It’s June 1st, 2020 and I just mowed my lawn in the rain. I’m glad it’s raining because I have slow tears rolling down my cheeks. Not the tears of joy I should be experiencing. Two days ago I lead my hiking team to a major 50km victory, raising major coin for our local food bank. We pushed ourselves
physically, mentally and gave every ounce of everything we had to succeed. But I can’t even spend more than a few seconds thinking about it without my thoughts drifting to real world events and the helplessness I feel.
It’s September, 1988. My first day of kindergarten. My mom drops me off. Walking towards the door of the classroom, my confidence crumbles. I begin to wail, tears coming fast and furious. I’m not ready for this shit. Someone comforts me, I don’t remember who. I just remember being so unprepared
for the big world. I see kids all around the room, already in clusters. Being just a few minutes late, I’m already a loner. These kids have already made friends. My tears slow as I realize there is no going back. But still, unprepared. I look over to one section of the room. Man, am I ever relieved. A kid sitting alone. I bet that guy is as stressed and afraid as I am, that’s likely why he’s sitting alone. Yeah, his skin is different than mine. Much darker. But, he’s coloring. I’m shy. I have no crayons. Chances are he’s not going to wanna share. I know sometimes kids have that possessiveness over some real petty stuff. But, he sees me eyeing him and his coloring book. I don’t remember the exact introduction, this is 33 years ago. But I can see his face in my mind. Short
dude, normal hair. Glasses. A bit of a buck tooth thing going on, like me. Big ears, like me. His name is Rahim. Rahim Nanji. I’ll never forget it. The first kid to ever reach out and befriend me, outside of those kid friends you make when your parents bring you around their friends with kids. Those kids had to hang out with me, our parents friendships dictated that. This guy WANTED to hang out with me. Wanted to share his crayons. Rahim. Man, I’m so thankful for that first day friendship. We color. We chat a little, he loves baseball too. It doesn’t take long for a girl, blonde with pigtails to tell me I can go hang out with her and her friends. I don’t have to hang out with the brown kid. Her words that I remember to this day. Rahim pretends to not notice. I stick around to color.
Before Rahim, I had had many interactions with people who look different than me. We lived in St. Andrews in a side by side house. I saw the beautiful friendship my dad had with an incredible man named Terry Ford, who also drove city bus for Cornwall Transit. Terry died a long time ago, my dad
still drives bus for this community. I saw how Pop and Terry helped each other with bullshit chores that had to get done around the yard. Set up the pool together. Mowed each others lawn. Shared tools. How they shared a beer now and again. How they reminisced about the job. How Terry was the first to come over and get me when I was bored to play with his daughter Ashley. They had a pinball machine and they had the setting turned off so we didn’t have to play with quarters. I played the shit out of that pinball machine. Terry was a special part of my dad’s life, a great friend of the family. There was also an elderly man, who if I remember correctly was named Cecil. Don’t quote me on that name. But he used to ride my dad’s bus all the time. Any time I would be lingering around Pitt & 2nd to meet Pop as he was getting off work, this elderly dude always, ALWAYS, found a quarter behind my ear. We were friends. I knew no reason not to be. Even back then, the color of someone’s skin
didn’t occur to me as odd. If someone treated me right, if someone was a friend to my dad or my mom, they were my friend, too. I trusted my parents’ judgement about who they allowed to be around their son and daughter.
School ended. Day one in the books. I was shook. I can’t remember the exact conversation. But I remember spending the whole day glued to Rahim’s hip, just needing a friend to get me through that first day. Upon telling my parents about the blonde girl and her offer to leave my brown skinned
friend, I seem to think this was the first time a conversation about racism happened in my life. Again, paraphrasing, but my parents explained to me that I need to treat all people the way I want to be treated. Would I be OK with someone not liking me because my skin is white, or my eyes are brown
or my hair is a certain way. Fuck no, of course not. Day Two. Rahim and I find each other real quickly in the school yard. I already know this is a great, blossoming friendship. We got in much trouble together in those early, formative years. We had fun doing things kids do. Swing sets, throwing rocks (why was that fun?), baseball (man, we could’ve been legends), trading snacks. We even got in our first major trouble together. Our teacher wanted us to share the monkey bars. Which is what prompted us to use the dreaded F Word in the presence of an adult for the first time ever. She. Was. Not. Amused. But we took our punishment the same way we took our play time – together.
I knew then, back in 1988, that treating people differently for things that they cannot control was wrong. In the same way that poor people didn’t choose to be born poor, and people born in war-torn countries didn’t ask to be born there any more than I asked to be born in Canada, Rahim didn’t ask to be born black. But he was my first best friend in life. The kid who got me through tough times. As tough as times can be when you’re five years old. Who knew then that going forward, life could be such a motherfucker. We just wanted to throw balls, eat chocolate and hang out.
