Are You a Watcher or a Doer
When it Comes to Fighting Racism?
This is another deeply disturbing and unacceptable “true story” that inevitably shows up on YouTube in the People Also Watched section.
Unfortunately, I became masterful in navigating through the internet’s People Also Watched section after George Floyd’s murder by (former police officer and recently convicted) Derek Chauvin. That infamous video woke me up to watch for inequities displayed towards countless other Blacks, people of colour, LGBTQ and others who consider themselves marginalized or not treated equally.
This “true story” started off with a phone call from a loving mother, highly regarded doctor and board member of our volunteer organization. She was clearly upset.
“Did you hear about the Black teen that was beaten up by a group of white youth at his school?”
(No, I hadn’t heard.)
“I’ll send you the video. Watch it. We must do something!”
The video opens, like all these types of videos do, with: “Warning: this video contains graphic content.”
The reporter continues: “In this 20-second video you can see at least five people on top of the victim, a 14-year-old Black teen. You see him being kicked, punched, then put into a chokehold, dragged and thrown to the ground. The victim alleges his attackers hurled racial slurs throughout this ordeal.”
I watched that video repeatedly, like a microbiologist looking through a microscope, searching for that one elusive clue that will finally wipe out the worldwide pandemic called racism. I watched the video of the 14-year-old teen and his family sharing his hospital photos and talking about the effects of his concussion, bruises, blood clot and his memories of the racial slurs and monkey sounds. I watched video of his parents and community leaders outside his school and again outside the police department holding their signs and “demanding justice.”
To sum it up, what I did in the first 24 hours after my friend’s declaration that “We have to do something” comes down to two words: I watched.
It took several watchings before I consciously clicked on the subliminal imagery embedded in this video. You see, the teen choking the 14-year-old is wearing a white hoodie. He is literally wearing a white hood, evoking a sardonic reference to the Ku Klux Klan.
As a weird coincidence, on the exact day the Boy Under the White Hood was choking the 14-year-old teen, 1,981 kilometres away, Derek Chauvin was in the 14th day of his trial for choking George Floyd to death.
Then this thought hit me: am I having a time-machine moment? Could the Boy Under the White Hood be a sci-fi flashback of Derek Chauvin when he was a teenager? Is the Boy Under the White Hood an example of what ultimately happens when we stand by and watch bullying, taunting and fighting in our communities? Is that the outcome of saying, “Well, that kind of thing doesn’t happen in our city”? (It does.) Is that the outcome of telling ourselves, “It’s too late to do anything about that now, that happened weeks ago”? (It is not.)
What would have happened if a community of people stepped up and spoke out back in the time-machine world when a teenaged Derek Chauvin first bullied someone who did not act or look like him?
I realize that most of what I have shared here makes absolutely no difference about the extremely disappointing and unacceptable event that happened in another city several weeks ago.
What happened to this 14-year-old Black teen (and all other victims of racial hatred and bullying) is indeed disturbing and unacceptable and demands something be done.
Whatever happened in the lives of the Boys Under the White Hood Gang, that they wound up beating up another human being is (also) disturbing and unacceptable and demands something be done. Left unchecked, boy bullies become men bullies.
The real message of all the disturbing and unacceptable events that happen in life comes down to who we will be going forward.
Will we be Watchers or will we be People that Do?
Social media counts us when we Watch. Future generations count us when we Do.
Be the future. Be it now.
This article was originally published in the Calgary Herald on May 7, 2021. View it here.