Updated: May 31
Even though ‘Her Royal Science’ is currently on hiatus until the fall, I felt it important to connect with our friends, colleagues, and listeners at this point in time.
I am a Black woman. I have a Black brother. We both witnessed, in horror, how George Floyd’s life was slowly, intentionally, and violently taken away from him, an image that I fear I will never be able to erase from my memory. To the countless Black men and women who have been killed at the hands of the police, including but not limited to Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray, we speak your names and do what we can to honour your lives and legacies.
Over the last few years – while I was in graduate school – there were quite a few moments of intense loneliness and isolation; being amongst non-Black colleagues almost all the time meant that most of my workmates had no visible response to the heart-wrenching loss of Black lives just south of the border. To add to my feelings of isolation, I and people like me have been taught not to share our sorrow, heartbreak, and anguish in these moments. The expectation is to refrain from voicing our feelings and opinions about these kinds of situations, or at least refrain from having those conversations in the workplace. I think I became rather good at hitting the pause button on my emotions, maybe even too good. Very few people, if any, could tell that I was grieving.
The person with whom I most transparently shared my feelings was my partner. For a little context: he was born in Russia, and moved to Canada as a pre-teen. Spending his adolescent years in the suburbs of Vancouver with his all-white friend group, along with his own insecurities of not wanting to be othered as an immigrant, sheltered him from understanding the history of race in North America.
Then he met me, and the vast, scary, murderous, segregated, and at times evil history of Canada and the United States was suddenly easily accessible to him. I was shocked to realise that he hadn’t learned much of that history in school, with the exception of a few facts. It was scary to think that he wasn’t the only one, entering the same social and academic circles as me, but with no conception of the despicable historical and contemporary burdens, laws, and limitations that had and have been placed on Black and Indigenous people.
When we would hear news of yet another Black person being carelessly murdered, I would spend a lot of time explaining to my partner the many facets of history that contributed to our present-day society: colonialism, slavery, segregation, and so much more. He had a lot of questions, and I had a lot of answers. Eventually, I grew exhausted, and we had a frank conversation about how playing the role of ‘teacher’ was doing more harm to me than good. Without a sliver of defensiveness, he recognised the areas in which he was most ignorant and sought to learn on his own. He too realised that it was and is not my job to teach him what his parents, school system, and social circle at large had failed to impart on him. I write all this to say that, in the midst of your pain – my fellow Black people – you should not exhaust yourself dissecting and describing to others the historical reasons behind your feelings of rage. It is not your job. Further, as the activist Jesse Williams so poignantly said, “the burden of the brutalised is not to comfort the bystander.”
I am tired of having to see my people slaughtered, and I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about it, just as I grew tired of having to give a detailed history lesson to my partner every time something so painful and traumatic happened. Needless to say, I am tired of having to worry about my father and my brother anytime they leave the house. I am tired, sad, angry, and scared.
Please stay safe, everyone. The marathon continues.