By Jack Bourassa
“The time is always right to do what is right” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Let’s do what is right.
“I can’t breathe” is not just a slogan. Those were the last words George Floyd. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. While his plea was dismissed, Floyd’s words turned to a movement that found its way across the world. “I can’t breathe” opened all those dismissed unhealed wounds. While the cruelest picture is portrayed by police brutality and violence, our schools, workplaces and communities are not immune from embedded systemic racism.
Racism is more dangerous than any pandemic. It infests our communities and disrupts the foundations of what makes us strong as a nation: diversity, peace and compassion.
February is Black History Month. This time of the year is dedicated to celebrating and honouring the legacy of Black Canadians, their contributions, inspiring stories, struggles and resiliency throughout history and the present. The theme for Black History Month 2021 is “The Future is Now.” It’s is an opportunity to celebrate the work that the Black Canadian communities are doing now while working together for a future free from injustices. It’s the time to celebrate Black North American resiliency that have inspired social justice activists around the world.
Celebrating Black History month by only shedding light on struggles of the past implies that we live in a post-racial society where discrimination and racism has no place in our present. There is no doubt that we’re in no way to compare the injustices of the past to the present, but the sad news is that we’re far from victory in the battle against racism. It’s not enough to celebrate Black History Month. It’s not enough to dedicate few weeks to honour the legacy of our Black sisters and brothers. Awareness is the first step in taking action, but this has to be accompanied by serious commitment for a real change.
Now is the right time. It’s not too late to join the movement to dismantle racism in our communities. While lawmakers and leaders share much of the responsibility to put an end to systemic racism, this does not leave us as individuals off the hook.
There are many actions that we can take to make a difference. Let’s think of few that could be done safely from the comfort of our homes. For instance, we spend a lot of time on the screen for work and entertainment. Most of us are on social media. Showing solidarity is feasible. Sharing credible educational material and awareness articles is doable. There is no lack of opportunity to raise awareness and be in solidarity.
Last year I wrote about tolerance versus acceptance at schools and workplaces. While it’s important to have regulations that protect individuals and ensure that racism and discrimination have no place in our schools, workplaces and communities, it’s our collective responsibility to create a safe environment. Tolerance is not the solution to the problem. Acceptance and care for one another will help our communities stay strong. Be an ally. Never be a bystander.
Anti-Black racism is everyone’s fight. Let me break the good news. We’re all connected. Our actions and words have a tremendous effect on building a society defined by compassion, diversity and care for one another.
On this month, let’s think of actions that we can take throughout the year to dismantle racism in our communities. In the North, we’re known for our compassion and resilience. Can we remain resilient in the battle against racism? Yes, we can!
Let’s not be neutral. Let’s not be bystanders.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” ~ Desmond Tutu.
This column appeared in the Yellowknifer on February 10, 2021