Maggie John writes about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery
I’ve sat here at my window wondering what to say publicly about the tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia. Knowing I need to say something, but through the tears wondering what can I say that will make a difference?
In the past, I’ve shared the experiences I’ve had as a Black woman in Canada – the reality that my family faces every day as we leave the safety of our homes.
And, as I look out my window, I watch people jogging by with new eyes, jogging has now become a privilege.
Yet another name of a young, unarmed black man, has become a trending hashtag.
This has unfortunately become all too common and familiar. A young, unarmed black man, killed, his mother sobbing passionately on TV for the violence to stop, pleading for justice for her child, the young man’s picture and name goes viral, we pray, we cry, we march, the accusers go free and we move on.
And for some of us, we deny that there is a race issue in our world. We deny there is hate in our world, and we deny that anything must change – you don’t believe me?
How many times have you heard, “I’m not racist!”
That is denial.
It is denial that there are ingrained biases we all hold. We are in denial that assumptions are made based on race and therefore we deny that race is a social construct that continues to be propelled by the actions of humans.
So it happens again and again.
As a black woman raising two black young boys, the conversation of race has unfortunately been one I have had to enter into with my boys far too often, and they are only seven and 13. When you are racially profiled in a store, when your family members are pulled over by the police for a, “routine check,” when you are randomly searched multiple times when you travel, these are the sad realities, and cold hard truths of being black and brown in society. You have to second guess what you wear because you don’t want the hassle, you speak a certain way so that people know you are educated, you grow up aware of those who are watching your every move, desperate to fit you into the stereotype that is already formulated in their heads – all fueled by depictions fed by the media.
And, if you bring up the racial injustices exhibited in society you are told, “you have a chip on your shoulder,” or face immediate denial and immediately watch as fences are built as a defense mechanism to differentiate “them” from “us.”
We have black and brown men afraid to wear masks to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19 because they are afraid of garnering unwanted attention from the police in their communities.
This is a problem.
So when you hear of yet another senseless killing of a young black unarmed man, many of us who are black are unfortunately not surprised because the reality of hate we experience every day is real and yet we cry and wring our hands because Ahmaud could have been our husband, child, brother, nephew, cousin, or friend.
So what do we do?
What do we do here north of the border where we have unfortunately had our own cases of senseless racially motivated killings we change the narrative.
We encourage a posture of advocacy in our generation and those after us. We encourage love, but we also encourage real, unapologetic discussion about what it means to be black or brown in a society not designed for our existence, and we have honest conversations on how we can change.
We have to stop hashtagging with our armchair advocacy and start having hard conversations about the systemic racism that exists in our workplaces, our places of worship, and in our society in general.
Otherwise Ahmaud will not honour the memory of Ahmaud and all of the others who went before him – and he won’t, tragically, be the last, and we will be right back here talking about the next young black man senselessly killed for simply being black.