Photo Credit: Vince Fleming via Unplash
By Volunteer Contributor Teddy Greene
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, these are the names of two innocent Black people who were unjustly killed at the hands of those sworn to protect them.
Sadly, these aren’t the only victims of such cruelty, as there are hundreds of others who have died at the mercy of police and didn’t receive the same media coverage. To those who were not killed, but rather face systemic racism on a daily basis: Black Lives Matter. To those who do not fall victim to such hardships and discrimination, Black Lives Should Matter.
There are many who may not fully understand the reason for the uproar that emerged this past summer over the killing of Floyd and Taylor. Imagine George Floyd was your father, brother or even son. Imagine Breonna Taylor was your mother or sister; would you want justice?
Personally, I resonated with the murder of George quite deeply, as I couldn’t shake the thought of him being my own father, struggling for air and eventually dying slowly due to asphyxiation. Former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George’s neck for almost eight minutes. For what? A counterfeit $20 bill. I would want justice. I feel that the lack of consideration for Black life is becoming quite disturbing and needs to be addressed.
Although when we hear ‘Black Lives Matter’, we generally think about police brutality, often in association with the United States; it goes far deeper than that. Systemic racism, otherwise known as institutionalized racism, is extremely prevalent even here in Canada. This refers to the racism entrenched in our policies and procedures. It includes attitudes and behaviors towards a group of people firmly baked into society and considered routine.
As an older brother, I want nothing more than for my younger sister to grow up, to travel without constantly feeling as though she has a target on her back, merely because of the colour of her skin.
I would love for my application to graduate school to be considered and assessed based on my academic competence, not the origin of my name. I would like to walk past a woman in the street and not see her clench her purse extra tight out of the fear that I may try to steal it from her. These are all things I should not have to ask for, especially not in 2020. One would think the days of segregation and blatant oppression would be far gone by now, but unfortunately, old habits die hard and my people are still bearing the brunt of it.
It seems as though the only time Black people are truly appreciated is when it involves entertaining others; whether that be on a stage, on the field, or on a court. It pains me that, for whatever reason, we can be the entertainers and the stars of the show on your Monday night, while still being the victims of your implicit bias on our Tuesday morning.
The topic of implicit bias was introduced to me by one of my professors, Dr. Michaelson. It refers to the attitudes and assumptions through which we view the world around us. These may include thought processes, prejudices and stereotypes we may not even fully agree with. Most importantly, they are subconscious, meaning that unlike explicit biases, we are not aware of them. These implicit biases are often derived from associations we are exposed to over the course of our lives, usually through our environment. Eventually, with repeated exposure to these patterns and social cues, we begin to make assumptions that are unconscious.
Why did you assume that Black male student was going to rob you?
Why did you assume that Black female was going to sing when she went on stage?
Why did the officer assume the Black male was reaching for a weapon and the white male, his identification?
These are all questions to be asked and conversations to be had, with family, friends, and neighbours, no matter your race. Neither the media, the politicians or even our loved ones should determine the way we view an entire group of people. While these assumptions and associations are hard to eliminate, given that they stem from our environment, we must do better to break the stigma and, in turn, break the cycle.
It has become apparent that being aware of our implicit biases is not enough, we need to look introspectively and formulate our own opinions. Instead of associating Black men with violence and crime, we can choose to eliminate prejudice all together. We can throw out these preconceived notions that have been drilled into our heads since we were children. We must think about how our attitudes and assumptions affect our neighbours. Finally, we must work as a collective to remove the implicit biases and injustices that are still prevalent within our systems, as in doing so, we ensure that our environments are no longer influencing our own thoughts and attitudes.
I have to say, I was incredibly pleased with the support for the Black Lives Matter movement I saw this summer. However, the needless killing didn’t stop in September. I fear it was a trend to speak out against police brutality, with everyone being cooped up indoors in quarantine, but I urge everyone to continue.
I hope everyone makes a conscious effort to do better from here on out; correct your family members, fight your implicit biases and stand up for your neighbors in this time of need.