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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing clear evidence of how years of systemic racism is illuminating the underlying weaknesses at the core of society. As several Canadians and Americans continue to self-isolate at home, the racial inequalities that have existed for years are being brought to the media’s forefront, which has spurred outrage far beyond America’s borders.
A video was shared, showing how George Floyd was violently murdered by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. The graphic video, as well as images of Floyd and other Black individuals who have been murdered; Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Michael Brown Jr., Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Emmett Till -- to name just a few-- have circulated worldwide.
To call 2020 tumultuous is an understatement, but issues of racism towards Black people, especially at the hand of the police, is not just a 2020 issue. The murder of George Floyd is just one chapter in the history of hundreds of years of systemic racism against the Black community.
Racism has always existed but in the last few months we have seen a countless number of Black lives senselessly lost because of the colour of their skin. George Floyd’s death was the last straw in a sequence of murders and injustices. With several parts of Canada and the United States still at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are able to consume media and take action virtually or at protests in their home cities. Protests have entered their ninth day across the U.S., Canada and other major global cities like Paris, France and London.
A protest taking place on Bloor Street in Toronto.
Hours before the video of George Floyd's murder was released, another video surfaced online. The video depicted a white woman, named Amy Cooper, in Central Park calling 911 on Christian Cooper; a Black man who had requested that Cooper leash her dog, as is required by the rules that govern the park. The video of Cooper was a blatant example of white privilege and an acknowledgement of the strained relationships between Black men and police officers. Black people are almost always assumed guilty before proven innocent. White people are socialized to see the police as allies, while Black people are taught to fear them. This incident triggered the domino effect of virtual activism against the discrimination of Black people.
In Canada, last week on May 27, 2020, 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black Canadian woman, died under mysterious circumstances; police were in her Toronto home when she fell to her death from the balcony of her 24th floor apartment. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which examines death, serious injury or allegations of assault involving police, is currently investigating the case.
Many Canadians may often feel overwhelmed watching what is happening in the U.S., but anti-Black police violence and discrimination is prevalent in Canada as well. In various provinces across the country people have shown their support. Thousands of people marched through downtown Calgary on Monday, June 1, 2020, against racism in response to the death of George Floyd. Montreal protests led to the arrest of 11 people on Sunday night. In Vancouver, more than 1000 people rallied outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, chanting, "no justice, no peace.” In Victoria, dozens of activists have gathered in Victoria’s Centennial Square to take part in an anti-racism march and vigil. People in Canada are doing their part to stand against these injustices.
Police brutality against Black people is nothing new, neither are protests urging people to do their part to help fight against these injustices. What is new, is the strong influence of social media in the fight to spread the word. Social media is giving millions of people a voice and allowing people to educate themselves and actively join this fight virtually -- keeping in mind that we are still living through a pandemic. The flood of social media posts may be overwhelming and some may question how reposting and sharing social media posts is helpful. In short, getting the conversation started is important and taking advantage of these platforms may be key to getting our voices heard. Acknowledging the racism and realizing that there are steps that need to be taken in order to combat this multifaceted issue, is where we see the essentiality of these social media posts.
If you are asking yourself what you can do to stand with Black lives and help in a tangible way, keep reading. It is necessary for those who have the privilege and power to stand with those that do not. Listen to experiences of marginalized groups and educate yourselves.
If there is going to be lasting change in systems and policies so that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others receive justice we cannot sit in silence. If you are looking for ways to get involved and help, this is a compiled list of several anti-racism organizations in Canada and the United States. We have also compiled a list of places to donate funds, a list of useful books, podcasts and other informative resources that are a good start.
If you want to read and learn more about Black and anti-racist work, you can start by reading some of the books suggested below. There are several American and international Black authors as well as Canadian authors that have produced insightful work that tell the story from the Black perspective.
Podcasts to Listen to:
This list was compiled by Bello Collective
20 Podcasts That Confront Racism in America
Works by Black Canadian Authors:
Mental Health Resources for the Black Community:
Where You Can Donate:
Canadian Black Organizations:
Here are links to some national and regional Black organizations. If you’re interested and capable of contributing money, many of these organizations accept donations, while others are looking for volunteers or support in other ways. This is not an exhaustive list but it is a great start. These are organizations you can look into if you are looking to support Black communities and organizations in your area.