Hi lovely readers,
I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so long – I was in such a debilitating depressive episode that near the end I wasn’t even getting out of bed to shower or eat or drink water. It was one of the worst I’ve had in years, and likely had a lot to do with decreasing my Vraylar, as won’t have enough to get us through until the Canada/US border opens (it’s an American medication not yet approved by the Canadian government). So, I’m starting a new medication that hopefully will be similar in its effect. I took it last night and I admit I do feel slightly more positive this morning – it’s supposed to be pretty fast acting.
This isn’t the point of my post, though: as I mentioned in the post prior, I intend to use my blog to discuss a wider variety of things, aside from mental health, and I think the events occurring presently in the States and in Canada is the most important time to begin doing so with.
I lived in Minneapolis for about a year, where I attended a 3 month rehab and went in and out of sober houses that I must say were a bit of a scam. I made a lot of friends, though, many of whom I am still in contact with, and I saw quite a bit of the city, including some areas that perhaps for many would not seem like ‘tourist destinations’. One thing I noticed in my time there was not only how segregated the city was, as in, there is a large black population in Minneapolis/St Paul, but you wouldn’t know that unless you ventured into certain neighborhoods, which my white friends told me I should avoid doing if I “didn’t want to get shot”, and which my heroin dealing boyfriend drove me to once to ‘do some business’. I couldn’t believe that this other side of the city existed and was so poorly integrated into affluent, white, Minneapolis – a place where I frequently heard blatantly racist sentiments and jokes, frequently.
George Floyd’s story wasn’t told to me with an inclusion of setting, so I had no idea this brutal, disgusting, disturbing act of violence against an innocent black man had taken place in a part of the states in which I had actually lived, briefly. What drew me in the most, aside from basic human empathy seeing images of someone begging for their life and having their neck stepped on until he suffocated, was his story, and how much any North American should be able to relate to it, should empathy for your fellow man seem impossibly difficult on its own. He was a hardworking American who had moved to Minneapolis to start a new life and “start fresh”, as he told his friend, and he had obtained a good job working as a bouncer. COVID and quarantine shut down his workplace, and he lost his job as a result, and was suddenly without money again. He was looking into job placement agencies, and doing his best to survive in a situation many of us have found so impossible and tragic to navigate. He used was is purportedly a fake $20 bill to try to pay for a pack of cigarettes, and reportedly looked very low and weathered and unlike himself. The teen operating the cash register thought it might be a fake bill, and called his manager, who said to call the police.
Several officers arrived, most notably Derek Chauvin, who insisted Floyd resisted arrest while bystander footage shows otherwise. He was immediately aggressive, throwing Floyd into the back of his police car in cuffs. And then, holding his knee against his neck for approximately 8 minutes, while he screamed that he ‘couldn’t breath’, and begged for his life, and eventually, cried for his ‘mama’. It is so heartbreaking that even as I write this simple post I find myself crying on my keyboard, and my chest is so tight and my heart so heavy.
No detail in this case could have warranted the merciless, senseless death of Mr. Floyd. Even if he had most certainly used a fake bill, there is no circumstance in which an unarmed black man could lawfully be killed by an officer. I am not going to provide background of his relatively clean history, because it doesn’t fucking matter. Every time the BlackLivesMatter movement has attempted to call for progress because of the murder of yet another unarmed black man or woman, white media and white people in general respond by seeking vindicating details about the person who died, such that they can justify the actions of the police. I think those people are finding it hard to find much to say about George Floyd’s death, and in reality, their past justifications should have been considered noise and irrelevant. Cases of police brutality against POC as tragic and, for me, baffling, each time, have been occurring for decades – I remember arguing with family and friends about Trayvon Martin, about Michael Brown, about Eric Garner… there truly are so many names, even ones that the artist below whose work I find so valuable and moving, couldn’t list, likely because there simply isn’t enough time or space to individually memorialize each of these victims in every piece of art that black artists create to encourage empowerment and emotion and reaction and action.
The artist’s name is Carson Ellis, click the link to support and see more of his work.
BlackLivesMatter has organized protests all over Minneapolis, and many of them turned into riots and some sited lootings. I think Kimberly Jones, in an interview with one of Trevor Noah’s reporters, put it best, so I’ll include that link here. Rioting does not diminish the cause – ANOTHER black person has lost their lives to individual and institutional racism and racist, violent, superiority-complex having cops, and naturally, the black community is fucking angry, as they should be. You would be angry if part of your every day life included coming up with every possible piece of advice based on past acts of police racist violence to give your son or daughter before they headed out for school or tried to walk home. You would be furious, and have exhausted all your patience, if not only did you see a man die in a tortuous way, hear him call for his mother and beg for his life, and die because he is, like you, a black man or woman, but also having existed in fear and in oppression, in a system that works against you, rather than for you. You see criminal justice all the time, but only for crimes committed against black people by white perpetrators, you see black men on the news convicted of crimes and handed obscenely long sentences, and see white men who have committed a much more heinous crime given the minimum sentence and, with the same reported good behavior as a black man, let out months or years earlier than they were supposed to be, having committed crimes like violent sexual assault (Brock Turner, for example, who served 3 months out his 2 year sentence), while the black man somehow stays in the prison-state that exists in the USA. As a white person, I am able to live in ignorance because I am never victimized or treated unfairly or living in fear of being brutalized by a cop – for most white folks, the police are our friends, unless we’ve been pulled over for speeding or drunk-driving home from a party. They usually have a good-natured conversation with us, tip their hat and they’re on there way. And that is white privilege, amongst other things. For all you AllLivesMatter people, unless you are determined to live in ignorance in which case I don’t have much to say to you: for one, how on earth would we make progress if every time there was a movement it had to include everybody else on the planet- that’s quite simply not how that works nor has it ever been how it works; black people are at the forefront of our focus because they are the ones experiencing great oppression, and I can assure you, astronomically more so than any oppression we are experiencing as white people, and two, if your concern is that white people have hard lives too, sure, many white people do – but it isn’t because of anything related to your skin color, I can assure you. We are talking about racism, in a very violent, destructive, targeted, institutional and individual sense, and it’s about the people who are victim to that – not everything is about you, nor is it about me. Part of what makes us human is our ability to empathize with others and extend compassion and interest and lend a voice to those who need it – don’t forget what makes you, you.
