Day in and day out, Black people are forced to be hyper-aware of how the pigmentation of their skin, as trivial as it may seem, influences how they are perceived. Anti-Black racism manifests itself in many ways, which is especially evident in the video of the recent murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
The international uproar surrounding Floyd’s murder initiated the formation of the Winnipeg protest #Justice4BlackLives. The rally, ignited by the countless Black lives lost internationally due to police brutality, will be held on Friday, June 5 at 6 p.m. outside the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Betel Belachew is an Ethiopian-Canadian student studying sociology and one of the founders of the group and organizers of the rally. She views the current outrage as the product of a snowball effect.
“Black people have expressed their outrage for centuries,” Belachew says. “Now, Black deaths have the ability to be shared on social media without consequence, and their murderers (go) without justice. George Floyd’s murder has been so easily distributed on the internet. Black people had to watch nine minutes of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, eventually leading to his death. This brought so much frustration to us, because our Black brothers and sisters are senselessly being killed by a system that should be protecting them.”
Safety, education and community solidarity are some of many calls to action that the group organizing the rally is advocating for. Non-Black allies are encouraged to use their privilege to amplify Black voices and play their part in the eradication of anti-Black racism.
“As non-Black allies, simply not being racist is never enough,” Belachew says. “You must be actively anti-racist to positively contribute to this movement and stand with us in solidarity. Be there with us, stand with us, show us that you are using your voice against the injustice for Black lives.”
Mahlet Cuff is an interdisciplinary artist and another organizer of the #Justice4BlackLives rally. Cuff sees anti-racism as vital to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Anti-racism means showing solidarity with racialized communities in the form of funds, showing up to rallies, having conversations with your family about race and privilege, hiring BIPOC folks and to not be silent when racism is evident,” Cuff says.
First and foremost, Belachew calls for allies to take the initiative to educate themselves.
“We are exhausted from constantly teaching our non-Black counterparts when information is easily found on the internet and public platforms,” she says.
Cuff hopes that the momentum gained from the rally continues in the future.
“The most powerful outcome would be that this conversation does not end after Friday. I hope that we keep having these conversations and not forgetting about people like George Floyd, Machuar Madut, Tony McDade and many other Black people that have been murdered by the police.”
The #Justice4BlackLives rally will take place Friday, June 5 outside the Manitoba Legislative Building at 6 p.m. View the Facebook event for more information and guidelines from the organizers.
Published in Volume 74, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 1, 2020)