Broadview editor and publisher Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Regina Garcia)

Topics: Justice | Editor's Letter

Black lives matter. We have to do more.

My COVID-19 malaise was replaced with the feeling that I wasn't doing enough to help end racism

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Some months ago, at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was feeling exhausted and anxious in a a way that was disorienting. Like everyone else, my world had shrunk to the four walls of my home, and life was stuck in a loop. Another Zoom call, another walk around my neighbourhood, another celebration away from loved ones, another Netflix series. Repeat. Workdays flew by, but the evenings and weekends dragged. When would normal return, and what was normal anyway?

Then the world shifted on its axis. The horrific killing of George Floyd sparked protests against anti-Black racism and police violence across the United States and Canada. My heart ached as I read the reactions from Black friends and colleagues, watched video of police responding aggressively to protesters, and heard the words of a U.S. president who seems bent on stoking divisions rather than examining the systems that maintain white privilege.

Whatever discomfort I was feeling in the pandemic was suddenly replaced by a deeper malaise: the knowledge that in my work and in my personal life, I wasn’t doing enough to help end racism. At Broadview, we knew we had to reflect the Black Lives Matter movement and amplify Black voices, but how to do so appropriately? Sure, we’ve covered anti-Black racism before and will continue to do so, but the conversation had shifted and the world was listening.

More on Broadview: United churches need to examine their whiteness: workshop leader

Print requires long lead times, so right away we decided to post stories online. I immediately thought of my dear friend Adele Halliday, who, at the time of writing, was on parental leave from her job as leader of the discipleship and witness team for the United Church. We first met in elementary school at the age of 12. I asked if she would be willing to write a piece for us.

One of her first questions for me was what kind of tone I had in mind. I responded, “The tone is whatever you’re feeling. We can handle anger, if that’s where you want to go.” Halliday’s finished piece, “What I Need from White People,” expresses anger — along with an impassioned plea for white people to stop saying we are not racist and to become actively anti-racist. The piece spoke to so many of our online readers that we decided to republish it in print this month (see page 12).

Halliday later told me that writing her piece was cathartic, as she was able to express the full range of her emotions through the article. I’m grateful to Halliday for trusting us with her vulnerability and anger, and for making us uncomfortable in the knowledge that we aren’t doing enough. Black lives matter. And they will continue to matter at Broadview long after the news cycle moves on.

This editorial first appeared in Broadview’s September 2020 issue with the title “Black lives matter.”

Jocelyn Bell is the editor-publisher of Broadview. She is also the winner of this year's National Magazine Awards Editor Grand Prix award.

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  • says:

    Good for you Jocelyn, and good for the Broadview!

  • says:

    Comment:
    All lives matter - as many white people (including many Christians) especially, tend to like to point out. However, as a white person, I feel very sad that some people don't recognize or have any knowledge of the horrific history of black people within Canada and the USA. For most that do, they are unwilling to accept the ongoing responsibility that we all share both for our ancestors prejudice and white privilege but our own as well. With this in mind, the spirit of the "black lives matter" deserves to be treated as a distinct and particular type of "people who matter". I was raised United Church (so gained a healthy respect for social, racial, women and other types of social justice concerns and issues) and strongly believe in social justice - especially in some of the best traditions of Christianity. However, I'm alarmed at the type of people who lead and incite violence, like those who lead the organization "Black Lives Matter". Social justice is not well served by inciting violence and hatred as this organization seems to do - in the name of trying to confront injustice and right the multitude of past wrongs. We rightfully respect people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who tried to challenge the status quo and push the majority (mostly white people) to do something significantly different (Malcolm X initially leaned toward violence but realized its futility and was moving towards King's ideas when he was violently murdered by radical blacks). Two significant actions that are very modest but would be a step in the right direction would be: 1. For Canada to stop perpetuating the myth that we were (and are!) very much prejudice free towards blacks and others (unlike our neighbors to the south) and were/are this shining place of freedom to escape to in the past/present (many American blacks found Canadian attitudes problematic toward them and eventually returned to the USA); 2. For American whites (especially many Christian whites) to recognize and apologize, as a nation, for: the slavery of the past, imperfections in their constitution allowing slavery, the inequality in the status of persons from the beginning of the settlement of Europeans in the current USA territory up to the present and current major problems that are hurting black people (such as the prejudice shown towards black men (in the form of legislation) who are being incarcerated for drug related crimes in record numbers - a crime almost comparable to slavery and this happening in our time!). I don't think either Canada or the USA has progressed much over the past 500 years. Even the most enlightened of us want to pretend or believe we are more tolerant, socially just, progressive, open minded and humane than our ancestors. Most of us are not. We may have more knowledge about the issues and know/interact well with colleagues who are black. But probably most of us don't have them as close friends and don't hang out with them regularly. If we do, we don't want to hear from them honestly talk about our white privilege and our past generations white privilege. However, if these people are supposed to be our friends, we must listen to them speak their mind honestly and accept what they say even if it hurts - even if we think we are working hard in the area of social justice.