The protests that have reverberated across the globe over the past two weeks, with millions taking to the street to protest the death of George Floyd at the hand of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, are life-changing.
Watching unrest quickly spread across nearly every state, and seeing protests spring up as far away as Australia and as close as downtown Victoria, makes it plain to see that racism isn’t limited to any one jurisdiction. Make no mistake, we are not immune from racism here in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said on more than one occasion that it’s time Canadians acknowledge racism and unconscious bias against Black people exists in this country.
The Black population of Vancouver Island might be relatively small, but it still feels the sting of racism. Our Indigenous population faces it every day.
The level of white rage from people reacting to the protests in the United States is disproportionate compared to the apathy that is evident toward Indigenous issues here on the west coast.
Canadians’ reaction to the civil unrest south of our border is disproportionate to protests between the Wet’suwet’en Nation, Coastal Gaslink and the federal and provincial governments. People now are affronted at the racial divide demonstrated in just about every American state. Where were those same people when the Wet’suwet’en Nation needed their support?
A well-respected First Nations advocate who died earlier this year once said Indigenous people have to choose whether to speak out or speak up — and if they do, what their words will cost them and whether speaking up is worth the price to be paid.
Racism doesn’t have to be blatant, or intentionally mean-spirited: it can be as simple as a poor choice of words, or an assumption made.
The best thing people can do is check their privilege at the door, endeavour to learn more about and understand their neighbours, and to be respectful and thoughtful in their words and actions.
We hear you. We see you. We stand with you.