Inside: We have to be the change. We have millions of small choices to make as we walk about our ordinary life that determine how we’ll help build a kinder, safer world for everyone.
A Message From My Mother’s Heart on Mother’s Day weekend, 2020.
My heart hurts. How is it that we still live in a world where a young black man is gunned down while going about his ordinary life? This is not ok.
We will never experience true freedom while we deny people their humanity (paraphrase). -Sterling K. Brown
It is not ok that even in Canada, where we tend to feel safer and less affected by racial tension, police brutality, or unprovoked shootings that I had to teach my son and his brown friends as teens that they could not walk around town when it was dark because the online FB forums made it clear when there were thefts in town where fingers were pointed, that they should not pull the hoods of their hoodies up as they walked as a friend group just having fun.
My boy was called a N-er so many times – on the basketball court, while working at Canadian Tire, just going about his everyday life being the kind, responsible, hardworking, trustworthy, creative, sensitive human he was. There is NO WAY that this didn’t affect his heart – didn’t make it harder for him to walk in his worth in a world that feels it has a right to treat him as less than.
We live in a world that hurls racial slurs at people because of their beautiful black and brown bodies or their accents. That acuses the hardworking immigrants who join our communities of stealing our jobs. We live in a world that hurls abuse at women for being too fat or too skinny, for covering their heads or not covering their bodies enough. We live in a world in which suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst our young people and 33% of LGB youth have attempted suicide in comparison to 7% of youth in general.
We live in a world that still thinks saying “I don’t see colour” is a good thing. My black husband sees colour. My biracial kids see colour. My brothers and sisters with beautiful shades of pink and white and brown babies see colour. And I see colour and it is stunningly beautiful and on purpose.
When my kids were little, other kids would say things to them like “why do you look funny?” or other ignorant things. You might think this is just the innocence of childhood but it is not. This is an indication that they are not being taught by the adults in their life about the beauty of diversity, the beauty of colour and of different life experiences and language and customs. That white middle-class North American isn’t the standard we measure everyone else up against.
It is our job to intentionally teach this. And it’s not even hard to do.
My mom, before online shopping and Amazon, hunted down beautifully illustrated books representing black and brown children to give to my babies. This was in a time when it was still hard for me to find a brown baby doll for my children. But she did it – on purpose – because she loved them so much and she knew it was important for them to see themselves represented in words and media and art in a positive way.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou
Years ago, I chose to quit volunteering at a second-hand shop because a regular customer was permitted to loudly express his dislike of the growing Filipino community in our small town. The people in charge were unwilling to rock the boat. So I left.
But I am willing to rock the boat where I have a voice.
It can feel scary – what if we say or do the wrong thing, what if in trying we cause harm rather than helping? If you feel this way, I hear you and I am with you. I might get it wrong. My understanding is limited, I do not doubt that my ignorance runs deeper than I realize, I have much to learn. But the point is to learn and to “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” as Maya Angelou taught.
I want freedom for my children. I want freedom for myself. But we will never know freedom until every human is safe to go for a jog on a sunny afternoon. Where we all take responsibility to educate ourselves, learn better, do better, listen better.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi
We don’t wait for an election to change things or for legislative or systemic change – we have to be the change. Every single one of us has a voice, money to spend, time to use up. We have millions of small choices to make that determine who we will be and how we’ll show up in the world, and how we’ll help build a kinder, safer world for everyone. Not just our own children.
Although some of the people I love more than my own life live in beautiful black or brown bodies, I do not know what it is like to be them. I do not know the American experience or the immigrant experience (though my West-African husband is an immigrant and we live on Treaty 6 land) because I was born and raised here in Canada.
I can only speak from my mother’s heart – a mom who just buried her own son 6 months ago and cannot even fathom how it would be if Jairus had been murdered by white supremacists, and as a mom who has two strong, fierce daughters who I will fight tooth and nail for, and from my sister’s heart who knows that some of my siblings have been the target of racism and prejudice, and as the wife of a kind and hardworking man who walks through life just a little stooped over because of some of the things he has heard and witnessed in his life, and as a hurting human in a very messy and often unkind world.
We have to do better. I will do better.
NOW WHAT? The best way to learn how we can be the change, to help and not harm is to listen to the leaders and teachers from within the marginalized community. We can buy their books, pay for their training, listen carefully and learn (less talking, more listening) via their social media and podcasts, and practice taking action.
SOME PLACES TO START (ON IG AND FB):
@laylafsaad and @goodancestorpodcast
@trudilebron and @nothowthatworks
@theconsciouskid and The Conscious Kid
@hereweeread and Here Wee Read
@melaninandmentalhealth or Melanin & Mental Health
@spokenblackgirl and Spoken Black Girl Mag
@myamericanmeltingpot and My American Meltingpot
@nieishaspeaks and Nieisha Speaks
@wholeselfliberation and Whole / Self Liberation
@josaxton and Jo Saxton
HELPFUL RESOURCES AS A STARTING POINT