By Phaven Mehari
As a Black person, I am automatically categorized as part of a marginalized community. My personal experience as a Black woman living in Canada has taught me that no matter how much I push myself to be equal to the dominant race, I will always be different, and I will experience injustices. Throughout my life, I have faced many challenges that do not compare to those of the Caucasian race. In many instances, being a part of a marginalized community has placed me in situations where I have been left to feel insignificant and powerless. In this article, I would like to discuss the mental and emotional implications of the recent events in relation to the murder of George Floyd as a member of the Black community and how it has affected me personally.
The Black Lives Matter protests and rioting that were recently evoked by the murder of George Floyd was a battle for the universal Black community. Any and every Black person who heard about the death of George Floyd faced a loss and were left to grieve. Although I am not an angry person, I was revolted as I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered. Watching a grown man call out for his dead mother and his children resulted in me feeling like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. On the screen of the phone in my hands, I watched a white police officer press his knee into George’s neck with no remorse as he begged for him to spare his life while three other policemen just stood there as bystanders watching him be killed. This hate crime left me feeling beyond past the point of being ‘disturbed’ and ‘disgusted’ because these words do not carry enough weight to describe this act of hate. George Floyd is not just a random man that I do not know simply because I live in Ottawa and he lived in Minneapolis. George Floyd is my father. George Floyd is my brother. George Floyd is my uncle. George Floyd is my cousin. George Floyd is my friend. I mourn the death of George Floyd who represents black men as a whole. This is what it means to be a part of a marginalized community; you carry the weight of powerlessness together. I desperately wish I could have done something to help George Floyd, but I am left void as I know that I am also a Black individual who could have been in the same situation. The response that the world had in reaction to the murder of George Floyd proved that people are hurt, strained mentally, and left unsure of how to deal with the overwhelming amount of emotional trauma that is attached with the ongoing struggle of racism. The protests, rioting, and looting was a response to remaining unheard for thousands of years. Although I do not condone violence, my heart breaks in the way that people chose to demonstrate their frustration because it reflects an expression of deep wounds that have not been satisfactorily treated.
Following the death of George Floyd and the influx of social media circulation regarding Black Lives Matter, I received many personal messages asking how one can do better at approaching this sensitive topic of racism and marginalisation. My response to these questions is to consistently educate yourself on the differences between you and those who are marginalized. It is important for ignorance to be dealt with in order to resolve the issue of racism being exercised in different ways. Seeking the face of privilege and understanding your gain at the expense of one’s loss is essential to bridging the gap between communities that experience different issues, while living in the same world due to the colour of their skin. I also believe that it will be a long process for racism to be undone and the steady steps that must be taken in order to view positive results include learning Black history, asking specific questions, having discussions with people from different backgrounds, teaching kids that everyone is equal, and many more methods that are able to cumulatively add up to change.
The pain, mental drain, and life-long effects that the actions of oppressors have had on the universal black community viciously impacts us today in every area of life. I have witnessed brokenness in families, disparities, poverty, loss of liberty, and much more in the lives of Black people due to deeply embedded racism that does not cease to exist. To say I am part of a marginalized community is to accept and acknowledge that Black people have been mistreated, displaced, and left to run around in circles trying to resolve an issue that is being stimulated by the system without me feeling guilty about it. There are many more like George Floyd who have lost their lives, innocent or not, for reasons that are cruel and unjustifiable. The memory of George will remain with us, the Black community, for he is one more person who has forced us to open our mouths to speak and fight for equality of life, liberty, and security, which many in our world today has denied Black people deserving of.
My name is Phaven Mehari and I am a 22-year-old Black Canadian. Born in Canada as a second-generation immigrant, my experiences within this society have varied due to my background and ethnicity. I am honoured to have the opportunity to vocalize my personal perspective for ALiGN media lab that is individual to myself and relatable to others who have similar circumstances as me.