I still call you my first Black friend. But having a Black friend ain’t never enough but an excuse to divert from the reality of anti-Blackness in my own life.
I can’t just give you daps while denying the fact that:
- When I was a kid, I never pushed back against those who told me not to hang out with you or that your background would be a negative influence on me – based only on human bias and a lack of understanding;
- When I was in high school, took your music and turned it into my hobby, without initial acknowledgment of the music’s roots in the struggle;
- When I was in college, I tried to tune out but said nothing when a friend of mine, also darker skinned but with light-skin passing privilege within his community, thought it appropriate to drop the words that has caused generations of pain – making it a point to sing out the word in every song we played cards;
- To this day, I often stand idly by continuing to watch television shows where you are expropriated for comedic purposes or to illustrate flaws, wrongdoing, crime as if who you were did not matter. Characters in Blackface and constantly stating “I don’t want to be Black, I don’t want my skin to be Black.”
- In my work, when I operate so blatantly in a system of Anti-Black racism that barred you from coming to Canada, and is still systemically ensuring you are kept outside of our borders and our detention facilities. Trying to always play saviour;
- In my community, when I come into your circle as an other and speak as though my experiences trump yours, and it is my place to share my academic knowledge of our condition to demonstrate I should have a seat at the table – it’s not making a difference to the seat that you don’t have;
- When I have privilege and voice and see Black sisters in the game, but I spend my time seeking approval from the white man and forgetting your existence;
- When I can speak out, but when elders and loved ones in my community who do not know better nor and who I have not taken time to educate, demean your history and existence, and I say nothing. Once someone said your community should only have an alley and I just swallowed my disagreement. That’s not what allies do.
- That I have benefitted from writing about Race and bringing a critical lens into my work, while Black sisters are doing the unpaid emotional labour, and both Black sisters and brothers are dying just on the basis of existing.
- That I am often too-silent in the face of authority and whiteness.
I’m too often silent and therefore complicit.
My words and performative work mean nothing if I do not acknowledge past shortcomings and change them. Stumbling and all.
I cannot absolve my own responsiblities simply through #hashtags and rallies, quotes from Black scholars unreflected in my own very (in)actions.
I need to change my very approach, my brother, and I ask for your forgiveness as I find my way to better support your liberation.
Written in honour of the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet and in acknowledgment of the anti-Blackness in my life and the outer and inner work I need to do.