one world

When does racism end? When white people decide it does.

The other night on Facebook, the Nova Scotia RCMP posted on their page a photo of a woman of colour who is a suspect in a crime. Some idiot decided it would be funny to mockingly comment ‘Black Lives Matter’ under her image. (It was obvious he intended it to be ironic because of other comments he made later in the thread. Yes, this individual was white.)

This led to a slew of other comments, some of them adopting the same mocking tone, others chastising the commenter for being racist. There were a lot of comments saying All Lives Matter, too. Eventually the RCMP deleted them, but by then a lot of damage had been done.

There are a few points I want to make here:

Firstly, mocking an entire movement that is simply trying to establish the basic point that black lives are as valuable as white lives is flat-out racism. End of discussion.

Secondly, saying All Lives Matter in response to the BLM movement is incredibly insensitive and hurtful. Why? Because it’s pretending not to be aware that people of colour suffer much more violence at the hands of police than white people do. The BLM movement is not claiming black lives matter more than any others. They are saying they matter AS MUCH AS other lives.

Thirdly, racism in Nova Scotia, or anywhere else in North America, isn’t going to end until white people decide it’s going to end. It’s not up to the victims of racism to end racism, any more than it’s up to the victims of violent crime to end violent crime. It is our responsibility as the majority to end it. Stop expecting outspoken activists to do all the heavy lifting here. They are exhausted and outnumbered. Remember how your parents expected you to fulfill your responsibilities at home without being told every single time? This is like that, only the stakes are a million times higher. Speak out against racism without being told to do it. Just do it. It’s always the right thing.

Racism causes depression, anxiety, and anger, among other problems. These things have a massive ripple effect, and this in turn has a negative effect on everyone, whether of colour or no. Racism hurts EVERYONE, not just the victims. It harms our entire society. It holds people back. It prevents them from accomplishing everything they can in life, which in turn means the rest of us are missing out on whatever contributions they might have been able to make otherwise. And all of this is supporting the obvious larger point that racism is morally wrong.

I’m challenging my white friends to get much, much more proactive about calling out racism when you see it. You will very likely feel uncomfortable at first. You will encounter resistance from other white people. They may laugh at you. They may get angry at you–far more angry than they will at the person who is actually being racist. I’ve experienced all this many times. Ignore them. Their opinion of you doesn’t matter. Doing the right thing matters. That has ripple effects, too.

There is a lot of damage to undo here. It may take generations. The sooner we get started, the better.

So let’s get started.

UPDATE: I had a very positive conversation with the director of communications for the Nova Scotia RCMP later in the day, who told me that as soon as they realized what was happening on that post, they removed the offending comment and all the replies to it. The NS RCMP were disgusted at the tone some of these comments took, and the woman I spoke to went to great pains to assure me that in no way did the RCMP mean to provide a platform or forum for racist people to share their views. Moving forward, they’ll be implementing new measures to make sure something like this can’t happen again on their page.