigate those challenging emotions. We need to rebuild the whole thing from the ground up.
HOW DO WE DO THIS? Let's start with the following: books to read, voices to amplify, & places to donate. Note that resources with a * are Canadian specific. While this post is primarily focused on anti-Black racism, I believe it is of equal importance to pour our energy into anti-Indigenous racism as well, so you'll notice some Indigenous-specific resources in the mix below.
Thank you for reading & - more importantly - thank you for doing this lifelong work.
Books to Read - please try to purchase locally &/or from Black-owned bookstores; many of these titles are selling out, click here for more suggestions.
Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese*
In the Black: My Life by B. Denham Jolly*
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard*
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga*
The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole*
Stolen Sisters by Emmanuelle Walter*
That Lonely Section of Hell by Lori Shenher*
Voices to Amplify:
Places to Donate:
North Star Health Collective is currently stocked up on their needs, but has a fantastic list of other organizations you can contribute to. Click here
Additional Articles & Resources:
Black Owned Businesses in the GTA:
Things to Do - will add more as they come ❤️