Point of View

'Ferguson is everywhere for people of colour,' Hamilton writer says

As a local protest is planned in front of Hamilton City Hall in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and its aftermath, Hamilton writer Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko explains why Ferguson is closer than you think.

Hamilton's Ferguson protest Black, Brown and Red Lives Matter takes place on Dec. 1

Protesters of a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown gather in Seattle. Hamilton is holding a similar protest in front of City Hall on Dec. 1. (Joshua Trujillo/Associated Press)

Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a Hamilton-based freelance writer. In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and its aftermath, she explains why Ferguson is closer than you think and why Hamilton is holding its own Ferguson protest. 

“To be young, gifted and black is where it’s at,” Nina Simone said.
 
By now, “black lives matter” (#blacklivesmatter) is a familiar phrase used within both online and face-to-face social justice activism circles.

It has yet to seep into every consciousness everywhere, and there, take root and flourish. It must narrow the distance — a distance that for the people of Ferguson, Missouri might as well be a galaxy apart — between whites and people of colour.

But let’s not delude ourselves that racism is something that happens over there, in some backward place. Ferguson is everywhere for people of colour.- Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko, Hamilton-based freelance writer

Black lives matter. But far too many among us refuse to validate or acknowledge black people’s lived experiences of racism and its terrible effects; complaining, instead that it’s “all exaggerated.”

So Ferguson is burning. When the young have waited for retribution for a wrong to be righted (in peaceful demonstration) not 100 days, but a life time, when the "justice system" today treats them little better than it did their parents’ parents, parents, dare we deny their reality, shake our heads and exclaim, “These hooligans are disrespecting the law?”

Hamilton's Ferguson protest planned on Monday

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said the following in 1968:

"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."

Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a Hamilton-based freelance writer. (Supplied by Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko)

“The unheard” have had enough of the “intolerable conditions that exist in our society,” including the lack of justice, the disrespect, abuse, and lives trivialized by systemic racism in their own country.

What is the cause of this discord? The same as it is the world over: the refusal of the dominant group to share real power (decision and policy making etc.). 

In a city where three out of 53 police officers are black, and yet over 60 per cent of the population is black, there will be no justice for Michael Brown, for Ferguson, for people of colour everywhere until power is shared.  

But let’s not delude ourselves that racism is something that happens over there, in some backward place. Ferguson is everywhere for people of colour. Here at home, a recent Race Relations Foundations survey shows that almost two in three Canadians report they are "worried" about a rise in racism. As well, racial profiling occurs across the country, and Hamilton is no exception.

That’s why the demonstration being planned in front of City Hall this coming Dec. 1 in support of the Ferguson tragic injustice has been broadened to “Black, Brown and Red Lives Matter.”

Within a Canadian context, it seems appropriate to include indigenous peoples especially, because of the police violence to which their communities and people are routinely subjected, and because of the lack of investigation into cases concerning missing and murdered indigenous women.

With the thousands of demonstrators across the cities of the world, we will mourn in solidarity, the squandering of potential, of creativity, of the lives of people of colour. And work for the dream of a just society for all.


Black, Brown and Red Lives Matter

When: Dec. 1 from noon to 2 p.m.

Where: Starts at city hall and goes to Ferguson Street, then to a talk at Volunteer Hamilton, 267 King St. E.

Who: Everyone concerned with racism

Hashtag: #BlackBrownAndRedLivesMatter