I am sure when you rang in the New Year you were thinking that 2020 would be Your Year. We can all agree that the unfolding events that have transpired over the last few months have made us all realize how precious life is. I think we always understand this at some level but the idea of a virus looming around that is capable of killing you or your loved ones is scary. This virus doesn’t see race, class, or gender. Infection can happen to anyone; it can happen to you. I remember watching the news in dismay as people ran into stores to hoard toilet paper as if their life depended on it; only thinking of themselves. It wasn’t survival of the fittest, but rather, survival of the most selfish.
When I saw the footage of the inhuman killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, two black men, I was in shock but not surprised. As a black woman, I have known along with black men, black women and black children, that the killing and hunting of our beautiful skin has been happening for centuries. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and this makes us fearful as we rush to look for a cure, but black people have been enduring a racial pandemic. No one has ever bothered to look for a cure. Hate is a disease children are taught at an early age; it spreads like a wildfire and damages everything it touches. Yet, we have allowed this generational virus to spread.
I have never hated being black, nor have I ever asked God why. I know that there are little black children who have asked this question once they realize that they live in a world where people judge them because of the colour of their skin. Today, on my walk home from the grocery store, I saw two signs hanging from a blocked-off construction site that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” This filled me with joy. Yes! Finally you see we have always mattered. Every single human being has the desire and the essential need to be seen, heard, and valued. Now you see us. I know your life matters even if your skin isn’t like mine. I have always believed this. It is time for you and those who don’t have my skin to see what’s happening; that being different doesn’t mean you don’t matter too.
What people don’t realize is that black people experience systematic oppression and racism in all facets of life. Even the well-dressed, educated black man will tell you stories of how he’s been pulled over by the police who think he purchased his fancy car with drug money, or of the time he was mistaken for “the help” and not the owner of the establishment. This is something I have pushed back against; refusing to take less than what I deserve, even if it means I get nothing at all. Slave labour ideology isn’t uncommon when you are black. Even within my industry, black writers and creatives are treated like an Other.
In the last few weeks, on the nights I can’t sleep, I am no longer sure what’s keeping me up. Is it because of COVID-19 and wondering if and when it will be safe to see my family who lives in Africa again? Is it the bone-chilling cries of George Floyd for his mother as he takes his last breath, “Mama, Mama”? Is it worrying about my brother when he goes for a jog? I know I live in Canada, but you would be foolish to think that racism isn’t happening here too.
When my mother was pregnant with me, bombs were going off around my parents who were fleeing war. Imagine what that would feel like, not only hoping to live another day but also praying your unborn child would live to see daylight? This internal war is not only understood by black mothers in war-torn countries, black mothers living in America and Canada understand it too.
Growing up, my mother and father told my siblings and me to never think people didn’t like us because of our skin colour. They knew the minute this was put into our psyche we would walk around in continuous fear. In some ways, I feel like they made us colour blind. We have always made it about love, why can’t you? Despite it all, black mothers and fathers still raise their children to be hopeful.
If you are wondering how I’m feeling at this moment with all the emotions flooding through my body, the answer is: joy, pain, anger and fear. But If 2020 has taught me one thing, it’s that even in the darkest of times to always remain hopeful. Guess, what? I see the light coming; better days ahead for all.
Hanifa Sekandi is the founder/editor of the lifestyle website, The Things I Wish I Knew. She is a Poet. Writer and Singer/Songwriter. She has an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Sociology (Social Behaviour, Media and Culture); Psychology of Buddhism, Mental Health and Illness Minor – (Eastern Practices for Depression, Anxiety and Addiction) and Religion (Society, Religion and Politics).