I’m a 48-year-old, white, straight, cisgender male. That is to say, I’m pretty privileged. I do not know about the lived experiences of those who are racialized, marginalized, invisible, and oppressed. I’ve read books, watched movies, taken courses, attended protests, listened and had conversations with those who live that experience every day. I still can’t fully know what it’s like to be shut out, put down, followed, profiled, street-checked, kneeled on, choked, or killed. Walking, shopping, or driving while white doesn’t usually end up with a police interaction, let alone violence. It is all too common if you’re Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Colour.
These last few weeks appears to have taken that proverbial pot from the low boil it’s been on for decades to full-on rolling boil, splashing its scalding water all over the kitchen. We’ve seen periods of boiling before but they didn’t seem to spark the kind of widespread protest and awareness that we are seeing now within all parts of our society. This time feels different.
Like many have been, I’ve been sitting with these thoughts for a while now trying to figure out how I can positively contribute in a more meaningful way against anti-black racism, against overt and systemic discrimination against all who have been harmed.
First, we have to acknowledge that racism is in our society. It’s not just our history. It’s our present. It’s in our institutions and systems, and in our workplaces and schools. It’s real and it’s harming…and killing…Black people here and around the world. And, it’s holding us all back.
Here’s what I can do just as a fellow human. I can listen more. I can learn more. I can love more. I can shine a light on the voices that have been lost or silenced. I can amplify their message. I can be a better ally. I can call out racism when I see it. I can call for change. We can all do this. We all NEED to do this.
Here’s what I can do as an elected municipal official. I can make sure there’s more transparency in decisions that affect racialized and marginalized individuals and communities. I can push for more representation of those voices where those decisions get made. I can make sure that representation is not token and our processes are changed to fit those voices, not expect those voices to change to fit our current systems. I can stand to the side, so those voices are louder than mine. And, I can help implement the changes those voices call for.
I can hold the police to account more. I can ensure that they have the training they need to police our communities with more respect, dignity, and humanity. I can push them to not over-police racialized communities and harass and arrest a disproportionate number of African-Nova Scotians. I can push to replace some policing services with more appropriate non-police professionals to help communities and people in need. I can work with the province to change the Police Act and give more appropriate powers to municipalities and Boards of Police Commissions to hold police officers and departments responsible.
I can work to change the structures and systems that allow our institutions, founded in colonization, that are still marginalizing, subjugating, and oppressing the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ in our society. I will be working with other municipal, provincial, and federal leaders to do this.
For too long, I’ve heard the stories, seen the news, talked to those who have experienced this. Clearly, I have not done enough. I need more education. I need to do more. I need to be more. I commit that I will.