COLUMN: Why you probably agree with the Black Lives Matter slogan, even if you think you don’t

COLUMN: Why you probably agree with the Black Lives Matter slogan, even if you think you don’t

‘Systemic racism’ isn’t complicated. It means a child’s skin colour affects their likelihood to prosper.

Things are happening. People have opinions. And you, reader, may be one of those people going: “whoa, whoa, whoa, what about …”

That’s a natural impulse. But when it comes to racism and protests, it’s awful easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole of other people’s misleading or misguided arguments.

Two circulate so frequently that they’re worth addressing.

First: George Floyd.

He wasn’t perfect. The degree of his imperfections are a matter of some disagreement, even if sensible people agree that he didn’t deserve to die for them.

The second part of that sentence is what’s key here. George Floyd’s death provided the ignition that began the current focus on racism in society. But whatever one wants to think about that life, it doesn’t affect the core facts underlying the current re-examination of society.

Simply: in many, many places, the colour of one’s skin affects one’s likelihood of dying at the hands of police; and one’s chances of professional and life success.

That’s what this is about, but those who aren’t subject to racism can tend to forget it under a deluge of news and information.

Imagine you have two identical 13-year-olds (or two six-year-olds or two 20-year-olds or two 30-year-olds) with the same family background, education, and everything else down the line. Countless studies show that if one is Black (or, in Canada, Indigenous), something bad is far more likely to happen to the one who is not white.

That all leads to things like the wife of a Black wine shop owner fearing her husband will be killed by police in his own store if he is present when officers go to check on a security alarm that went off.

It leads to things like First Nations men and women in Canada feeling unwelcome in, and being driven out of, key societal institutions by racism. It leads to them distrusting – often with good reason – our country’s institutions.

Many of us know someone with a sketchy past who turned their life around. But white people are more likely to be given the opportunity to do so than those who aren’t. This is what “systemic racism” is. It doesn’t mean everybody is racist. It means that our society is riddled with things, big and small, that collectively end up penalizing people for having a different skin tone.

Sometimes systemic racism results in someone dying who wouldn’t if they were white. Often it leaves a person without the same access to the opportunities afforded to white colleagues. Even if one were to put aside Floyd’s unjust end – and one cannot ignore it – we still need to deal with everything else faced by those who look different.

One other thing:

Some people take issue with the Black Lives Matter rallying cry. The standard is that “all lives matter.” It’s a response that is, to put it kindly, problematic. But it’s not always made with bad intentions. Often, it’s one borne of a lack of information, or a misreading of what the statement Black Lives Matter really means.

RELATED: Black Lives Matter posters ripped down and defaced in Abbotsford

“Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean only Black lives matter. It doesn’t mean they matter more than the lives of other people. It just means they should matter. Period. You probably agree with this.

Demonstrators are stating, simply, all lives should matter, regardless of race, but that they don’t. That’s the core message of Black Lives Matter. It’s just Black Lives Also Matter doesn’t have quite the same potential as a rallying cry.

The premise of Black Lives Matter is that while society values white lives, it values those of Black people to a much lesser degree. All the data underscore this fact. In Canada, we also know this applies to Indigenous people.

Ottawa has repeatedly promised, but failed, to address severe water problems on First Nations reserves. Our federal government has been found by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to have continuously underfunded the on-reserve child welfare system.

And Ottawa has continuously fought against having to repay that money to Indigenous kids. The list goes on.

Demonstrators want all kids to have the same chance at success, all teens to be confident they aren’t being judged based on their skin colour, and all adults to not have to think about their race when they head for a job interview.

The core message of demonstrators is that all our lives should matter equally, and that our neighbours and friends shouldn’t face discrimination that we know exists. It shouldn’t be controversial.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue launched a website earlier this month. (Screenshot/KHSAR)
Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue launches website

KHSAR’s website features helpful links, ways to help

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (File photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Morning mist clears over the Hope Slough at Camp River Road on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Sunny skies in the forecast for Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Rain and wind expected Sunday night through Monday morning, then clear skies

Email news@ahobserver.com
LETTER: A thank you from the local Legion

Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 32 thanks the community

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

Most Read