Updated: Jun 19, 2020
The turnout on the June 5th protest in Vancouver was fantastic. People as far as the eye could see. We had the attention that we wanted but now we have to do something with it. Unfortunately, it felt like a press event rather than a protest. All the media people were taking up space in the back but we weren‘t saying anything. A few of the speakers hinted at an agenda forming but nothing unified enough to lead to change. I heard over and over the ills of the “system.” What I did not hear was the names of people that have the powers to expedite reform to said system. I did not hear the name of the police chief, the MLAs, the mayor, the premier, the prime minister. I did not hear the names of school principals, university deans, superintendents. These specific institutions should be exposed and forced to action. The people heading them should be given a large share of the accountability for continuing the blatantly unjust “system.” To those of you that will inevitably call this mob justice, what is racism if not mob injustice? Where is my due process? It has been centuries. We have to start somewhere and we have to accept that not every proposal and action will be perfect. Racism does not require intent to cause harm. Being anti-racist however, requires ambition and determination. Deconstructing this system will be unpleasant for many people and no one should cling to the expectation that this will be a feel-good process.
There is a small but significant rhetorical adjustment I would like to see addressed when discussing issues pertaining to the Black and other marginalized communities. People often say that we are treated “differently.” We are treated differently but it is much more specific than that. We are treated worse. Worse by the police, worse healthcare, worse schools, worse pay, longer prison sentences, shorter lives. We are treated with less respect than is deserved so why should we let the people running these unjust institutions go unnamed. Premier John Horgan. Mayor Kennedy Stewart. Chief Constable Adam Palmer. Justin Trudeau. Jagmeet Singh. Andrew Scheer. Say their names as well because they are complicit in the continuation of this system. Why are we letting ourselves be told how to protest injustice? This is not their space. It’s ours.
Tell the police to muzzle their dogs, not us.
To the business leaders, don’t just put out a statement of “support.” Tell me you’re going to reform your hiring practices. I want universities to tell me exactly what they’re doing to hire more black professors. I want the media to tell the world that there is a right and a wrong side here. If you aren’t anti-racist, you’re racist. There is no middle ground. Your false objectivity is showing. The ignorant opinions of those opposing that Black Lives do indeed Matter should not be treated with the same weight as those of people pushing for the basic human rights that Western civilization prides itself on offering to its white citizens.
I spent the weekend of the 5th in Victoria attending their protests which were much, much better than the Vancouver ones. One of the most powerful moments was when one of the organizers, Pam--if I’m recalling correctly--told the crowd to make space for all the black people to come to the front to stand in a space designated for us. Beyond that, the speakers were more organized. They spoke on specific grievances and made proposals on how to solve them beyond “fix the system.” There was much more direction to the whole event and most importantly, it felt like it was a protest for Black people. We were not told to hold our tongues for the sake of the news crews nor the police. If my rights only matter to you until I get loud, until I get angry, until I call out your racism, until the police use my skin colour as “probable cause” then my rights don't matter to you at all.
We have constantly seen crowds of thousands of people and many of us are angry. We are here in solidarity with our people around the world but much more importantly than that, we are here to change things in Vancouver, to change things in BC, to change things in Canada. We are also here in solidarity for our indigenous peoples who continue to be ignored by the deceitful state structure that imposed itself on this land.
No justice? No peace.