Written and Photographed By: Leah Biberdorf
In the midst of one of the greatest health pandemics, the biggest civil rights movement ever recorded is happening. Not in some far off news story that gets broadcasted for ten minutes but right in our own countries, cities, and homes. The death of George Floyd has rightfully sparked a change that the world can no longer come back from and it is not just people of colour who are fighting. As a young caucasian woman who strongly believes and supports the Black Lives Matter movement, going to a local rally and protest was something I felt I needed to do.
I live in Victoria, British Columbia; a little city on an island. To set the scene: if you were to ask most white adults who live in our main neighborhoods, they would most likely agree with “Canada’s not racist” or “ Canada is much better than the States”. British Columbia itself is home to roughly one percent of the black population in Canada, so as a caucasian individual blinded by privilege, there is no racism.
The majority of Victoria’s residents are sheltered from the painful reality that racism is a current and present issue that must be dealt with.
Being nineteen, white, and aware of the effects that my white privilege can have, I knew that it was my responsibility to go and support the black community at the black lives matter protest. It was held central downtown in an area that was impossible to ignore. The official start time to the protest was 4pm and by that time there were roughly 500 people in attendance. The crowd composed individuals of all races, ages and genders; different communities came together to raise awareness and generate change.
The rally organizer began with a warm welcome, chants of Black Lives Matter, and compelling stories that were not to be overlooked. She then gave us, the audience, a plea to not provoke the police. The riots happening all around the world were something that I had been actively following and I knew going into the protest that it was a possibility but hearing her ask us, cemented the dangers she could be facing in my mind. If someone were to ask me now if I’d fight against the police during a protest, I’d say yes in a heartbeat but the consequences are harshly different for people of colour.
The rally continues with story after story. Black and Indigenous men and women standing up and sharing their experiences; the very real Canadian experiences that go undiscussed. Fathers who would never see their daughters again because they looked suspicious, multiple cases of people dying under the police’s care, or the microaggression that are continuously streaming from ignorant individuals. It was all heart breaking. The stories went on for hours and my feet were definitely hurting, but that pain paled in comparison to the horrors that BIPOC individuals have to face; I had nothing to complain about.
The crowd was organized so that black individuals were standing on an elevated ground, all together to share their stories with us. We said their names and we said how they died; out loud and nowhere to run from the ugly truth.
As it was time for me to leave the protest, I thought to myself what I wanted my takeaway from the experience to be. And then I back tracked that a few steps. It was not time for a take away because going to a protest wasn’t going to fix anything and I had a lot more work to do. There is work to be done on all ends of the Black Lives Matter movement and I hope to use my white privilege to help make black voices heard. It is not the time for white people to be fighting, it’s not our fight, it’s our fault. Educating yourself on how you can do better is the least someone with such privilege can do.
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