Disclaimer: This article comes from a place of allyship, whiteness, and privilege. Its goal is to educate readers and members of the Skule™ community about the current Black Lives Matter movement. Resources and ways to promote allyship are included at the end of this article. Trigger warnings for this article: violence, murder, police brutality, racism.
George Floyd, Minneapolis: murdered May 25, 2020, by police officer Derek Chauvin who pinned him down with his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd called out that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd, accused of purchasing cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, did not resist arrest and his autopsy revealed death by asphyxia. Chauvin was charged for third-degree murder, which as of now, has been raised to second-degree due to public outcry.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Toronto: murdered May 27, 2020, with claims that police pushed her off her balcony. Korchinski-Paquet’s mother had called police for a domestic conflict cast with a request to take her to CAMH. Korchinski-Paquet was left alone with the police, crying out for help, and then found dead from “falling” off her apartment balcony. An investigation is underway.
Breonna Taylor, Kentucky: murdered March 2020, by 8 shots from police in her own home. Police raided her home on a no-knock warrant for a narcotics investigation. As of now, this case is under FBI Investigation.
Willie Simmons, Alabama: life sentence without parole since 1982. He was guilty of a robbery worth $9, with appeals denied for the past 39 years.
Elijah McClain, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, Belly Mujinga, Sean Reed: these are just a few of the numerous cases of police brutality against Black people, many of which have not been shared through social media.
In 2013, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was founded after the acquittal of the officer responsible for Treyvon Martin’s death. Martin was a 17-year-old shot to death without justification while walking from a convenience store. Their mission is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” According to the Mapping Police Violence organization, in the United States, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police officers, with 99% of killings resulting in officers not being charged.
For generations, systemic injustices have been ingrained within many parts of society, beyond prevalent and unjustified police brutality towards Black people and POC. Slave patrols were the first form of policing and were used to control slaves and protect white landowners. After the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in 1865, slave patrols became sheriffs that would block labour strikes, control immigrants, and enforced segregation. The policing system was built from segregation and racism. During the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s, Black Americans protested against this system and against legalized racism. They were met with violence from the police to silence them, yet eventually, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. However, that was not the end of racism. This is not an exclusively an American problem either, Canada has its own history of slavery as well and systemic issues.
In Canada, systemic racism is a large, but hidden issue. In the investigative series, Deadly Force by the CBC, 17 years of Canadian police action was investigated. Of 460 fatal cases, only 3 police officers were charged with murder. Indigenous and Black people were disproportionately victims. In 2017, the Ontario Human Rights Commission shared an interim report including an inquiry into Toronto Police Services’ allegations of racial profiling. Between 2013 and 2017, seven of ten police-caused fatal shootings were against Black people, while they only made up 8.8% of the population in Toronto.
In recent years, protests against racism and unjustified violence have grown internationally. In 2016, football player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the U.S national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality. The messages of the Black community about the systemic racism they constantly face was amplified by Kaepernick’s protest. However, the circulation of the video of George Floyd’s murder was the tipping point. People were not listening.
Protests in Minneapolis were quickly organized spread in all 50 states and other parts of the world, despite the pandemic. Health officials continue to support the cause – urging protesters to wear face masks, carry hand sanitizer, and get tested. In fact, structural racism is a health issue – generational trauma and the history of oppression directly relates to health statistics. Bias in healthcare delivery and the quality of health care for racialized individuals are a large issue. For example, CNN journalist Chris Cuomo shared statistics during his America is a Tale of Two Cities report with regards to healthcare and the pandemic. Black people most at risk for contracting COVID-19 because they are more employed in essential workplaces but have 20% less access to private healthcare. Alongside protests, social media platforms have blown up with information to share, reposts for support, and videos to show what is happening.
Peaceful protests are the most widely-used tool to amplify the messages of the cause. Black protestors are emphasizing the need for allies to help prevent participators from engaging in unnecessary violent destruction. Protests are being organized to ensure that water and medical supplies are available and with the safety of the protestors in mind. However, numerous protests have resulted in unnecessary arrests of peaceful protestors and strong use of force from the police.
The escalation has been predominantly due to excessive force from the police, their reaction a stark contrast to April’s protests from a predominantly white crowd with guns protesting against wearing face masks while police did nothing. The New York Times reports, “Videos showed police officers in recent nights using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked.” Undercover cops, military vehicles, police with full riot gear, and unexpected curfews have been claimed to set unease during the original peaceful protests.
As a result, protestors are defending the rioting and looting as a justified response to the force used. In 2014, author of the book In Defense of Looting, Vicky Osterweil emphasized that looting can be a way to take back against rich predominantly white corporations that have taken advantage of their workers or assisted in gentrifying neighbourhoods. Additionally, Target’s CEO Brian Cornell wrote a statement after the Minneapolis Target was looted due to the location refusing to sell medical supplies and milk, items used during protests. He states that Target will be able to rebuild, that the company will make sure it has supplies ready to assist the protests, and that its employees will be protected. Cleanups have been hosted as well to show that rebuilding is possible but innocent victims’ lives cannot.
