'I am tired, disgusted and angry': How parents are dealing with racial trauma
SASKATOON -- The one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder is serving as a grim reminder to Black parents still grappling every day with racial trauma, systemic racism, and fear for the safety of their children.
Parents of Black and racialized children told CTV’s Your Morning that a great deal still needs to be done, as their persistent fear for their children’s well-being means worrying if they’ll come home from something as innocuous as going out to play.
“Honestly, I am tired, disgusted and angry. That's the only thing I can really say for what's going on right now,” said Michelle Hughes.
The Toronto-based parent said anti-Black racism persists in Canada and there has been a lack of substantial systemic change across the board. And this can have deadly consequences as a disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous people are killed by police.
Hughes is “terrified of what’s going to happen” when her 13-year-old son has his first interaction with police. U.S. studies show police officers see Black people as more threatening than others, taller than they actually are, and therefore perceive them as more aggressive.
“I make sure when they go out to play, I'm always showered and dressed because I don't know if somebody is going to come knocking at my door,” she said, noting her fears have only intensified with the prospect her son will soon be able to drive a vehicle..
Reports find Canadian police pull over Black drivers at higher rates than the general public, and Hughes noted that her older daughter was in a tense situation with police just two days ago. She was in a car that was pulled over by police, but she said the young Black man at the wheel hadn’t broken any rules, and did not receive a ticket.
Fellow parent Craig Wellington also decried the lack of systemic change in society: “hashtags are easy, culture change is hard.” He said the biggest difference he’s seen in the past year is that “we’re actually being seen and heard.”
He said one of the biggest hurdles in Canada is thinking systemic racism and anti-Black racism are strictly U.S. issues, which they aren’t. For example, last year, a Ontario Human Rights Commission report found a Black person is 20 times more likely to be killed by Toronto police than a white person.
The idea of police reform hits close to home for Wellington, whose son intends on joining and reforming the RCMP, which has its own troubling record of racism towards its own officers, systemic racism when dealing with Indigenous peoples, and disproportionate killings and shootings of racialized people.
“He's wanted to be a policeman since he was five. But my kids are also very aware and very conscious of the reality of what's going on,” he said, referring to how they were well aware of cases, such as Dafonte Miller, who was assaulted by an off-duty Toronto police officer; and former CFL player Orlando Bowen, who was allegedly beaten by officers in a parking lot.
“Seeing people who looked like him, beaten, killed, shot to death by police… that's a trauma that Black people live with on a daily basis.”