If you’ve noticed there’s growing dissent in the black community over the most effective way forward in western society, I’ll refer you to learn about two people my dad had spoke so affectionately about: Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Black and white people alike will often point to these two historic figures in the fight for civil rights, usually find some anecdotal evidence to support their cause by referring to a statement, an action, by either one of them. One such statement is this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Fiery demagogic oratory in the Black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as Malcolm has done, can reap nothing but grief.”
What I learned in my youth wasn’t that there were two distinctly different ideologies in the fight for civil rights, but that words have power, and that truth is the most single unifying aspect of humanity. That as Malcolm’s tone changed, as he rallied to support Martin Luther King Jr., he was assassinated, because otherwise you would have witnessed a political movement that would have completely changed the way America is today. Not because of the power within the black community, but because of the power in the way Martin Luther King Jr. articulated the truth, and fought to unify people, regardless of the colour of their skin.
We all live in a society where the fight for equal rights has been won, where you will find no written law that discriminates between the skin colour of a person. We live in a society where a black man not only can, but did become President of the United States. A world in which a black woman, a successful lawyer, is fighting to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.
We live in a society where, in my own father’s lifetime, he saw these monuments of people of the civil-rights movement rise and fall, has lived through overt racism and persecution, and now black people are millionaires, billionaires, senators and leaders throughout western society.
Martin Luther King Jr. articulated and fought for the truth, and to unify people regardless of the colour of their skin, and we have come so very far to realize that goal. However the fight isn’t over, not because we need to challenge laws like Martin Luther King Jr. did, but because we have an even more impossible challenge ahead of us: we need to define normalcy, dwarf, if not eliminate systematic racism, grow economic prosperity and ensure not only freedom, but freedom in opportunities for everyone.
Yes, I acknowledge wholeheartedly that the wealth-gap exists, that systematic racism is the persistence of stereotyping groups of people based on shared arbitrary characteristics, like the colour of our skin. However, I also believe that although there have been severe and gross miscarriages of justice throughout history, that we cannot allow select partisan groups of people routinely go back to re-litigate the past.
We live in a time where we have the greatest opportunity to build up economic prosperity, to eliminate the wealth-gap and build up a vibrant middle-class. Most importantly, we have the most brilliant people to tackle the disgusting consequences, both domestic and foreign, that the unchecked embrace of a disfigured, aristocratic globalism has wrought.
In this new world when I talk about re-litigating the past, people may want to throw their opposition into that camp, saying only liberals or conservatives are doing that, and standing by anecdotal evidence to prove their innocence, their own righteousness. But it was very clear after the protests over George Floyd’s death erupted into riots. You had black conservatives all but completely dismissing racism, and you had exceptionally wealthy black celebrities and commentators sounding the drums of war against endless persecutions. Well, sorry not sorry to disappoint, but I have no intention of supporting either narrative.
Saying racism doesn’t exist, or dismissing its effects entirely is just as accurate as saying that all white people are fundamentally evil. I know that people can think critically for themselves, and if I can see through both of these narratives, that both extremes are struggling to hold water, then I expect most people see that as well.
I accept the lived experience of these people, regardless of their political beliefs, is a valid barometer for their own personal morality. And the truth is, I have to believe that both sides are trying their best to contribute in a way they feel helps move society forward in strength, unity and prosperity.
As Malcolm X came to understand as he matured, our personal morality must still fit within the more confined boundaries of society–violence can lead to nothing but grief–nonviolent revolution is possible, as long as that revolution is based on the truth and not simply conjecture.
I could only hope that the people on their loudspeakers aren’t doing it for self-gratification and glorification, but that in their hearts they truly do want to help. Because if I can’t believe that, than it would break my heart to see so many people, so eagerly and deliberately sow seeds of division and animosity.
Based on my own lived experience, I want to reveal what I truly do believe as being some very basic truths:
- Racism does exist. But it’s not overt like in my father’s lifetime, and not even as overt as when I was growing up (I feel so old saying that). That doesn’t make racism okay. The way I’m observing society approach racism in an effort to confront and dismantle it, I understand is coming from good intentions, but is systematically as corrupt as the efforts that created racial stereotypes in the first place.
- Racial stereotypes exist. Whether we want to openly accept it or not, stereotypes play a significant role in our psychology, in how we view and treat other groups of people: be it black people, white people, or any common denominator that we mentally assign patterns of behavior to.
- My lived experience, and those of many other black people I’ve met in my lifetime, reinforces a simple, inconvenient truth: black people in economically disadvantaged and even all the way through upper-middle class society, still face racial discrimination from law enforcement, from racial profiling to outright brutality.
- Being in the top 10% of earners in Canada hasn’t shielded me from racial profiling by law enforcement. My dad, being meek, a devout Christian, a hardworking Canadian, and never so much as driving through a stop sign, didn’t stop an RCMP officer and his racist-enabling colleagues to beat the shit out of him, laugh about it, admit they were wrong and suffer no recourse.
- The police are not taught to be racist. Society compels them to be heroic, to run into the buildings that are burning, to run toward the bullets, not away from them. But police officers are just as human as you and I, and racial stereotypes have just as significant impact on them as they do you and me, if not even more amplified due to the hypersensitivity required of their jobs.
- Racial stereotypes are the number one form of racism that exists to negatively impact black people throughout western society. These stereotypes are toppled not through animosity and racial division, but through unity, finding solutions to our shared problems, our societal and economic problems. Communities prosper when they have a common charter of what normalcy looks like. We must strive for a shared vision of normalcy in our countries, our cities, our neighbourhoods and our homes. Not conformity, but normalcy.
- The majority of people I’ve met in my life, and I truly do believe that it represents the absolute majority of people in Canada, are not racist, they’re not even discriminatory. They’re thoughtful, considerate, and care about the tangible qualities that people can control about themselves, like their personalities, not the intangible qualities that we’re born with. However, there are very small, vocal groups that try to amplify division in society through arbitrary differences such as race.
- It is simple to end racism, not easy but simple. All we have to do is consistently fight to ensure our laws are fair, that they are blind. All we have to do is share a vision of what normalcy looks like, and then fight like hell to ensure that every person can reasonably achieve that vision if they so desire. All we have to do is take the economic levers and place them squarely in the hands of our society as a whole, so that we can enable average people to actually achieve financial wellbeing through hard-work, like all of us nineties children were raised to believe was true. All we have to do is share our commonalities, our interests and our goals. And this is my book, so I’m allowed to be corny and say that all we have to do is love one another.
If you smiled at that last one, it was meant to be comic relief. The reality is, the focus of this book was about my lived experience with racism in Canada, however I would be remiss if I didn’t also talk about the fairness, the opportunity, and the neighbourly love that I’ve also experienced. It would take another twenty books to explain how many people I’ve met in my life that have inspired me and encouraged me, and have been the type of neighbour that Mr. Rogers would have been proud they could be.
black lives matter