I sit here at the intersection of sadness, frustration and intense anger. The most recent murder of George Floyd may have occurred in America, but the impact of this loss of life is reverberating in the hearts and souls of Black people worldwide.
As painful as this reflection has been, I am called to put my thoughts to paper as I unpack what the placing of the knee on the neck of George Floyd has represented for me and what continues to drive tears from my eyes:
- That knee represents the pain so many Black bodies live through in the classrooms, workplaces, transit systems, hospitals and postsecondary campuses. The daily interactions Black employees have with their managers that devalue or discredit their work and render their contributions as invisible and invaluable; that knee represents the eye-rolling that follows after raising an issue of racism, or the passive aggressive comments from a manager or colleague that continuously communicates that you better “know your place” and the expectation that you will continue to “smile” and show respect.
- That knee represents the many times Black students are only called upon by their teachers/professors to speak to the Black experience within a lesson plan, but are not called upon for any other reason; it represents the disproportionate handing out of suspensions and expulsions of Black students within our school boards; it represents the low expectations set by some teachers and guidance counsellors and the streamlining of our Black children out of university opportunities; it represents having to learn and interact in school buildings filled with pictures of White leaders and with graffiti on bathroom doors filled (sometimes daily) with offensive racial slurs.
Racism is a system of beliefs that manifests into actions. A belief system that is so intimately tied to our way of life that when Black people try to call out racist behavior, we are made to feel like we are exaggerating, playing the race card or too sensitive. These belief systems are intertwined in the cultures of our workplace and learning environments. We need to spend more time thinking about and addressing the very cultures, organizational biases, and practices that make permissible racial cuts to be experienced daily and that allow for the “Amy Coopers” to be hired and wreak havoc in the workplace and classrooms on Black and racialized bodies.
EDI and Antiracism practitioners – let’s come together to share best practices, learn from one another and hold each other accountable as we work towards disentangling this system of beliefs in our respective environments. We must do better and I will not be silent.
Rest in Peace: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Pacquet..and the many other Black lives lost…