'We have to believe': Youth can fight anti-Black racism in Canada


As Black youth growing up in Canada, anti-Black systemic racism is something that we’ve often become so desensitized to that we don’t even realize we’re experiencing it. As empathetic individuals, we often give others the benefit of the doubt, thinking to ourselves, “Maybe they didn’t know what they said was offensive” or “Maybe I’m overthinking it.” To the young Black children navigating racism throughout their daily lives: you are not overthinking it and you should feel empowered to speak up against it.

An empowered Black youth population is what we aspire to help propagate through the Youth Action Committee at the BlackNorth Initiative, because we’ve all experienced racism first-hand and many of us felt empowered to do something about it, right around May 2020.

We grew up seeing the tragic deaths of unarmed Black individuals all over social media, like Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner … the list goes on. But George Floyd’s death in May of last year hit differently — for us as young Black Canadians, at home during quarantine, Mr. Floyd’s death received unprecedented awareness on social media. Friends who had never voiced solidarity against racism before, were suddenly posting infographics, showing up at protests, donating to relevant organizations, and asking important questions. Before we knew it, we saw the support grow into the largest civil rights movement ever, with protests across the world calling for justice for George Floyd and the conviction of Derek Chauvin. It was overwhelming though. The stress of viewing triggering videos of police brutalizing our Black sisters and brothers in between Zoom calls was debilitating. (FYI our cameras were in fact working — our eyes were just swollen from crying all morning).