Over the past 30 some years but more so over the last several weeks I have wondered what is my purpose in the midst of all this racial tension? Do I have a role in the race war that seems to be heating up all around us?
What I’ve realized when I’ve tossed all the rhetoric out and revisited my personal and professional mission, is that my purpose is to be a BRIDGE.
I am a proud daughter of Jamaican immigrants who came to Canada seeking a better, more stable life for their children. We did not arrive poor. Systemic racism drove us to poverty. Sheer determination and grit pulled my parents out of it.
At the age of sixteen I fell in love with the man who would become my husband. He is white. We got backlash from my black friends and his white ones. But the heart wants what the heart wants. 35 years, three beautiful children, and one grandbaby later, we still love each other. 35 years later and we’re still having the same discussions.
My family on both sides is a kaleidoscope of colour. Of that I am so proud. But for many years I have felt torn in the discussion about racism because I straddle two worlds and many times I felt like I would never fully belong in either.
Some will always discount my blackness because they see me as a sellout. Others will say I’m not “like other black people” because I am enmeshed in a white family (as though this is a compliment and my marriage gives me a pass).
But the perceptions of others do not define me. I am a proud black woman. Married to a white man. Mother and grandmother to children of mixed ethnicity. I have a foothold in both worlds. So I choose to be a Bridge.
I don’t have all the answers. I may not have any at all. But I will continue to come at systemic racism in the only way I know how – and that is by bringing people together, leveraging us into open communication so we can live lives free of anger, conflict and fear.