When will we learn that racism is rampant in our world? Yes, I’m appalled by Christian Cooper being accosted by that dog-walking bitch in Central Park. Yes, I’m disgusted by a jogging Amaud Arbery being chased and shot in Georgia by two idiots who blindly assumed the poor man was a criminal. And yes, I’m mortified by the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. These terrible examples of blacks being mistreated are just the tip of the iceberg. I can assure you that thousands of examples of racism to varying degrees of offensiveness occur each and every day. Either they just aren’t noteworthy by the press, or they just aren’t caught on camera.
Sadly, the root of the issue of racism is being sideswiped by political hogwash. The press has once again targeted Trump’s malarkey and misguided use of power to redirect the focus away from the true problem. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked what he thought of Trump’s handling of the U.S. Black Lives Matter protests, he purposefully paused for 21 seconds before finally saying:
“We all watch in horror and consternation at what’s going in the United States. It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen. It is a time to learn what injustices continue despite the progress over years and decades. But it is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges, that Black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day….it is something that many of us don’t see, but it is a lived reality…we need to see that…we need to be allies in the fight against discrimination….and figure out how we can be part of the solution.“
Instead of paraphrasing what Justin Trudeau said or analyzing what he meant, the press focused on the actual pause. Canadian opposition leaders called him out for what he didn’t do…i.e. slam Donald Trump. People, wake up! Trudeau took the high road! He refused to jump on the bandwagon of Trump bashing and tried to refocus on the real issue: RACISM.
Until each and every one of us opens our eyes to what really goes on, and does something about it, not one of us can claim we are not racist. I’m talking about the time you laughed at a that racist joke; or maybe didn’t laugh, but missed the opportunity to say aloud that you found it disrespectful. I’m talking about the time you might have not befriended someone because the colour of their skin was different from yours. I’m talking about the time you perhaps hired ‘the white’ job candidate even though you consciously weren’t aware that the ‘race card’ was a characteristic in your personal selection toolkit. I’m talking about the time your child brought home a black friend and you asked them questions about their family and background thinking you were merely curious. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
Making changes to the political, criminal justice, policing and social systems are imperative, but they are just the foundation of the new world we must build. Of course systemic racism exists and we need to fix it. In the last 60 years some of us tried, albeit clumsily. We had the Civil Rights Movements. Back in the late 60s and early 70s we thought we were changing the world. We didn’t. Black History Month was established. Before affirmative action, tokenism was the fad. Non-whites (often female – two birds with one stone) were promoted to a positions for which they were ill-equipped. The result was the individual failed and criticism ensued. Then we followed with formal affirmative action. Although successful in some cases, it failed in others being misunderstood and poorly administered. Then U.S. elected Barrack Obama! On the surface, things were looking promising; but we didn’t really fix anything.
So, why are we racist? This week, appropriately timed, PBS Detroit aired a show about Henry Louis Gates Jr., renowned author, teacher, filmmaker, who has delved into the history of black people and then last night began Gates’ groundbreaking documentary series Africa’s Great Civilizations. The former (aired on Tuesday night) touched upon the hypothesis that racism is based on the myth that Africa was nothing more than a collection of tribes -uncivilized groups meandering the deserts and jungles with face paint and spears. Africa’s Great Civilizations debunks the myth by showing the people of Africa as anything but uncivilized. They were advanced, intelligent groups who were great builders, had culture and strategic battle savvy . I recommend everyone watch the series to gain new perspective of Black History.
Until we take a serious look at how and why we treat Blacks differently, nothing will change. As Michael Jackson once sang, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways…If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”