The following is a statement from the Calgary Black Chambers Board.
The tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd has horrified and shocked people across the world. With the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while on a jog in his neighbourhood and the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer, we’re all still processing what’s unfolding. For those of us in the black community, Dr. Dre encapsulated it well when he said it “felt like that cop had his knee on all of our necks”. The violence and racism keep happening and it is NOT OKAY!
The role of the police is to protect and serve, law enforcement agencies should be held to this. We’ve seen law enforcement officers joining with protesters. Most police officers are good people trying to improve the world, but we need to ensure that those who violate the public trust are held accountable, the same way we would any criminal. The faster governments implement consequences commensurate to the use of unwarranted force, the safer all minorities will be. Having a badge should not be carte blanche to execute the law as you see fit.
Racism is perpetuated when someone says, “I don’t see color”. This statement minimizes hundreds of years of oppression, slavery, and institutionalized racism directed towards minorities. In Canada, racism is most poignantly directed towards our indigenous peoples, with the horrors of residential schools and cultural destruction still resonating today. However, the black community has experienced its share of racism over the years.
Although black people make up only 3% of Canada’s population, we constitute 8.6% of the prison population, and between 2005 and 2015, the number of black inmates in federal prisons increased by more than 71 percent. Somehow these numbers don’t add up.
What voice does a group of people constituting only 3% of the population have? We’ve seen throughout the world that those who have no voice cannot protect themselves. As we saw with Amy Cooper and her off-leash dog in New York, a simple misunderstanding and the use of “trigger” words can result in the police getting involved and a black man getting arrested, or worse. Thankfully, in this instance, her call to the police did not result in dire consequences to the innocent individual she targeted.
Many Canadians believe we don’t have the same issues with racism as the US, but this simply isn’t true. Because the issues here affect such a small percentage of our population they don’t receive the same coverage or attention. Just last week a Calgary Black Chambers (CBC) board member, while on a walk with his wife in their neighborhood, was chased by a white woman in a car while being recorded and screamed at that “I’m calling the cops” and to “get out of my neighbourhood and never come back.” Another CBC member was in his car in front of his house watching a rare Calgary Northern Lights when someone called the police and he had to explain to the officer, who ID’d the member and told him to move along, that he was parked in front of his own house.
See https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/canada-racism-thrives-desmond-cole-adora-nwofor-bashir-mohamed-1.5472427 for another example of a recent racial issue in Alberta. These examples highlight the pervasiveness of racism in our own province.
Is racism the legacy we want to leave for the next generation? One way to build an equitable future for everyone is through engaging with our elected politicians, reminding them that minorities matter and that we have the same rights as every other Canadian. There are 44,000 black people in Calgary, a small percentage of the 1.4 million people in the city. Whose voices express our needs to the government? Groups like ours that represent the diverse cultural, social, and racial fabric of Canada are essential to provide a voice for those who have not traditionally been heard. We believe that Canadians are listening. There is a respect for multiculturalism in our blood as Canadians as we share a common goal of making this country better for everyone. This is one of the reasons why the Calgary Black Chambers exists and, now more than ever, is critically important for providing a voice for the black community and a pathway to a better future for everyone.
The CBC consists of professionals including doctors, lawyers, accountants, investment bankers, and entrepreneurs. As individuals, we have had to face the fact that our voice is underrepresented in our professional fields, and in our country. In speaking out, a majority of us have been in situations where we have experienced some form of racism or exclusion at our jobs. Only through continuing to speak and advocating for ourselves, and the next generation will we ensure a more equitable future for all Canadians.
Everyone has a part to play to build a level playing field for all Canadians; We need allies and friends, people outside of our community to speak up and tell the world that injustice against black people is no longer acceptable; friends who will make the conscious effort to check their unconscious biases and be truly inclusive.
We thank you for your support!