Black peo­ple don’t need your awak­en­ing — we need al­lies

White peo­ple are not truly in this fight, writes Josh Dadjo.

Calgary Herald - - OPINION -

The re­cent deaths of un­armed Black Amer­i­cans have once more set ablaze a cul­ture war that seem­ingly lay dor­mant in the midst of the pan­demic. If you’re like me, your so­cial me­dia feeds have been filled with pho­tos of the de­ceased, calls for jus­tice and ac­tion, or quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

What has been pleas­antly sur­pris­ing is the num­ber of my white friends and col­leagues who have jumped into the fight. Folks who were usu­ally con­tent to say noth­ing, sat­is­fied with be­ing bet­ter than those who would com­mit such de­spi­ca­ble ac­tions, have now joined in, cry­ing out for an end to vi­o­lence.

Though I would like to wel­come you to the fight, and ap­plaud your tweets or Face­book posts, there’s one prob­lem. I don’t be­lieve you.

I be­lieve you hate vi­o­lence and are ap­palled by what has gone on. But I don’t be­lieve you are truly in this fight. I don’t be­lieve you iden­tify with us in our pain, a pain that is ab­so­lutely unbearable.

I don’t think you have to fight the fear of be­com­ing numb to the tragic events that have af­fected your own com­mu­nity be­cause of how of­ten they oc­cur.

I don’t think you un­der­stand the fear in our par­ents’ hearts or the worry we have for our broth­ers and sis­ters. I don’t think you have ap­pre­ci­ated the can­cer­ous na­ture of racism or that it kills be­fore the bul­lets go fly­ing.

Frankly, I be­lieve that when the me­dia moves on to the next cri­sis, you won’t stick around with us.

At the source of my dis­be­lief is the fact that at the end of the day, you can walk away feel­ing proud you stood up against in­jus­tice and said some­thing. You are not bound to this fight be­cause of the colour of your skin. I would be ly­ing if I said I wouldn’t want this priv­i­lege, but

Teach your chil­dren the beauty of di­ver­sity. Wel­come im­mi­grants and refugees.

I don’t have it. So when you walk away, and you will, our world will re­main shaken as we con­tinue to wait for the next tragedy.

Vic­tims of in­jus­tice don’t need your wo­ke­ness. We need al­lies fo­cused on mak­ing tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ences. Those who rec­og­nize that when there is a crime, resti­tu­tion must in­clude loss for the of­fender. Those who carry the bur­den on their hearts and join with us in our pain. Those who are marked by true com­pas­sion that spurs to ac­tion.

I would like to thank all of the folks who have de­cided to join us in griev­ing this round of tragedies. Bet­ter late than never, I sup­pose. But we’re go­ing to need more than quotes and pic­tures.

Read a book. Vol­un­teer. Fund a schol­ar­ship. Pray. Ad­mit your past mis­takes. Com­mit to un­der­stand­ing and hav­ing a com­pas­sion­ate heart. Ac­knowl­edge your priv­i­leges. Do some­thing tan­gi­ble. Al­low us the op­por­tu­nity to have those un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions with you. Con­tinue to fight when the me­dia moves on and it’s no longer the fash­ion­able thing.

In­vest in busi­nesses owned by marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties. Teach your chil­dren the beauty of di­ver­sity. Wel­come im­mi­grants and refugees into your com­mu­ni­ties and com­mit to their suc­cess.

Make xeno­pho­bic and racist lan­guage un­ac­cept­able in your home and work­place. Challenge your po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­nity lead­ers to make changes, and if they won’t, do it your­self. El­e­vate the voices of the op­pressed and lis­ten to them.

To those of you who will walk away, know that we see right through you. Your words ring hol­low to us and you have lit­tle cred­i­bil­ity. Your fight is solely for the spot­light and for the praise of oth­ers just like you. We don’t need that, we need you.

To the few who will de­cide to sac­ri­fice the priv­i­lege of walk­ing away and choose to bind them­selves to those who don’t have the choice, wel­come to the fight.

We’re glad you’re stick­ing around.

Josh Dadjo is com­plet­ing his mas­ters of sci­ence in In­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary Health Sci­ences at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa. He is also a pol­icy re­search and ad­vo­cacy of­fi­cer for the Young Lead­ers Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil and an as­sis­tant to Sen. Rose­mary Moodie. He can be reached by email at

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