By: Ethan Castilloux
June 15th, 2020
What is it going to take for a system to change. When the roots of said system go so deep. Beneath the surface hidden until we take a shovel to dig a little further and sweep away the dirt of our past to realize where the roots go. They reveal to us a dark past, present and future of racial divide , discrimination and segrigation. I’m talking about systemic racism that is a part of this civilization that has been created and upheld by colonizers of these lands. To uproot these systems as an individual is impossible. People of all ethnicities but especially us with privilege, need to unite to sow a brighter tomorrow for all people of race, creed, religion, gender or identity. While not forgetting the history of what brought us here to this moment of change.
I won’t stand here and preach that I’m authority on racial issues or that I stand on a moral high ground above the rest. I just have an opinion and viewpoint I’d like to share if you would hear me with an open mind and heart. I’m just a normal white male, that grew up in a normal small Canadian town, with a normal childhood, with normal parents, and a normal blank slate. I have what is called white privilege. Something given to me at birth like the color of my skin. Never having to deal with racism or discrimnation when I go about a daily existence. Never have I woken up in the morning and wondered if someone would have prejudice against me because of the melanin of my skin. Never or will I ever fully understand that innate feeling . To pull an excerpt from White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
“Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress and violence”.
The first step is to acknowledge what it is that you have. Privilege. A proverbial leg up in this life, a headstart in front of minorities which you maybe didn’t realize you had. Sit with it, feel it, understand that others don’t have such opportunities as your own. I don’t wish to rid myself of such guilt and nore should you. But look down at the road beneath our feet of the system our fore-fathers paved before us. Built brick by brick with atrocities and racism and wonder if that is the road we still wish to go down. These are the difficult questions we need to be asking ourselves.
Last week on May 25, 2020, George Perry Floyd, a black man, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. This incident was caught on video, during an arrest. Three police officers put their knees on Floyd while he was handcuffed and lying face down on the concrete. One of them, Derek Chauvin, a white American police officer (with 18 prior complaints and who has also been involved in 3 shootings, one of them turning out to be fatal) knelt and pushed his knee on the side of Floyd’s neck. In the footage Floyd can be heard 16 times saying “I can’t breathe” trying to reason with the officer to remove his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, before killing him from asphyxia.
To fully understand the gravity of that last paragraph, I encourage you to set a timer on your phone for that amount of time. I don’t mind, I’ll wait. As the timer ticks along try to begin to wrap your mind around the fear and terror going through a person’s head in that moment. As the people who are in place to “Protect And Serve” your basic human rights slowly steal life from your body. It’s inconceivable, not one person deserves to feel what Floyd did that day. While what is shown on this video is horrific, what’s being amplified is the injustices that black and other minorities face. Not just in America but also here in Canada as well in the way we treat the
Indiginous population . How many other Floyds are there that go unnoticed? How many incidents happen when there isn’t a video camera? But how long will we stand by as a system built upon racism employs people who use excessive force and brutality, dividing us by race and fail to see the line drawn in the sand by their actions.
The questions all of this raises are, “What can I do ?”, “What is my role to play ?”. A great article written by Jotaka Eaddy is: “How to be an ally in the struggle against racism and police brutality”. Where she outlines what someone from a place of privilege can do to aid and facilitate meaningful change. Start by implementing the two most vital things you have, your ears. To listen and to educate yourself on understanding the systemic race relations of our society.
When it comes to education there is no shortage of amazing articles, videos , speeches and books dating back from present all the way to the early 20th century and beyond. Further cementing this is not just a current issue. This is one that has been happening for a very long time. One that I found particularly insightful, and was recommended by popular black activist and musician “Killer Mike” is a documentary called “A Class Divided” as it captures a social experiment conducted by Jane Elliot, a third-grade teacher. “The blue and brown eyed Experiment” seeks to show how easily and ready humans are to accept culture norms of privilege and division. She separates the children or focus group, based on eye color and begins her wedging between the two groups. Jane will give one half some advantages such as extra recess time, water fountain drinking privileges, bolstering their confidence with positive messages about their group of eye color. While in the same breath disparaging the other eye color, with negative comments. Not letting them play on playground equipment, and marking them with a special collar they must wear. The results are astounding. The children once friends turn on each other. Two boys even get into a fight over the matter. Later in the documentary ,they test the same experiment on a group of adults, with almost identical results. Once the experiment is revealed and everyone is back to “normal” is when the great dialogue of deeper understanding comes out from the participants. A small looking glass into a reality of one that is not their own. It’s information and knowledge of these issues and problems that can educate us, how to act ,and how to arm ourselves with fact based information to challenge hate when opportunity knocks.
Now go out and listen, I mean REALLY listen. Hear people tell their stories of injustice and discrimination or whatever it may be, just listen. Be cognizant of what you’re doing while doing so , Look them in the eyes, don’t interrupt or interject with a primed and ready response. Listen, treat them and their story with respect and dignity. Don’t let those tales fall on deaf ears, for what you can garner in these moments, is but a brief understanding of what it means to be a minority struggling against bias. Another way you can use this tool, is by looking for prejudice and inflammatory rhetoric in your circles. You’d be surprised where it shows up, it can be a small comment here or there. Maybe there wasn’t direct hatred behind it. But that’s the problem, slights at people of color or minorities are baked into a culture we have created that has normalized these acts of hate against the “Other”.
Use your voice. It’s all of our jobs as allies to a cause and a movement to stand up and use our platform to speak out against these deep rooted issues. Don’t be silent in the face of hate. Have difficult conversations with people within your community. “Change the hearts and minds at your dinner tables and amongst your own circles of friends” Jotaka Eaddy says. These are what beacons in the tide of change. Come from a place of peace. I believe the late great Martin Luther King, the leader of the civil rights movement said it best, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Eaddy, Jotaka, and Emma Hinchliffe.
“How to Be an Ally in the Struggle against Racism and Police Brutality.”
Fortune, Fortune, 1 June 2020, fortune.com/2020/06/01/how-to-be-an-ally-in-the-struggle-against-racism-and-police-brutality/.
“’White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ and ‘Some Notes for Facilitators.” National SEED Project, nationalseedproject.org/Key-SEED-Texts/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack.
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege.
Race Forward, 30 May 2019,
“8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody.”
The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html.
“A Class Divided” (full film) | FRONTLINE
Third-grade teacher Jane Elliott’s lesson in discrimination.