While people have questioned the effectiveness of riots and protests, it is important to look at the Stonewall Uprising as one of many situations where collective gatherings successfully fought for change. In June 1969, LGBTQ+ people gathered at the few bars and clubs in New York that were safe spaces, but police would often raid them. Stonewall Inn’s raid sparked the start of five full days of protests and riots against police brutality. One of the front-liners of the gay liberation movement was Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman. The following year marked the very first pride parades. Additionally, the Civil Rights Movement was not perfectly peaceful either – especially when met with resistance.
In the past few weeks, the protests have accomplished a lot – and they’re still going. Minneapolis is looking into disbanding its police force. The New York Police Department and New Jersey State Police are promising reform. The Los Angeles Police Department is defunding. Breonna’s Law was put in place in Kentucky to prevent police from entering houses without knocking. Racist monuments and statues are being taken down. Companies are changing their racist branding. The protests are still strong and people must continue to speak up – even if it seems like the media is showing less and less of what’s happening.
When it comes to the BLM movement, it is important to be informed, educate, and speak up. In her article “On Making Black Lives Matter”, Black writer and social commenter Roxane Gay emphasize that allies need to stand up alongside the oppressed, listen to marginalized people’s experiences, call out those who are being racist or speaking racist remarks, and understanding the struggle present. The Guide To Allyship, written by Black writer and designer Amélie Lamont, lists that an ally should be aware of their implicit biases, do research on the history of the causes, amplify the voices of those without the same privileges, and learn from mistakes.
Engineering Dean Yip posted a statement on June 5th acknowledging and planning to act against racism. He shares, “Equity, diversity and inclusivity are core values here in U of T Engineering, and critical to the engineering enterprise. These words are genuine — but they remain words until they are actions.” Along with the Black Inclusion Steering Committee, he states that U of T Engineering will open more channels of discussion to address concerns, gather more demographic data, and improve Black representation in the community. In addition, U of T’s Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO) provides support for students, staff, and faculty across U of T via education programming, complaint resolution supports, and community outreach and engagement.
During this time, sign petitions, donate if you can, educate others by sharing information, listen to those speaking up, and contact those in positions of power are ways to assist with the movement. It’s okay to feel angry, anxious, and upset; utilize these emotions to perpetuate the need for change. Change won’t happen overnight, but we have seen it in small ways – let’s keep this going. Stand up for human rights. Black lives matter.
Black-Focused Mental Health Resources:
Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario: A Collection of Resources for Black Healing and Wellness
Across Boundaries: Across Boundaries provides equitable, inclusive and holistic mental health and addiction services for racialized communities within an anti-racism, anti-Black racism and anti-oppression frameworks.
Black Counsellors, Social Workers and Therapists in Ontario listed by Psychology Today
Black Therapists Directory compiled by Therapy For Black Girls — Toronto Grassroots Edition
BlackLine 24/7 Hotline (1 (800) 604-5841) BlackLine provides a space for peer support and counseling, reporting of mistreatment, and affirming the lived experiences to folks who are most impacted by systematic oppression with an LGBTQ+ Black Femme Lens.
Black Legal Action Centre A non-profit community legal clinic that provides free legal services for low or no income Black residents of Ontario
Caribbean African Canadian Social Services CAFCAN is a not-for-profit agency whose primary focus is on building and strengthening the service framework for African Canadians through the use of psycho-social Interventional approaches.
TAIBU Community Health Centre TAIBU Community Health Centre (CHC) is a multidisciplinary, non-for-profit, community led organization established to serve the Black Community across the Greater Toronto Area as its priority population.
The Black Health Alliance The Black Health Alliance is a community-led registered charity working to improve the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada.
Women’s Health in Women’ Hands Community Health Centre Provides primary healthcare to racialized women from the African, Black, Caribbean, Latin American and South Asian communities in Toronto and surrounding municipalities.
Contact 211 for other supports for Black communities
Resources for Education and Allyship:
Black Organizations and Initiatives to Donate to within Toronto, Ontario and Canada:
Black Legal Action Centre: A non-profit community legal clinic that provides free legal services for low or no income Black residents of Ontario.
Justice for Regis: On May 27th 2020, Regis Korchinski Paquet, tragically lost her life, you can support her family by donating.
Black Health Alliance: The Black Health Alliance is a community-led registered charity working to improve the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada. The organization is driven by groundbreaking research and continues to grow the movement for change. Its goal is to create lasting changes in the lives of the Black community through innovative solutions regarding financial support and Black health and well-being.
Canadian Anti-Racism Network: The Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society was founded to track and monitor hate group activity throughout the country. From there, it provides victim support services for hate crime and systemic racism, works with public educational establishments to add curriculum about institutional racism, and helps youth leave hate groups.
Petitions to sign: