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.
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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.”