I Am Not Trayvon Martin

…but my family is.

I have passing privilege. I look “exotic”. When people guess what my background is I get everything…Japanese, Native, Indian, Chinese, Italian, etc. the last thing people guess is the correct thing – Black. Trinidadian to be precise and English and Scottish on my mother’s side. So I could, if I chose to, walk through life pretty much as a white woman. I know I’ve shocked more than a few people when I say I identify as Black.

My paternal side of the family is unmistakably Black and they have faced discrimination that I will never know. I have seen the aftermath, the fear, the caution, the anger that comes with the profiling and judgement.

I’ll share a few examples:

People cross the road as D my 6’5″ tall, basketball-playing, university student male cousin walks down the sidewalk. He is one of the sweetest, gentlest young men I know.

Every one of my male cousins have been pulled over while driving for no reason. DWB (driving while Black). G had bought himself a used BMW for his birthday. He wasn’t speeding, no broken taillight, etc. nothing. The police officer demanded to see the registration and proceeded to interrogate him about where he got the money for the car, how could he afford it, where did he work, etc.

Coming back on a late-night flight from Jamaica to attend our cousin’s wedding, M was pulled in for secondary inspection. I don’t need to tell you what they thought she was trafficking, do I? Well at the time M was working for Citizenship & Immigration Canada so she played it out as the inspectors got progressively more aggressive with her saying they were going to run her name, she threw back what system they were using. Startled the inspectors asked how she knew and finally she pulled out her work ID. Instant attitude change. She was no longer a suspected drug mule. They let her go and said in the future she should just say where she worked.

And last but not least M and D driving down the QEW were pulled over at gunpoint because they resembled people of interest who had robbed a Subway. M was made to get out of her car with a gun pointed at her. Can you imagine that?!?!?

It’s incredibly sad that we are forced to rally around the unjust death of a young black man to bring about the changes needed to end the systemic and overt racism that our society is built upon. As Canadians we think something like Trayvon’s death could never happen here, please do not kid yourself. Canadians are very good at systemic and subtle racism. If you haven’t experienced it, you’re privileged liked me.

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