Black Lives Matter. Image/ Facebook- original artist unknown

DANSEREAU: It is time to be actively anti-racist

As many people are aware by now, a black man named George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, USA last week. After going peacefully with the arresting officers, they proceeded to kneel on his body to hold him down next to the police cruiser.

One officer in particular, Derek Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck to hold him down, despite Floyd completely cooperating with the officers. Videos of the incident show Floyd pleading for Chauvin to get off his neck as he couldn’t breath.

For more than several minutes Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s airway, resulting in Floyd’s death. In fact Chauvin didn’t even get off of Floyd when Floyd stopped breathing. Following this abhorrent abuse of power and blatant display of racial discrimination and excessive force, Minneapolis residents took to the streets in protest.

This is not the first incident of racially targeted police brutality in the United States. In fact it is not even the first incident in the past 30 days.

Protesters on the street were met by rubber bullets and tear gas by law enforcement and in turn they burnt down the police precinct.

The riots continued for days as the streets of Minneapolis became rife with looting, burning businesses and a clear division between the people and law enforcements.

President Trump chimed in on the issue on twitter, calling the protesters “thugs” and threatening shootings in retaliation to lootings. His tweet calling out black people protesting against police brutality has a very different tone than a tweet of his from May 1 regarding white people protesting the fact that they couldn’t get their hair and nails done, demanding economic re-opening, during the pandemic.

In that tweet he says “These are very good people,” and “they want their lives back again safely!”

Trumps endorsement of violence against his citizens in addition to, although not surprising, his blatant racist values is sickening.

During the riots CNN took to the streets to cover the situation live. Despite talking to the officers in riot gear, explaining that he is with CNN as a reporter, and asking where the officer would like him and his news team to best stay out of their way— police arrested and detained CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, his producer and his photojournalist without reason.

All this is to say it really goes to show the priority of the American police force when a black journalist was arrested before the police officer who killed George Floyd. Not to mention that arresting reporters for doing their jobs is an act that is frequented by countries governed by dictatorship and a police state.

Protesters and rioters are also calling for justice for other black American’s unjustly and brutally murdered by police in America such as Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT living in Louisville, Kentucky was shot in her own home by police officers, not in uniform, that broke into her home to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation. At the time of the officers forcibly entering Taylor’s apartment the suspect they had sought had already been arrested.

Thinking that it was a home invasion, Taylor’s boyfriend fired his gun at the plain-clothed (as they were undercover), unannounced officers and they returned gunfire, killing Taylor. They then arrested Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth walker for first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer.

Amidst the calls for justice for Floyd and others like Taylor on social media “meanwhile in Canada” was trending in Canada on Twitter.

The fact that this was even a trending topic is ridiculous. It is ridiculous to believe that just because businesses are not being burnt to the ground in our backyards that Canada doesn’t have a racism problem.

Racism is rampant in Canada, especially under the conservative umbrella and ideologies of politicians such as Jason Kenney and Andrew Sheer.

The ignorance of a mass of the population towards immigrants and refugees is racism. The complete lack of transparency surrounding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIG) is racism. The wave of Islamophobia that circulates in Canada is racism.

Don’t fool yourself into believing that Canada doesn’t have a racism issue, because there most certainly is one, including our own community.

If there is anything to learn from the USA riots is that it is not enough anymore to just not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist. People need to start stepping up and speaking out against racial injustices. We need stand up for the basic human rights of our fellow citizens and neighbours for one simple reason—because it is the right thing to do.

There are many resources to watch and read to help educate yourself on how to be more anti-racist, including books like “How to be an antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi.

Education on the this issue is something that is extremely important, and I myself have not taken enough time to divulge these resources, which I acknowledge and will take the opportunity to learn from now.

Many people are also pointing out that escalating the riots to looting and violence is not the way to go about getting justice. However, through the decades people of colour have been peacefully protesting and have been ignored, racially targeted and shut down. It has taken rising to this point to have their voices and concerns heard.

This is a call and response to police brutality; if officers hadn’t tear-gassed and pepper sprayed protesters standing by chanting with signs maybe bricks wouldn’t be going through windows. If officers had shown the same respect for human life when arresting black people as they do to white people, maybe cities worth of businesses wouldn’t be burning.

Not all officers are racist, and not all want to shut down the protests.

Some like Sheriff Chris Swanson from Flint, Michigan took the time to listen to the protesters instead of trying to silence them.

Protesters asked Swanson to walk with them in their march for justice, and so he did. Swanson said to them, “I want to make this a parade, not a protest.” He added, “the only reason we’re here is to make sure that you got a voice – that’s it…”

He interacted with the crowd, smiling and high-fiving and when they asked him to walk with them he did. “Where do you want to walk?” Swanson said, “We’ll walk all night.”

With more officers who have the same mindset of Swanson, proper discussions about Black Lives Matter issues and racial equality can be had without risking the lives of the marginalized community.

This movement of justice is something bigger than us all, and it’s time people took a definitive stance whether they want to be on the right and progressive side of history or not.

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Multimedia Journalist with the Pipestone Flyer Shaela Dansereau.

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