This is a two-part article. The first part focuses on providing a framework to the systemic racism that has oppressed minority communities in many parts of the world, with a primary focus on North America. The second part shares ways that we can support the Black Lives Matter Movement during this time. George Floyd will be buried today. Rest in Power brother.
Feature photo captured by Clay Banks
Understanding systemic racism
The political and social unrest that we have seen over the last two weeks has raised uncomfortable yet necessary questions concerning what it means to be a black person – person of color or minority – in America and beyond. We have seen peaceful protests being broken up by the military and riots burning down impoverished communities. We have seen politicians praising the protestors and politicians condemning the rioters. At the heart of all of this unrest is the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man that was murdered by a white police officer on May 25. However, what we have seen in the streets are the ripples of hundreds of years of institutionalized racism.
It is easy to denounce the riots, to feel uncomfortable about the unease, to feel fatigued by the voices that seem to always be wanting more. It is easy to ask people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement to have a plan, to fight for policies that represent them, to register to vote – and well – vote. But what happens when that is not enough?
Before I move forward, I want to let you know where I’m coming from.
Over the last three months, I have had the opportunity of working for black representatives in Washington State by designing and developing their political platforms through Prism Washington, a political consulting group driven by social justice. I work alongside two black and brown colleagues – the founder, who is a political consultant, and a policy consultant – who have enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of the political system in the United States and what it takes to create real, systematic change. This process is slow and it can be exhausting, but it is also incredibly worth it.
At the same time, I come from a mixed family, half Asian and half Black. We are a family of immigrants. My mother left her home in the Philippines at the age of two while my father left Jamaica at five years old to follow his mother. She worked as the ‘help’ in more privileged white households. Both my mother and my father’s families came to Canada in hopes of building better futures for the next generation.
When I was young, I remember my father coming home and telling me countless times about cops stopping him for no reason, giving him tickets for no reason and intimidating him for no reason. Years later, he told me that he wanted to write a book about his experience living as a black man in Quebec. He wanted to talk about the injustices that he has faced and the isolation that he has felt as a black man living in a predominantly white society. That is how tired he was and still is to this day.
So on the one side, I look at the current situation with the demonstrations in the States and I see an opportunity for real change to take place. I see space for powerful legislation to be put in place that truly reflects the wants and needs of the people in the streets. I see room for representatives of color and minority communities to stand in for the people now more than ever.
However, I also see anger. I see frustration. I see hopelessness and desperation. Because as much as you can fight for equitable policies and representatives, if the system that these policies and representatives fall into remains the same, then how much change can you really create? How long will it take for these changes to take place? How many more black lives will be taken in the process?
You can ask people to vote all you want, but if they are seeing the deliberate barriers that discourage and at times outwardly prevent their communities from voting and that the system repeatedly and unjustly puts the wrong people in power even when they do vote, then the system itself is broken – and that is when you will see revolt.
Systemic racism and systematic oppression do not always appear as ostensibly as police brutality. They also manifest through gentrification and forcing vulnerable communities out of their homes. They manifest through the dramatic death toll that has hit people of color due to Covid-19 because they do not have access to health care yet still make up a large number of the essential workers. They manifest through eurocentric ideals, “You speak so articulately”, and “You’re pretty for a black girl”.
They manifest through the digital homework divide that has prevented low income and rural communities from learning at the same level as their counterparts during this virus due to inaccessibility to essential resources. They manifest through public, technical and community colleges receiving less than half of the funding that 4-year institutions receive, despite being largely representative of minority students – meaning that “public colleges spend approximately $5 billion less educating students of color in one year than they do educating white students”.
They manifest through not having minority voices on executive boards and through vulnerable communities being laid off and left out of the transition to job automation, thus widening the wealth gap. They manifest through mass incarceration, through black and brown people being profiled more than their white counterparts by police and receiving harsher and longer sentences for the same offenses. And yes, they also manifest through seeing your black and brown brothers and sisters constantly being killed by law enforcement, leaving you to ask yourself, “Am I next?”.
People are angry, and rightfully so. When the needs of people are not being met by the leaders that are supposed to be serving them time and time again, people will protest. And when protests turn to riots, that is when they really draw attention. I am not here to justify the riots, but when leaders and law enforcement constantly use a broken system to serve themselves, why the fuck should people stand by the very system that has abandoned them?
