I walk away. I always walk away.. I don’t have the energy or the heart to tell them why I won’t do it: I won’t have my baby’s broken, brown body disrespected by this cruel white world. I won’t have it stepped over, just another spec of dirt in the eye of the beholder. I already love my child, that’s why I won’t allow them to endure the endless cruelty this world dishes out to people who look like me.
I don’t say it because people won’t understand. People who don’t look like me will never understand how it feels to be on the outside looking in, wishing you belonged the way they do. Canadians seem to want to instinctively object to this indictment of the culture. They want to tell me what a mosaic this country is, how we need voices like mine, how beautiful and kind and generous and all the superlatives “we” as brown and black people are. And yet, this country repeatedly turns its face from the brutal killings and daily genocide of its Indigenous People. Every.single.day we see the ruthless murder of Indigenous Canadians by police, by other Canadians, by the toxic drug crisis and by general public disregard.
The reach of apathy for brown lives goes even further. Around the world, people who look like me are persecuted, murdered, disregarded. Israel’s relentless airstrikes against the imprisoned population of Palestine has killed nearly 5000 people, half of those being children. Each day, we see repetitive rhetoric on every news channel as it dismisses the lives of Palestinians whether directly or indirectly. The willful murders of innocent Palestinian children is inescapable on social media, so those who claim to not be following the war are not unaware, they are simply willfully ignorant. People choosing not to follow the genocide being inflicted on Palestine are proving what is essentially my point: brown lives don’t matter in western world, and they never will.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, we saw protests in the streets, social media cries against the injustice, flags on cars and on windows and on tshirts. Where is that support for Palestine? The lack of support for an imprisoned population being mass murdered is a damning indictment of just how little, if at all, brown and black lives matter to this white-dominated world. The Ukrainian invasion is wholly unjustified and I condemn the imperialist aims of Russia in its goal of domination. The lives of every single Ukrainian and Russian matters. Every drop of human blood matters.
Until it is brown blood. Or black blood. We are seeing free speech squashed in this country and an utter lack of regard by our white leaders as they turn a blind eye to the murders of innocent Palestinians in what the human rights organizations all over the world are calling “collective punishment”. We are seeing Israel perpetrate the same crimes inflicted upon them during the fascist rule of the Nazi party, we are seeing rhetoric that glorifies imperialism and nullifies any regard for brown life. So if you are turning away from Palestinian suffering, so visible, so true, so available through social media thanks to brave journalists inside Gaza, you are turning away from me.
In 2020 we saw the brutal execution of George Floyd and mass protests across the world. African Americans, Latinos, Indians, Arabs and white allies came out by the millions to protest their lack of visibility and the world's lack of care for their lives. Screaming “I can’t breathe!”, the masses demanded something that the world gives so easily to white lives: regard. For so long we have seen white governments, white lives, white wants, white needs dominate the cultural narrative and we continue to see that in Canada with the blatant disregard of this country’s history of genocide and its continued subjugation of Indigenous People.
The cries to free Palestine, my own cries are met with blatant dismissal, or even worse, a call for me, a brown person to condemn Hamas. In the 17 days since this war began, again and again, I have been asked to “condemn Hamas”. Why is it that when other forms of terrorism happens, when white males kill innocent black and brown people, when white cops spill brown blood, no one asks white people to condemn the terrorists? To condemn the cops? Why is it that every brown and black person must repeatedly prove their humanity and explain their personhood to the world, simply because something evil was perpetrated by a person of similar skin color to us. In Egyptian doctor-turned-comedian Bassem Youssef’s appearance on a talk show hosted by UK TV personality Piers Morgan, he repeatedly shut down notions of him, an Arab Muslim being somehow responsible for the acts of terror committed by Hamas. “I am not the spokesperson for Hamas! Fuck Hamas!”, he screams. Why does good done in our names go unnoticed and yet evil never leaves the eye of the beholder, constantly a lens through which we are seen?
We are seeing this exact pattern play out in real time in how Israel and its (American, Canadian, European - see a pattern?) allies are controlling the narrative that comes out of Occupied Palestine. Discourse around the cruel and unjust occupation of Palestine by one of the strongest military forces in the world is not being vocalized for fear of siding with the brown people, the Muslims, the underdogs, the others. Israel has made their desires clear, even if it means another Nakba. Israel, like white criminals, make no apology and offer no other explanation beyond the approved party line, choosing instead to place blame on Palestine by way of Hamas. The atrocities committed by Hamas are reprehensible, the crimes committed by them in and outside of the attack on Israel, disgusting. But why do I even have to preface my statements on my shock and grief at what is happening to Palestine in that manner?
Immediately after “Black lives matter” began its trip around the globe, we saw the reactionary rise of “All lives matter”, a slogan that activists, politicians and sociologists called a direct affront to the movement, because if all lives mattered, so much black and brown blood wouldn’t be spilled so easily, so wantonly. So I have to ask myself, if I am even surprised at the willful ignorance of what is happening in Palestine? Every day I exist in Canada, every single day, I wish I could go “home”, even though this is home. I look different, I feel different, I am different. And every day I wonder, if I was gone, would anyone mourn my spilled blood? The first reaction to me verbally expressing this to white Canadians is aghast. Of course they would, they say. They object to my question, how could I even ask that? But my blood is being spilled every day in Palestine and not a finger is being lifted in this country or any others to stop it. My skin, my blood, my hopes, my dreams, my identity is bound up in the lives of every mother, every father, every child, every human being murdered in Palestine, every death is my death. But it is time we all awaken from the wishful world we live in, because only then can we shake off the hopes that one day, if we work hard enough, if we blend in enough, if we contort ourselves just right, the world will see us as worthy. Brown lives don’t matter and I think the sooner we get that, the better.