Photo by Andrew Mrozowski / Managing Editor

Trying to chase your dreams in a system built to stop you is futile, and things need to change

cw: police brutality, white supremacy, anti-Black racism

My university was one of the last to close in March due to COVID-19. I went home and revisited the quiet, passive-aggressive racism prevalent in Ottawa. Yet I feared for my black partner’s life where cops patrolled the streets, supposedly ensuring people are ‘safe’. The question is now: safe from what and safe from who?

A year ago, I faced fraud in my bank account. Instead of my bank backing me as a loyal, responsible customer, and the daughter of very loyal, giving customers, they took a look at my black face and assumed I was at fault. To be honest, I hadn’t realized that until my father pointed it out to me as I phoned him from the bank, frustrated from being bounced around and receiving no help.

A year ago, I lost all my money that I earned working seven-hour evening shifts with a maximum course load. I did all that with extracurriculars because I have to bolster my resume, since I often lack the white connections to get interviews, but also to help me when my black face shows up to the interview that is full of white and model minorities. Although a part of me knows I shouldn’t worry all night about my braids that I love and how it will come across in the interview, it’s my reality.

The bank froze all my accounts and used my chequing account to pay them back for the cost of the fraud. Then they referred me to collections to avoid a major credit pitfall, all before I had received my first credit card.

So, when a cop pulls over my partner for speeding, spends too many minutes back at his car, and I’m in the passenger seat fighting a panic attack; no one can tell me I’m being paranoid or have nothing to worry about because I have done nothing. I often do nothing wrong. I am often very impressive but not the ideal candidate. I am often forced to defend myself against the consequences of allegations before they are even proven, and even if they’re illogical.

So, when a cop pulls over my partner for speeding, spends too many minutes back at his car, and I’m in the passenger seat fighting a panic attack; no one can tell me I’m being paranoid or have nothing to worry about because I have done nothing. I often do nothing wrong. I am often very impressive but not the ideal candidate. I am often forced to defend myself against the consequences of allegations before they are even proven, and even if they’re illogical.

What I have just outlined to you is my day-to-day life navigating white supremacist and racist establishments, because they are everywhere. At my school, at my job and because I’m a student and experience shared living, sometimes at home. Sometimes my resilience scares me, because no one should have to endure this constant oppression, constant hunting, constant murders, constant suffocation. Yet we do.

George Floyd was a person. Interviews and quotes make it clear that he was loved because of how caring and helpful he was. Instead, many news outlets have focused on his athleticism, and how much he needed to improve as a father and in life. It’s like a newspaper memorial for a show dog.

C/O munshots on Unsplash

It is not a black-specific issue to be a less-than-perfect father. But to watch your father die on live television, lying under the weight of an officer’s knee to the back of his neck, is a black-specific issue. To then watch that video circulate seemingly everywhere, as if it was game being killed and not your parent, is a black-specific issue. White supremacists cause broken homes and then write laws and create systems to disadvantage people with and from broken homes.

The commodification of the dead black body is completely out of hand. They say one of the main reasons why these videos exist is for evidence, because the police establishment has hunted countless black lives without evidence, without consequences, and without remorse. According to the dictionary, the definition of the word ‘hunt’ is to pursue or search and then capture and kill. How do you go about reprimanding the authority figure?

Is it really about evidence? President Donald Trump has been charged with fraud and has received numerous accusations of sexual assault, yet he remains unpunished, still in office as the president of the United States. Where is the evidence that justified Floyd’s arrest, let alone that would justify his murder? If rules only apply to certain groups or people based on status, and powerful people can use these rules to control groups, then we are the sheep being kept ‘in order’, not human beings with their own minds and aspirations.

Thankfully, when I deposited the fraudulent cheque into my account, the police did not show up at the bank. The bank froze my accounts but they never alerted me. When I figured out something was wrong and called the bank, they specifically told me to go into a branch. I went in and stayed all by myself, considering the bank advertises fraud and scam protection and that I had done my due diligence when depositing the cheque.

I was initially hesitant to deposit the cheque when I first received it, so I went to the bank and was assured by the teller that everything would be fine. She advised me to deposit the cheque because the bank would put a hold on it, and would notify me once it was cleared. Yet once I noticed my account had been frozen and I went to the bank to resolve the situation,  I was informed the hold system was automatic, meaning it automatically lifts after seven business days — whether or not the bank had actually cleared the cheque.

That was not what was communicated to me at any point. The bank instructed me to come into the branch to clear up the problem once I realized. Yet when I got there, the bank, who I was assured would notify me if the cheque was fraudulent, told me I had authorized the fraudulent cheque when I transferred money out of my account.

How would I have known if the police had been called, or if they showed up, how would I know if they were there for me? Floyd could have been me: moved to a new place for a new start, job, and/or school, and was a helping, gentle soul according to colleagues, customers, friends and family.

How would I have known if the police had been called, or if they showed up, how would I know if they were there for me? Floyd could have been me: moved to a new place for a new start, job, and/or school, and was a helping, gentle soul according to colleagues, customers, friends and family.

