The recently released Netflix documentary about extra-terrestrials and sightings/experiences with Aliens from different star systems has intrigued me. I have watched the 1st episode. The ‘proof’ I found to be highly speculative and annoyed my appreciation for investigative journalism. The encounters I am choosing to write about below are largely to do with being seen as alien, treated as inhuman, and the consistent ever prevailing idea is that of ‘I’m not racist but…’ Actions, silence and inaction shout far louder than words ever will, I have found…
Post Racial Canada?
With the event of George Floyd’s highly televised murder, over a year ago at the time of writing. I want to write about and discuss a few observations in relation to Anti-Black Racism. As a panelist for True Roots we discussed and reviewed personal learnings from George Floyd’s death. I wrote about some of my observations in this post here.
Since moving to Canada in February 2021, I have been fortunate to have been welcomed to the country with warmth and acceptance largely mostly by friends and family. As a people Canadians are largely known as polite and considerate. Incidents over the Summer and Fall have invited me to reflect on the idea of Canada as a culturally conscious country. A country aware of it’s misdeeds of the past temporarily pouring energy into correcting colonial errors, currently.
On a Saturday in May, whilst having a challenging and rewarding conversation with my brother-in-law KW, we wanted to know the time. Becoming aware of our possible lateness to a side hustle meeting we were to attend that afternoon. We both were watchless and phoneless, leaving these time telling devices at our respective homes.
We both had the idea of asking park users if they could tell us the time. We were sat on a park bench overlooking Locke Street North, at Victoria Park. The day warm and sunny. We nodded at a watchless baller as he casually strolled towards the now open Tennis, Basketball courts and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA). CoViD19 had meant that outdoor public meeting spaces had been closed. We spotted a few passers by who may have a time piece with which to inform us of the time. A White woman with ear buds in, we initially waved down to ask the time, kept jogging past us.
Dodge Ball Training
A young White couple approached the park from a neighboring street and were wearing watches, we noticed. Arms bare. Black watches clearly visible on their left and right arms. KW and I smiled warmly as we knew that the answer to our questioning of what time it was, would soon be given. No sooner had we spotted them and begun to make it known we would like to avail them of their timed devices, they abruptly, awkwardly, averted their path of approach to the park. Choosing instead to spend more of their time pointedly avoiding us.
The couple made no eye contact with us or with each other. In an invisible way, both communicated to the other that evasive maneuvers were to be fully employed with immediate execution! We found their rebuke both upsetting and hilarious. KW suggested that they would prefer the chance of being run over by passing cars, rather than spending time talking with us. Our loud and raucous laughter followed them as they made their way across Victoria Park. Our laughter was intended to have both time withholders, absconders, carry our pain of their insult a few steps farther.
Similar to the sting of racism: Death by a thousand cuts of micro-aggressions, vicarious trauma and barely held unconscious bias, dry walling and avoidance could also be added. The nefarious strategies employed by some, holding fast to the Zero-Sum game of White Supremacy.
I am convinced that whenever I am standing beside another Black man in perceived ‘White’ space, something indigestible occurs. The experience is like a ticking clock, or a hissing gas cannister. Disguised, thrown quietly and released. Discolouring a scene and creating a stench, that has me wanting escape taking whomever I am at speed – away. Moments such as these are not uncommon. It is riding an elevator and not one person making eye contact or speaking with you. It is riding a public transit vehicle and whilst either sat or standing with space either side or all around you. Other passengers doing their best to avoid, minimising interactions with you in any way possible. Recently I visited a Pizza place in Hamilton. It was a Friday. The place was heaving. University students populated the place like it was a Happy Day’s film extra party. I started to get a sneaking feeling of not being wanted there! The feeling crept over me as I stood with my brother-in-law waiting for our takeaway pizza’s to arrive.
The feeling, like a gas cannister’s smoke, rose in me to the point where all I wanted to do was swiftly exit like I was dough from a woodfired oven. I had already noted all fire escapes. The one to my right seemed the closest. The door had disabled push buttons to support the hydraulics swing easier. Dissecting what I experienced is akin to the casual everyday racism some othered communities describe. The inherent, unspoken awareness of feeling unvalued, disrespected, alien was unwanted and came as I questioned if this was actually happening? Another effect of casual everyday racism. I questioned KW if I was losing it or were we being pointedly avoided and ignored by other patrons seeing and deciding that they did not want to see us.
‘Their avoidance is more to do with fear’ Explained Kike at a recent dinner party. ‘Some White people are scared that they will say the wrong thing and be called a racist.’ We laughed at the *ludicrousity of the idea. Glad to have friends who get it when we talk about our experiences of walking while Black in the 21st Century. Her husband Rohan shared an experience he had of buying a bottle of wine at an LCBO. Being advised by the teller after explaining his need. Wanting to buy a nice bottle of wine for a friends housewarming, was shown to the more ‘affordable’ bottles. Rohan explained that he had to keep it moving. Bypassing the teller’s chance to access an education of his presumed White privilege. Helping to revise his narrative that all Black men are poor and struggling – missed! Discussing these moments of insult, pain, reflection and action offer us chance to collect ourselves. Not lose it, as James Baldwin has previously stated, ‘To be a Negro in this country (the U.S.) and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, all of the time — and in one’s work’. We talk amongst ourselves about the nonsense of persistent othering to release and find some semblance of peace. Until…
The Pizza place experience transported me vicariously to the 1960’s, as a freedom rider in the deep American South, but remained in Hamilton, Ontario. No I was not racially abused. No punches, kicks and hot coffee weren’t thrown at us. The sense of fear, sense of loathing and being held as different from, was the feeling. Pizza place held the low-level hum of perceived danger and threat. I am left to wonder from whom to whom? If KW and I were wearing balaclavas, held sawn off shot guns, I might be able to understand. These choices of clothing and heavy jewellery aren’t something to be worn to a Pizza Party in Hamilton . However, the potential for riot or moment of unexplained group violence felt present and yet wasn’t.
