Actions Before Words
Updated: May 31
May 29, 2021
This past week marked one year since the world watched in horror as Minneapolis citizen George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer on May 25, 2020, the act caught on video by multiple witnesses with cellphones. Floyd’s murder in broad daylight sparked ongoing worldwide protests against police brutality and white supremacy, with officer Derek Chauvin finally being found guilty of murder just last month. It’s been a hard year but one filled with demands for real change and pledges by those in power to make it happen.
Last weekend, I had the honour of being interviewed alongside fourteen Black and brilliant Canadians for a Toronto Star story asking the urgent question, “One year after Floyd, what has changed?” The article immediately and thankfully noted that anti-Black racism is not solely an American problem, as we witnessed when Regis Korchinski-Paquet died after Toronto police were called to her home.
“There have been a plethora of reports that have come out in the last little while pertaining to anti-Black racism in Canada and I’m happy to see that,” says photographer Yasin Osman, “but it breaks my heart to know the tragedies that are required for us to be taken seriously.” University of Toronto associate professor Rinaldo Walcott struck a bleaker note, correctly pointing out that in this past year, “no substantive discussions on how we get the leaders we get, on how our priorities and goals are set, on how and what the institution should mean in the world have been actually had.”
As the legendary James Baldwin once wrote, “I cannot believe what you say, because I see what you do,” and as always, actions speak louder than words.
I told the Star that I feel cautious hope. “People are finally not just listening, but they are hearing us. They are asking the questions not just to learn but to understand. They are doing the work.”
What, then, about your own institution in the world? Has this past year been one of talk? Or one of action? If you’re looking to do more, to see your organization evolve and challenge a status quo that has only worked for some, consider taking part in Breakfast Culture’s eye opening Ally is a Verb training course or a full Diversity and Inclusion Audit. We can help you join a worldwide movement that has been a long time coming. Together, we can finally make real change.
The full Toronto Star piece follows...