So, what are the grounds for Floyd’s arrest with its subsequent assault? An alleged forged cheque is not enough. What are the excuses for his murder? Because he was unarmed yet was pinned under an officer’s knee — which is not a part of police training. Some people are hung up on that point, but even trained, law-abiding officers murder people. They aren’t reprimanded because they are doing their jobs.

“They were supposed to be there to serve and to protect and I didn’t see a single one of them lift a finger to do anything to help while he was begging for his life,” stated Tera Brown, Floyd’s cousin, to CNN. “Not one of them tried to do anything to help him.”

One of the biggest lies we have been sold, is that the police are there to protect us. They are actually hired to protect property and to protect the establishment. Furthermore, the white supremacist foundation of the police force encourages abuse of power and systemic oppression.

People always say if you don’t chase your dreams, someone will pay you to help them chase theirs. That’s what a job is. We sign up to help a person or establishment realize their dream. Except many establishments’ dreams are our nightmares. Yet, we are almost never given the choice not to aid and abet the white supremacist nightmare. It is inescapable because it is ingrained within and throughout our systems.

People always say if you don’t chase your dreams, someone will pay you to help them chase theirs. That’s what a job is. We sign up to help a person or establishment realize their dream. Except many establishments’ dreams are our nightmares. Yet, we are almost never given the choice not to aid and abet the white supremacist nightmare. It is inescapable because it is ingrained within and throughout our systems.

I am a student so I need to have a bank account or job to support my needs, yet I have to face racism at the bank, on campus grounds, in class, at office hours, at interviews, at work, from my boss, from customers, from my professors, from classmates, from colleagues — it goes on and on. Oftentimes, these people are simply doing their jobs.

It is not simply snarky remarks but laws, bylaws and guidelines allowing legal, racist actions against people. White supremacy is so thorough in delivering its racism that it decides legitimacy. Honestly, it decides how we live. Yet it serves a specific type of person – the rich, white, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied, male with a socially-acceptable level of mental health issues.

What is also insidious about the alignment between the North American police establishment, government and news is that we have become accustomed to feeling small, inactive, disempowered and incapable. However, history will show you that when the people have had enough and they collect and organize, the powers and establishments have to listen. Right now, they’re not really listening and we aren’t really waiting—we’re acting.

But I am not enforcing chaos or a new ruling class, because the other leech tactic of white supremacy is to divide and conquer. That’s why model minority groups can add to the harassment I face because they are rewarded with privilege for aiding oppression, although the system is hardly serving their needs either.

Instead minorities are morphing themselves to be whiter to better experience the system. The issue with that is you cannot change the colour of your skin. So, you still face racism, no matter what you do. It was never about merit or actions; it was simply about power.

Clearly, the system is not working, and it’s beyond the point where the issue is simply a miscommunication because white supremacy is so deeply rooted within the system. We have tried to fit in and move through the system, but it is debilitating mentally, emotionally and too often physically. Instead of wasting our energy on existing by their rules, it’s time we have a say in what the rules are by rewriting them. This time, everyone needs to have a say. But that is only possible if we understand all the ways the system fails us and the ways in which we fail each other as groups, as leaders, as establishments of people; and rewriting the rules without ego but instead to resolve those failings.

C/O TVBEATS on Unsplash

That statement to involve everyone may seem ‘crazy’ to you, but that’s because that’s been sold to you as ‘crazy’ countless times before. When in reality, what that easily looks like is using whatever power you have in your position to seek out and hear others’ experiences, then doing whatever you can to change the system. This can look like bringing concerns to the right people or organizing to change processes yourself. Your privilege allows you a voice and a say, giving you the power to inform policy, law and change. Use it.

It is not as simple as waiting for the space, surveys or calls for opinions. It is also about bugging people in positions of authority to listen and act and helping those already doing the work. It’s about never shutting up, and never settling, and that is much easier with everyone involved fighting for everyone’s issues. Until now, it has mostly been black queer women doing all the work. They are exhausted, I am exhausted, everyone needs to act.

Doing nothing is no longer acceptable. However, reposting on social media is classified as hardly doing anything, because it lacks your personal tone and influence. Even that is not enough because you assume that the white supremacist algorithm will circulate your posts, pictures and stories, when you could use the platform to directly connect with people instead — especially those willing to act and organize. It’s about having conversations and not assuming that people are on the same page or fighting the same fight.  

It’s also about avoiding the assumption that you lack power or everyone you know lacks power, when each of us are privileged in one way or another. There are many ways in which you are seen as more ideal than someone else. It’s time to wake up and be resourceful to educate yourself and others, to connect, organize, influence, act and cause change. It is not about being passive. It is about acting. Who do you know? What can you say? What can you do?

Figure out actionable steps for today, tomorrow, next week, next month and year, and DO them. This is going to be a long fight. Take your breaks, but exhaustion is not an excuse to stop fighting, especially if you are just now becoming exhausted. The hunt will continue, people will keep dying, and white supremacists and their lies will keep circulating.

 

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