Today, I’m doing something I said I would never do. I don’t post my political beliefs on Facebook or Instagram because, truly, my political beliefs are: a) none of your business, and b) probably too radical, leading to conversations I just don’t want to have. In a nutshell, I believe the entire system is broken. Democracy is an illusion and the only way to fix it is to wipe the entire slate clean and try another way. But I’m also a realist. I know that world economic issues, geo-political issues and just the complicated logistics of it all means that that can never happen. I accept it. But I refuse to participate. Vote for whoever you want. My opinion is that you’re wasting your time. But you do you, I respect that. To me, they’re all corrupt liars who are only out for themselves. Do whatever you want. Just leave me out of it. I say so often to my beautiful wife that we just need to focus on what we can control. I am not Canadian. I am not Ontarian. I am but a speck of dust belonging to this vast universe. I can’t be bothered by the minutiae of men. I prefer to look to the horizon and think about where humankind will be in thousands of years. When all this bullshit is finally over. Maybe that is arrogant and unappreciative. Maybe you think I don’t appreciate my freedoms. Not true, I just realize I’m alive and on this Earth for a nanosecond in the cosmic sense. I want to make a difference to those who I keep around me. I can’t fix the world. And so, mostly, I stay silent, instead focusing on my own happiness and living my own life.
But not today. A week ago, I watched that video. The whole god damn thing. Nine plus minutes, plus the lead in and the aftermath. All of it. It was like watching the Zapruder film for the first time, seeing Kennedy’s entire skull getting blasted away. It was like watching archival footage of Auschwitz. Like seeing video from the civil rights movement for the first time, with police using fire hoses to keep segregation intact at any cost. Like the Challenger explosion. Like seeing grainy cell phone footage of Al Qaeda actually sawing the head off of journalists, live on the internet. These are images in my brain that will never be forgotten, never be unseen. The George Floyd video is
that. And much more. To see a grown ass man cry out for his dead mama. I can’t even type it without crying. If you haven’t seen it, you should, you owe it to your minority friends. At least that’s my opinion and that’s why the video is sitting at the top of this blog post. I don’t know what else to say about it. Or all the other previous incidents. I have hope that this time is different. But the cynic in me knows that is likely not the case.
I’ve been judged since my late teens for the color of my skin. But those colors are pinks, blues, greens, reds, oranges and yellows. These are colors of ink I’ve chosen to color my skin with. I consider myself to be one of the most intelligent, well-spoken people I know. Arrogant, again, I know. But it’s true. I’ve seen people judge me from afar and to my face. People surprised I can
communicate well, despite being a tattooed freak. This is as close as I can get to feeling the pain of my Black, Brown, Asian, Indian, Muslim, Indigenous brothers and sisters. These Kings and Queens just trying to get by, like me, in this often shitty thing we call life.
I’m not the same 14 year person I was screaming Fuck The Police because it was catchy and cool. I may not be a person who will ever call the police for help. But I respect the gig. I graduated college in the Corrections program, keen to enter a career as a prison guard. Not after the shit that I saw on the inside, on my 6 week placement at the Kingston Pen. I know first hand, small as my experience was, the job is hard. I owe it to my own conscience to not be a part of that problem. I can’t fix the world, but I can stand up when I know something is wrong. And the system needs to do better at every level.
To my friends of all colors, but particularly to the black men in the struggle – friends, family, strangers – I can’t feel the same pain as you. I can’t share your fears. I am white. I am privileged. Privileged enough that despite the fact that I have my own problems in life, these problems are not caused by something as trivial as the color of my skin. I can’t pretend to understand anything you’re going through. But I can listen to you. And I can learn how to help. I can throw my fist in the air with you. I can stand by your side in your time of need – which, in 2020, seems to be all day every day. I can educate those less accepting than myself. I can take a knee for you. And, above all else, I can give you my word: If your life is ever in danger, I WILL put my life on the line to save yours. If the decision is to save your life or burn the entire fucking thing to the ground, I would gladly strike the match myself and walk away knowing it was the right thing to do, consequences be damned.
It’s back to June 1st, 2020 and I’m sitting on my couch writing something I shouldn’t have to write. Black Lives do matter. And not because it’s trendy today. Jesus, I wouldn’t know trendy if I walked into it. I am ALLY as fuck, until your plight is over. When the Facebook posts stop. When the media moves on because something else that gets better ratings and more clicks has occurred, I am here by your side. Please stand by the good people in this world and let us stand by your side until the time comes when we no longer need to stand because we’ve won. I love you, brothers, sisters, Kings, Queens. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. Humans.