BY GERRY CHIDIAC
Lessons in Learning
I’m outraged as I write this. Yet another Black American, Jacob Blake, was shot in front of his children, in broad daylight and in cold blood by a white police officer.
Miraculously, he survived, but it’s unlikely he will ever walk again.
I’m also very inspired by the myriad of professional athletes refusing to play; who are speaking out strongly, expressing the same outrage.
Some will argue that these athletes are speaking from a place of privilege.
Yes, they are. And so am I.
What we fail to realize is that what we call privilege in today’s world means having what every human has an inherent right to embrace. Privilege means having a voice and with that comes the responsibility to be a voice for those who are kept silent.
I never realized how privileged I was until I was 20 years old. I was attending the University of San Carlos in the beautiful Cebu City, Philippines. My residence was beside a poor, overcrowded and hazardous barrio. One day, a fire swept through this neighbourhood and many people lost what little they had.
I was as outraged as I am now, and my anger drew me to question myself. What right did I have to my education and status? What right did I have to a wonderful, supportive family? Why did I never know hunger or worry where my next meal would come from? What right did I have to an almost limitless future?
As I reflected on my privilege, I realized that none of these things were bad but if I wanted to be true to myself, I needed to use them for the benefit of others. I needed to humbly share the good things I have with my neighbours.
Having privilege comes in many forms. We may have privilege in one area of our lives and be potential victims of unjust discrimination in other areas.
Basketball star LeBron James and other Black American athletes recognize not only their place of privilege, but also that they and their families risk the same fate as Blake every time they walk outside. Sometimes they’re not even safe at home, as in the case of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in her apartment.
We’re all LeBron James, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake. Racism is arbitrary and pointless, and we don’t have to look very hard to realize that many of our relatives have been victims of racism. If we live in comfort and freedom, it’s only because we’re lucky.
I’m Middle Eastern-Canadian. What if my family hadn’t come to North America 100 years ago? What if I didn’t have a westernized name? What if I weren’t a Canadian citizen? What if I didn’t speak English without an accent?
I may get disparaging rebuttals to my columns when I speak out for Palestinian rights, but what would happen if I walked the streets of Palestine and an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier thought I looked threatening, or if I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?
I’m no different than Blake or Tarek Badwan, a Palestinian police officer recently killed by the IDF.
Our world has a racist, colonialist, genocidal history. As we try to walk from this darkness into the light of truth, there will be those who try to throw us back into the dungeon from which we’re emerging.
The fact that we can read this column means we have privilege. The fact that we have privilege means we have responsibility.
Enough is enough. We’re all in this together. We all bleed red and we’re all children of a loving creator.
The revolution has begun and it’s being televised. Amen.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac