I’ve remained quiet these past few weeks troubled by what to say, wondering if I should say anything at all. What could I say that has not already been said? Do we really need another privileged white male posting his outrage about what is happening, putting on display his ignorance that this a recent event?
I’ve oscillated between being vocal about what I want to do and telling myself ‘you don’t need to tell people what I'm going to do, you just need to do it’.
We certainly don’t need more white people posting about how we are looking at all our policies so we can become more inclusive or god forbid another Martin Luther King Jr quote.
BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) need us to act, and not in a small way.
So now, after taking some time to think, research and talk with people I felt were more knowledgeable than me, I’m ready to share the action I’m taking. I’m sharing this not because I need recognition, I’m sharing this because I want to challenge you to follow suit. I want to challenge my privileged friends, business associates and followers to put your money where your mouth is. What’s needed now more than anything else is money.
Just two years ago I visited a maximum security prison in California for a full day a group of entrepreneurs as part of a Defy Ventures program, where I engaged with prisoners found guilty of murder, armed robbery and every imaginable drug charge. The U.S. has roughly 5% of the world’s population, yet is has over 25% of the world’s prison population. The majority of this population explosion has happened in the last 40 years. The U.S. prison population has increased by 10 fold in less than 40 years. Do any Americans feel safer today than they did 20, 30 or 40 years ago? The majority of the prisoners I met, not surprisingly, were black, but after spending time with them I realized they aren’t there because they were bad people, they were, and still are there because of the system they were born into. I experienced first hand that these men were just like me, except for the circumstances of where we grew up.
Why am I just acting now? Like most of us, I realized there was a problem years ago, but it was far enough away from me that it didn’t impact me. I could watch something on Youtube and be disgusted, then go back to my cozy privileged life. I’m not a sociopath lacking empathy, I simply lacked the education to understand that, not only can I make a difference, I’m obligated to make a difference. Even if the action I take only helps one person, one time, it’s important. Not only is it important, I now realize, it’s my moral obligation to take action.
No matter how open-minded, socially conscious or anti-racist we think we are, we still have old, learned hidden biases that we need to examine. It’s our responsibility to examine ourselves daily for prejudice and discrimination.
It’s easier to look away and to decide that this is a problem for someone else to deal with. But it’s actually a problem for all of us and just like the economy, systematic racism literally impacts us all. From our taxes to our own health.
Going forward I’m committing to never looking away again. This may all feel a little inauthentic to you, and I understand, you haven’t seen this from me before. I need to earn your trust. We all need to earn trust all over again.
All problems have solutions, would you agree?
What significant problem have you ever solved that didn’t require some level of being uncomfortable?
I'm asking you to get really uncomfortable, like how about a month or two of your salary uncomfortable?
Please no more posts about how you are an ally. BIPOC don’t need your Facebook posts, they need you to take real action. It’s my belief the biggest impact you can have is by giving your money to well organized groups already fighting.
Yes, be anti-racist. That is great, but unfortunately it’s not enough, it’s the absolute minimum you can do.
Yes, confront your friends, your colleagues, anyone really, when they say or act in a racist way. I’d in fact say that is your moral obligation. Don’t suddenly think too much of yourself because you call out a racist, don’t forget you just learned what anti-racist means a few weeks ago. Confronting uneducated people is also not enough.
Understand there are hundreds of thousands of well organized people out there already fighting the good fight and these organizations, while they appreciate you sharing the Louis Farrakhan interview on Instagram, they need your money. And I know you have money.
One-third of the people shot to death by RCMP officers over a 10-year period were First Nations, despite Indigenous people only making up five percent of the population. Let me say that again but slightly differently 33% of all deaths caused by the RCMP were Indigenous people, yet this group makes up less than 5% of the population. Now, I trust you are fairly intelligent, some of you might even be what I call intelligently gifted. Do you think this is because Indigenous people are out there committing 33% of violent crimes, or that Indigenous people are by their nature dangerous? So why is this happening? If you want a quick history on why this is happening read this.
Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman was recently shot dead by police who were called to check on her, something known as a wellness check. A few weeks later, in the same province, Rodney Levi was shot and killed by police. Rodney was armed with a knife, he was a danger, but what’s the root cause of the mental illness he suffered from? Can’t we find ways to subdue an armed man of 150lbs besides shooting him to death?
This is a battle to end structural racist and colonial violence in Canada and the U.S. There are hundreds of years of wrongs that can’t be fixed, but we can fix where we are at now.
I won’t look away ever again.
The majority of us have lived comfortably for so long, while others have not, and whether you want to fully accept this, your comfort has been at the expense of others, even if you didn’t “steal their land” or you didn’t ‘live a racist life’, you’ve benefited from the system, we’ve all benefited from systemic racism, full stop.
I’m going to get very uncomfortable and donate more than I can really afford right now. That’s what I’m asking you to do also. Here’s where my money is going.
Defy Ventures is a nonprofit organization with a very meaningful agenda that addresses the social problems of mass incarceration, recidivism, and related issues by providing well-being, entrepreneurship, employment, and personal development training programs to individuals with criminal histories.
The Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto (NWRCT) is a community-based organization dedicated to providing resources and support to urban Indigenous women and their families. Their work is incredibly important, meaningful and creates real impact.
Black Lives Matter is a global organization whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities. BLM is fighting for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.
The Equal Justice Initiative is a non-profit organization, based in Montgomery, Alabama, that provides legal representation to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes, poor prisoners without effective representation, and others who may have been denied a fair trial.
The Sentencing and Parole Project (SPP) is a non-profit organization that prepares enhanced pre-sentence reports (EPSRs) for Black people marginalized by poverty and racial inequality. The reports give judges and parole boards the information they need to make informed sentencing and release decisions. They include recommendations for culturally appropriate programs to assist with rehabilitation.
It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing. Please join me, get uncomfortable and become a significant ally, not just someone who watches from the sidelines.