By: Rabia Abrar
Over the last 24 hours, like everyone else, I’ve cycled through an overwhelming series of emotions: disbelief, frustration, anger, helplessness, sadness, dread.
I felt especially sad because, while yesterday’s violent acts of white supremacy in Washington D.C. are news, white supremacy and the institutional and systemic racism1 that enables it, is far from new.
This past year has been a reckoning in the face of racial injustice and police violence. These systemic issues aren’t going away just because 2020 is over.
At the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), we are working with a global network to bring about a Wellbeing Economy, an economy2 that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.
I’ll speak to the situation in North America. We are not there yet. There is still so much work to be done.
I had to go out for a walk to clear my head. As I trudged through the snow, I kept asking myself,
“Where do we go from here? Where do we even start?”
I don’t have all the answers (does anyone?!) But here’s what I do know.
1. Protect your mental health.
As I walked, I had to remind myself: does my frustration, on its own, help anyone? No. If we are to effectively deal with societal issues that are upsetting and exhausting, we’re going to need to protect our mental health. In the wise words of Oprah,
“Your real work is to figure out where your power base is. And to work on the alignment of your gifts that you have to give with the real reason why you’re here. The number one thing you have to do, is to work on yourself…and to fill yourself up, and keep your cup full.”
In short: You can only give or contribute to positive change if ‘your cup runneth over’. Honour yourself.
The New Economics Foundation suggests Five (Evidence-based) Ways to Wellbeing, around the themes of social relationships, physical activity, awareness, learning, and giving.
Breathe deeply, get some fresh air, talk to a friend, listen to music, dance to shake it off.
Today, I did all of the above.
2. Support organisations doing the work.
The social justice and environmental crises we face are multidimensional and interconnected. We don’t have to look any further than the COVID-19 crisis to see this. Indigenous and racialised communities are not only disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but also by environmental issues, the effects of climate change, and poverty – and these issues reinforce one another. And since these issues are all interconnected, your support for organisations working to address any of them, is helping (as long as we hold them accountable to take an intersectional approach).
Once I’d had enough of reading and watching videos of yesterday’s riot on Instagram, I started to google social justice organisations I could donate to. Here’s a good list of Canadian social justice organisations I found.
Not everyone has the privilege to be able to donate. And even if you do, you may not have a lot that you are able to give. But if you can, even donating $5 is still $5 that is flowing in to help move forward the change we need.
“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something, anything.”Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Author and Animal Activist
3. Examine your own role.
All countries have their own systemic social justice issues. That includes Canada. For example, Indigenous people represent about 26% of those in a correctional facility, while only accounting for about 3% of the population.
Halfway through my walk, I remembered this excerpt from the Living Hyphen team’s anti-racism statement:
“We are committed to continuously (un)learning our role and responsibility in […] dismantling the mentality of white supremacy that exists as a result of this colonisation.”
Institutional racism in our economic, legal, and political systems is tied to power imbalances rooted in colonialism and capitalism. Before we can reimagine more equitable institutions and systems, we have to understand and acknowledge the impacts of colonialism that continue to exist today.
“Can we celebrate our communities’ achievements while also interrogating and rising up against the systems that led us here? How can we hold all these truths at once?”
While this felt like a heavy thought, it was also an empowering one. If I have a role to play in enabling or challenging systemic racism, I am not helpless to its effects. And I can get started right in my own small social circle.
With all of this in mind, I finished my walk feeling a little lighter and with a new emotion: resolve.
“Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community.”Valarie Kaur, Author of One World
1 refers to the ways that white supremacy (the belief that white people are superior to people of other races) is reflected and upheld in the systems in our society. Read more here.
2 a system that measures how we produce and provide things