New v Old
With the group of students met at Hamilton’s new Pizza place, my sense of hope for a future that could position Black, Brown, poor and White alongside each other – viewing self as equal almost evaporated. The reality – the structure of White supremacy is built amongst institutions that inculcate all to persist within an unfair, unequal tiered system that *inferiorises some and positions others as better than. My brother-in-law and I walked into a surreal reality and remained. We both could have left. The metronome of time for a moment was affected. We are not to know of if a recognition of difference happened after we left.
The experience of racism and behaving in racist ways is less burning crosses in people’s lawns, violent police encounters, Dixie/Confedarate flag waving, Nazi salutes, but this almost unseen, unnoticeable, fear response of being amongst, but being held outside from – is another form of attack. A deafening silence of avoidance is anti-black racism. These moments are cannonised alongside many other experiences of racist behaviour that upset, invite questioning and provide little answer. To the White couple who appeared to walk in fear of KW and I, sitting on a park bench, you invited us to see ourselves as felons, we are invited to see you both as merely ignorant racists. I reject both simple notions. To the White patrons of said Pizza place, we walked into on a frenetic Friday night, unlike Sam Cooke I cannot see ‘Change Gone’ Come’, so easily. Too much is at stake to topple the edifice of White Supremacy, But the structure, must fall! Axe, Dynamite, and instruments of mass change at the ready and are simontaneosly striking.
And so agitated – I write.
An ‘alright mate?’, or ‘hi, how are you?’ goes a long way to normalise, welcome and settle an always on guard, tired patron from vaulting. We wanted to feel welcome, appreciated and seen by others in the Pizza place. An impenetrable wall was erected long before KW and I arrived. My hope – make rubble from the wall in decades and not centuries.
There is always a larger story and it will be artfully portrayed. The movie – One Night in Miami however fictionalised, captures the meeting of four great Black men. The film highlights the coming together of diverse ideas for a similar goal. Sam Cooke and the many others who have sang, drawn, painted, sculpted, rapped, danced, voted and played will see better days. The future is not solely in the hands of all woefully unaware, ill prepared, under-educated students. The future is also in ours and our daughters and our sons and the grandchildren’s and theirs. All is potential. The only game being played is an infinite one with all arriving eventually at justice.
Sam Cooke I offer ‘Change Gon’ Come’ as a useful beginning to examine perspective. Present belief in relation to messages left by those who came before, for those who are to follow. Sam invites hope amongst his visceral intoning of pain.
Jennifer Mullins is interviewed by the Team at The Melanated Social Work Podcast about her ideas to Decolonise Therapy this episode is simply magic. Jennifer uses a number of personal experiences to share how she became the therapist she is. Aware of the precipice she walks along and who she can support, dancing along its fine edge.
George’s podcast as a politically and socially aware wordsmith. George’s oration of his and other writers/poets/rappers words are insightful in relation to the stories being told, silenced and presumably killed off. There is a sense of humour and irony in George’s ability to offer verse in this episodes’ telling of the 60s.
Resmaa Manakem I have listed this link in a previous blog. I highlight the podcast episode’s relevance here, in relation to a socialised White group, externalising others and parts of themselves because of a projective identified need. It being far easier to outsource internalised conflict – ‘Hurt people…’
Michael Kiwanuka and his Black Man Living… The line that stands out for me is ‘And I’m not angry and I’m not mad’, I wonder if Michael is answering James? I also doubt Michael’s not being angry and a little on the edge of sanity. I know I definitely am.
Ibram X Kendi This link in this blog is to a powerful podcast that looks at sport, journalism and the intersections of race and politics. The podcast makes use of observing the idea of White culture admiring, using and monetising Black culture and yet not respecting valuing or awarding equality to Black people wherein conflict arises.
One Night in Miami featuring four legends of Sport, Music and Theology/Philosophy is an understated film. The movie highlights for me the sense of possibility that perfumed the 60’s air with hope.
The Final link allows the feeling that rose up in me after the Pizza place experience a home. The injustice, the fantasy of finding retribution within annihilation feels like a fair exchange as Staceyann suggests burning.
Sam Cooke Change Gone Come
Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins
Have You Heard George’s Podcast Ep 24 The Sixties S3
Resmaa Manakem interview with Christa Tippett On Being
Michael Kiwanuka Black Man in a White World
Robert Glasper on Fuck Yo Feelings feat. Andra Day, Staceyann Chin Endangered Black Woman
Cover photo by Yasmin Dangor on Unsplash
Hamilton Mountain view photo by Vivek Trivedi on Unsplash
Wood Fired pizza photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash
Pizza Boxes pizza photo by Kristina Bratko on Unsplash
Thin Crust photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash