Note: Proving I have much to learn, since having written the post below, it came to my attention there is an actual organisation called "Black Lives Matter". My post was written speaking to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and I hope you will see what I feel it means below. This should not be regarded as an endorsement of the organisation for the simple reason that I do not know, and cannot pretend to fully understand their platform. However, this quote from their main landing page "We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people." is certainly in keeping with where my heart is at and the views I present below.
I was too young to know whether or not my parents had purposely escaped Quebec in the midst of bombings, kidnap and murder at the hands of the FLQ or if it was coincidence that my Dad was posted elsewhere. At 6 years old, I wasn't old enough to know things weren't right. I was too young to be concerned with the fact the seven of us lived in a tiny 2 bedroom rental above a pharmacy on a busy downtown Montreal intersection. It was what I knew.
Then, we weren't there any more.
Instead, we were in a beautiful "northern" Ontario town (anything north of Toronto is "northern" right? Even if we were barely north of Algonquin Park?). There seemed to have been a weight lifted off our family's shoulders but I attributed it to going from the sounds of constant car horns and sirens to songbirds and fresh breezes.
Over the next 5 years, I suffered daily bullying and abuse by my peers as they beat the French out of me.
Oh, the irony.
Going from my Montreal school in a convent, a "house of god", where children were abused, slapped or strapped daily by nuns and priests speaking of earning heaven to actually living in a heaven on earth and being beaten daily for the way I spoke.
It built a rage inside of me, one that I feared almost as much, if not more than my aggressors.
I dreamt the same dreams so many of us dream of having ultimate power and, like Thanos, snapping half of humanity out of existence. Except, it wouldn't be random. It would only be those who hated. Those who purposely hurt people for no other reason than to exert power over them.
A poster child for the nice, quiet kid who "just snapped" one day.
I never snapped.
At least, I don't think I did. But there is a good to fair chance that I’m in a mental home, standing in front of a white wall, right beside Jim Jeffries, going, "I hate bullies. I hate bullies. I hate bullies."
No. I never snapped and when my family moved to the promisingly diverse nations' capital, Ottawa, surely acceptance and inclusivity would occur.
A brand new collection of bullies presented themselves and, for my first year, at least, carried on the tradition as though they'd received direct orders from my former schoolmates "up north".
It took until a future NHLer (whom everybody idolized, even at that age) in my grade 7 class jogged by and, in passing, let out "Leave him alone. He's cool." for it all to stop. Make no mistake. Nothing about me was cool, so, to this day I'm fairly certain he was talking to somebody else altogether but it didn't matter. I heard it and, more importantly, the bullies heard him and it was like a switch had been flicked off.
My days being bullied came to an abrupt end.
Thanks Steve. Love you man... whoever the "cool" kid was.
Forty some years later, here we are deeply embroiled in #BlackLivesMatter and I've made some of you feel sorry for me, some of you wondering where I'm going with this and others still saying "Suck it up, Buttercup!"
This was a span of about half a dozen years of being attacked, abused, insulted and demeaned just because of the sound of my voice. I hate to admit it, but it defined who I was. To this day, I carry it with me.
This was not racism.
It was discrimination.
Some of you might say it was "life".
Some boys (now men) among you might never have experienced anything other than having to "fight the tough guy" in school in order to gain stature. Six minutes, rather than six years. Depending on your upbringing, I'm going to lay a wager that a great majority of those who said "Ya, suck it up, Buttercup!" identify with that.
And yet, I was privileged.
Of all the people who could tell me to suck it up, victims of racism certainly should.
None ever did.
I repeat... Of all the people who could tell me to suck it up, victims of racism never did.
So, now that we're here, let's tackle the arguments:
- "Stick to Making Music" - Great. Sure. If that's on the tip of your tongue right now and you're just itching to get to the comments section to launch that devastating blow at me, let me ask you, what is it you do for a living? Perfect. You stick to that and stop being a racist and I'll go back to making music.
- "All Lives Matter" - If you're still pushing back against #BlackLivesMatter with this, ...Hi, how's it going... Don't mind us... We're the millions upon millions of people patiently waiting behind you as you push on the door clearly marked "PULL". We would all love nothing more than be able to say the same things as you with all the conviction in the world. Help us get there. Open the door. The only way to end the #BlackLivesMatter movement is to ensure #AllLivesMatter includes #BlackLivesMatter.
- "Black on Black" or "Black on White Violence is Worse" - Except they get arrested. There is little to no doubt "justice" will be served. And, also, this. The #BLM movement doesn't seek the right to kill anyone. It seeks the most common and basic dignity of knowing their rights will be defended equally.
- "But the Looting and Violence..." - Violence and damage has the capacity of occurring at any peaceful event including sports, political rallies, religious or what have you. It is happening, no question. But don't let it distract you from the message because this certainly has all the markings of a "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." process. You want the looting and violence at these peaceful protests to go? Act to end racism.
- "Canada is Not Racist" - Yes it sadly is. Follow up claim "...but it's not systemic." - Yes, it is. The plain and simple fact that I personally have heard all these arguments come from people across the country, from all walks of life, is in itself systemic and not "localised". Here is an article that helps right-handed people understand what "systemic" means, read it. If you're a lefty, you know it.
- "It's the XYZ-wing's Fault!" - It transcends political affiliation so spare me the left versus right wing rhetoric.
- "All [_fill_in_the_blank_] Are Bad" - No. No they're not. Some [_fill_in_the_blank_] might be guilty of the same thing the rest of us are, thinking "If I'm a good person, that's all that's needed, right?" Many [_fill_in_the_blank_] around these parts are actually Black and of other minorities. All of us waking up and realising together that we not only can, but must call out mild to moderate racism and report and punish/banish outright and blatant racism is the only way to ensure that statement no longer has any footing. That being said, anyone claiming "All [_fill_in_the_blank_] Are Bad" are certainly prejudiced, discriminatory, and, depending on how they fill in the blank, racist.
- "Ya! So Black People are being Prejudiced by saying All Cops are Bad!" - ... Hey... It sucks to hear hurtful blanket statements about entire cross-sections of society, doesn't it?
Let's sit and reflect on that for a bit.
"Where do You get off Speaking for Black People?" - Let's be clear. I am not Black. I do not know what it is to be Black. Therefore I cannot, and would not ever think of speaking "for" Black.
I started by writing about my own painful experience.
I made it clear what I experienced was not racism, but prejudice. Not the same.
I was never stopped by the side of the road by a police officer because of my accent.
I feared walking the streets alone because of a few select individuals, not a majority of people.
Every now and then, the hurt bubbled up so much that I did explode and I did fight back and, even though I "won" all those fights, it was exhausting and the impact lasted only a short while. Until that one person in a perceived position of authority spoke up.
And that's exactly what happens to entire cross-sections of our society (yes, I pluralized that because there are others but for now, we're on the topic of #BLM).
We've seen it in our lifetime and long before as well. Every now and then, the hurt bubbled up in the Black Community so much that they did explode and they did fight back and, even though some may claim they "won" those particular fights, it was exhausting and the impact lasted only a short while. And they keep waiting for that one voice.
Except that one voice can't be just one future NHL star.
That one voice needs to be all our voices speaking together as one.