Racism And Humanity: Why Can't We Just Accept Each Other?
It's Nearly Impossible To Know What To Say
Like pretty much everyone on the planet who's been following the news even peripherally, I still am trying to process exactly what happened in the moments leading up to and following the death of George Floyd.
It's easy for us Canadians to say that racism is something that predominantly happens in the United States. It's easy to dismiss what's happening in the United States right now as a uniquely American phenomenon.
But it's not.
If it was, we wouldn't have issues like we saw in the case of Sammy Yatim, a young man who aggressively moved on a passenger on a Toronto, Canada streetcar while brandishing a switchblade, and who was shot eight times by Toronto Police Officer James Forcillo. We wouldn't have issues like we're looking at in the case of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, where the family has suggested they believe the police, who through a lawyer said needs to "adjust the way they respond to calls involving people suffering crises," according to CP24, might have had something to do with her fatal fall from her balcony.
These were all people of varying lifestyles and colors, and while the investigations into Korchinski-Paquet's and Floyd's deaths are ongoing, there appears to be one common link: fateful interactions with the police, and it would be all too easy to dismiss all police as incapable, dispassionate, racist individuals who have it in for anyone who is not white.
However, this is not the case. If we were to say that all cops are like that, we are negating those who work hard to treat people fairly and without prejudice. We can't say that any one group is "just this way" or "just that way" either because then we are stereotyping people without attempting to understand what they truly are like.
I realize that I am speaking from a place of white privilege; while I've had a handful of interactions with the police, these have been limited to times when I've been issued traffic tickets for driving too quickly, and I've never once had to be in fear of what the police might do if I did something that they might deem inappropriate in the heat of a moment.
I am appalled by the numbers of stories I see where people of various ethnicities have had excessive force visited upon them during traffic stops or other interactions with the police. I am appalled by stories like that of George Floyd, who was apparently stopped by police because the store owner believed he had passed a counterfeit bill.
I'm appalled that the world we live in is a place where my own children have done research and sadly realized that racial inequality is a reality for too many. My 11-year-old actually researched instances where people who were not white have experienced excessive violence - if not death - at the hands of police, and while I was impressed that she actually looked into it for her own understanding, I am still bothered that she has now realized the magnitude of this reality at such a young age. I realize that there are those who actually live this reality at her age and younger, but it is still sad that she is getting a glimmer of how pervasive this issue has been.
I'm appalled that the United States has erupted in riots that seem to span the union. I am even more appalled that according to Toronto Star, tear gas was used to clear a peaceful protest across from a church that President Donald Trump used as a photo op as he attempted to call for an end to the violence that is currently gripping the United States. In looking at history, though, the United States has been here before; remember the Rodney King riots in 1992? Remember Stonewall in 1969?
It breaks my heart that my oldest was in tears because of what's currently happening in the United States, and I have to remind her that while the police in this situation (and, unfortunately, many other situations like it) appear to have grievously erred in handling this situation, not all police would act and react the same way. It's heartbreaking that families are watching the businesses that they have built from the ground up being destroyed because either protesting has gone horrifically wrong or people who claim they are protesting George Floyd's death are taking advantage of a tragic situation and looting.
Will anyone look at the rampant prejudice and racism that grips the United States, and in some cases, Canada, and work to end the discrimination that exists? That remains to be seen. If there's anything we can learn from history it's that very frequently, we humans have a hard time learning the lessons from our past.