This is a graphic made by Courtney Ahn, the full post is linked here
I have an interesting position, as a duel citizen of both Canada and America, and having lived in the city in which George Floyd’s murder occurred. I have the privilege of being able to see and hear commentary from friends on my social media feeds who are actually there, experiencing all of this in real time. But here in Toronto, there is a movement building too, and NotAnotherBlackLife posts on instagram when BlackLivesMatters protests, as in ones that have been approved by and advocated for attendance by the leaders in the movement, so if you’re interested in participating in a protest then check out their page for useful information and assurance that the protest you’re attending isn’t an unapproved, separate excuse for people to riot aimlessly.
If you are a white ally, your job is pretty clear-cut. You likely have a predominantly white circle, and as such, you can best communicate what is being articulated by black activists by both sharing information, sharing videos, articles, artwork, ways to financially and to simply add a signature to meaningful petitions, to vote, and to re-post sentiments from black activists you’re learning from. I also saw a wonderful post that is linked here about why, as white liberal people, it is neither productive nor meaningful to simply delete all of your potentially racist friends or acquaintances or distant family members because they are posting passively or actively racist opinions or false information on social media. Of course, not all of us are in a place where we can productively, and with composure, communicate a differing opinion to someone who seems to so obviously share different values from yourself, and provide sources to back up your opinions, but if you can do so, then you will be part of the process of making America less divisive, and creating actual tangible change in terms of the way someone might vote next election, and the way someone might next interact with the world.
Above there are ways to donate financially, and of course you can attend protests in your city, but additionally, if you’re in a financial bind right now as I am myself, there are petitions that can be signed online to advocate for the rights and freedoms of those arrested for protesting or responded to having protested with violence by the police. One of such links is here. If you want more information on ways you can participate, I recommend checking out the official BLACKLIVESMATTER instagram, or for more Toronto specific information, you can look at notanotherblacklife.
Frankly, there is so much to be said on this issue, so much to be said about racism in my own country, that I fear the message might get lost, and I feel it would be better communicated by POC activists . If you are looking for more to do, I saw an interview in which someone recommended lending your talents, whether it may be through visual art, music, writing (that’s what I’m leaning on), film making, your courage, your strength, and the loudness of your voice as a part of a white majority. There is a lot of literature that black activists (each of these is a different link to different reading lists – ideally, find the one that best suits the gaps in your understanding) recommend white allies read should they wish to educate themselves.
I know this isn’t my usual content, and perhaps it may offend some of my readers. I am not concerned with those readers, because this is a safe space for POC to participate in conversations about mental health, and I want to welcome anyone who feels compelled, though I know right now it is hard not to be overwhelmed even as a white person by the gravity of the present situation in North America, so I can’t imagine the heaviness and anger and perhaps paralyzing fear or disillusionment that my black readers might feel, to post about how this affecting them, within the topic of mental health, or otherwise. I am part of a minority simply in the sense of being a woman who’s been a victim of sexual assault, as well as a recovering drug addict and someone who has a severe mental health diagnosis and a history of homelessness as a result, but I have never experienced anything like being targeted for simply the color of my skin. I can only relate in the sense that I have often been unheard, dismissed, and faced with harsh, cruel, and sometimes utterly disinterested responses when I’ve been trying to navigate Canada’s mental health system, and judicial system when I was pursuing justice for being sexually assaulted and sexually harassed and stalked. I can only relate to a small extent, but it does make it all the more horrific to me that my experience, which has been so traumatic for me, is so small in comparison with the racism POC face every day, in every facet of life.
If there is anything I should include in this post but have missed, please comment links below or sources or simply your point of view or black artists, activists, journalists, novelists, that I should explore further.
I wish I knew what more to say, other than that I am deeply sorry, more than I can express, that any of my readers, and anyone in my country or the states is experiencing such painful, traumatic, rage-inducing, unjust treatment, at the level of interactions with white people on a day-to-day basis, of racially-motivated police brutality, of institutional racism like severely inadequate and minimal representation, discrimination in the judicial system, and seeing no reparations having been made after a long history of racist violence and slavery. I do not know what it is like to be you, but I promise to do my best within my own limited skill-set, to listen, to communicate with my audience what I learn, and participate to my fullest extent.
Lots of love,