HOW TO SUPPORT THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT
The protests have garnered worldwide attention, with gatherings taking place in over 200 cities across the states and 650 cities worldwide. The city of Minneapolis has been quick to make necessary changes, including the sentencing of all four police involved in the murder, the increase in sentence for the primary cop involved – from 3rd to 2nd degree murder, and the voting to dismantle its police force. This is truthfully an incredible start. However, there is more work to be done. The pressure must be kept on because if our leaders do not act now, will they ever?
Here are a few ways that you can support the Black Lives Matter movement that has taken the world by storm. Remember that a little can go a long way in the fight for freedom, equity and justice.
Diversify your streams of information. Add colored voices to your repertoire. Understand your privilege. As an avid podcast listener, here are few podcasts that offer new and valuable perspectives on the events that shape our worlds.
NYT’s podcast that breaks down daily news into 30 minute bites. Relevant and important episodes to listen to:
THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH
Hilarious and deep af, South African comedian, Trevor Noah, takes on the world’s biggest headlines with his team of correspondents. As an African taking on American news, he shares unique perspectives while putting emphasis on minorities and inviting diverse voices to speak on his platform.
The multi-talented and incredibly intelligent comedian, DJ, actress, author, TV personality that is Amanda Seale is intentional and open about speaking from about a black woman’s perspective as she focuses on a different topic every week, from politics and Covid in black communities, to great sex and fuck boys.
ON ONE WITH ANGELA RYE
The very witty and woke American attorney, political analyst and CNN political commentator, Angela Rye, goes into the most pressing issues concerning politics, race and pop culture.
Hosted by journalists of color, Code Switch takes on the important and at times uncomfortable subject of race in its myriad forms and how it impacts society.
We need to hold our leaders and representatives accountable. It is imperative for us to educate ourselves on the political processes that govern our societies since frankly our leaders often do a pretty terrible job at involving us in the conversation. It is equally important for us to hold them accountable for not actually standing up for the issues that they claimed they would take on, the people that they would fight for and the policies that they would put in place.
For people like myself who live abroad, find out how you can vote by mail. I am holding myself accountable as I missed the last elections in Canada and will not make that mistake again.
For my American friends, check out The Black Lives Matter Foundation #WhatMatters2020 campaign that works to BLM supporters and allies to the polls. Visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co to learn how to donate, sign petitions and protest safely.
WASHINGTON REPRESENTATIVES USING THEIR PLATFORMS TO DISMANTLE SYSTEMIC RACISM
Black entrepreneur and community-grown civil servant shedding light on issues impacting black people
Experienced homelessness and abuse as army veteran and uses her platform to break down a system that has failed many Americans
Studied political science at a technical college and fights for justice for all.
Champion for youth, working families and seniors using community empowerment and engagement to connect the state.
Time, money, skills, resources. These are all essentials that can help make a difference right now.
JOIN KHEANNA’S FUNDRAISER (AND ORGANIZATIONS YOU CAN DONATE TO)
My sister is hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, June 13th to support the Movement by teaching a day of online stretch and dance classes. She is taking donations via PayPal and will be splitting them amongst the following organizations fighting to end racism and police brutality:
- Black Lives Matter
- Reclaim the Block
- National Bail Out
- Black Visions Collective
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
- The National Police Accountability Project
- Color of Change Education Fund
- Unicorn Riot
- Campaign Zero
- Advancement Project
- The Marshall Project
For more info and to sign up to the fundraiser, click here.
SUPPLIES TO DONATE TO PROTESTORS
- A face mask
- Hand sanitizer
- Protective goggles for tear gas
- Small backpacks
Check out CNET’s full article on how to prepare for protests here.
SUPPORT BLACK VOICES AND BUSINESSES
This is the time to amplify black voices who are using their platforms to bring minority issues to the forefront. Support black creatives and businesses that have suffered greatly from the pandemic.
SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Use your platform to share [factual] information. Share your experience living with racism, discrimination, privilege, etc. Circulate images and videos from the Movement. Listen. Learn. If you get one person to think differently, you are pushing the movement forward.