Black Lives Will Still Matter Tomorrow — But Will You Still Care?

Designed by Yazmin Butcher.
Part of me that is relieved that the COVID-19 pandemic began before the recent protests surrounding #BlackLivesMatter. For me, it was an opportunity to watch others, in particular white people, react, in protest, to the restriction of their privileges. In an interview I did about the rules put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus in April, the host asked me two very interesting questions. One was whether or not it was crossing the line to snitch on our neighbours who broke the COVID rules around social-distancing and gatherings, and the other was around bylaw officers in Oakville, ON, ticketing and removing families from parks for rollerblading. I giggled to myself at the audacity he had to ask a Black woman those questions. Black communities have been dealing with harassment for centuries, and still deal with it today
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Fast forward a few weeks after that interview, and a video surfaced of Ahmaud Arbery being shot while jogging in Georgia. A few days after that, Amy Cooper, a Canadian woman called the police on a Black man who was bird-watching in Central Park, after he told her that she was required to have her dog on a leash, saying, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.” A lie. Days after that, George Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis and publicly killed by police officers for going about his life. Black people have had neighbours snitching on them for showing up at their own home, because their neighbours just cannot fathom that they live there. And Black people have been killed for minding their own business for as long as I can remember.

White people got a little taste of Blackness as a result of COVID-19, did not like it, and still cannot state that #BlackLivesMatter without the #AllLivesMatter filter.

However, Black people did not need the events of the past couple of weeks to understand what blatant dehumanization and destruction of Black bodies looks like. Nor did we need emergency orders to understand how over-surveillance and over-policing works. Look at our federal prisons in Canada: Why do you think they are overflowing with Black and Indigenous people? Over-surveillance of our communities, which is a violation of our human rights, has led to over-incarceration. We did not need a global pandemic to see how harassment by law enforcement works. We have seen it happening in Canada for as far back as I can remember and as recently as Dafonte Miller, the Whitby man who lost his eye during an altercation with an off-duty police officer.
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Let’s be clear. White people got a little taste of Blackness as a result of COVID-19, did not like it, and still cannot state that #BlackLivesMatter without the #AllLivesMatter filter. You know why? Because you have privilege. You have the privilege of protesting on Queen’s Park because you know, that even with the premier standing inside the building, the police will never arrest you. You have the privilege of going to Trinity-Bellwoods by the thousands, and kissing each other on TV, because the mayor is right there with you. Greeting you. You have that privilege because you have privilege. You would never have to talk to your children about what to do if the police came around Queen’s Park. You do not need to tell them to keep their hands out of their pocket and do not run when they are approached by law enforcement in Trinity-Bellwoods. You do not need to tell them to make sure you have a valid reason for driving during a state of emergency, just in case you get stopped. Your privilege is your badge of protection.

We cannot peel off our skin and bask in the freedom of whiteness. However, you can fall into a slumber after your wokeness.

Additionally, you have options. We cannot peel off our skin and bask in the freedom of whiteness. However, you can fall into a slumber after your wokeness. In the weeks and months that will follow, when the dust settles and your fingers are numb from using your fist for the first time to raise it in solidarity, you can unclench your hand, and continue to give Black lives the finger with your daily assault of microaggressions. Because, hey, racism does not exist here. And when the doors open up and we are released from our state of emergency, you can pretend to open up your doors to all the lives that suddenly matter, except for the ones that you keep out with your Trump-like walls. You have the option of getting caught up in the fever of the now, riding the wave that we have been carrying you on for centuries, only to get off before the wave crashes and we are left alone. Again.
So. I could not care who adds #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackOutTuesday to their handles this week. I want to know who will leave them on tomorrow. I want to know who will speak up when we want expungements of criminal records for marijuana possession. I want to know: Who will stand with parents and protect our children from racist practices that occur in school boards like Peel? I want to know: Who will advocate for race-based data to ensure that our health outcomes are as good as yours? I want to know: Who TF will give a damn about Black Lives when the cameras are no longer rolling, the dust settles, and it is no longer cool to be woke? I want to know: Who really believes that #BlackLivesMatter?
Celina Caesar-Chavannes is the former Liberal MP for Whitby and a mother of three. A thought leader in equity and inclusion, she is currently working as a consultant and completing a PhD in Organizational Leadership. Follow her on Twitter @iamcelinacc.

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