One woman's journey through racism in Sudbury

Carla John says her mood these days is “heavy.”

Carla John says microaggressions are a common occurrence in Sudbury

Following a rally in front of the courthouse, a number of demonstrators marched through downtown Sudbury on Sunday in a protest against anti-black racism. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Carla John says her mood these days is "heavy."

The Sudbury woman works in equity and inclusion, and has a black son.

The imagery of George Floyd's death and ensuing riots and looting in U.S cities has dominated the news.

But even John, who was born in Bermuda, said she couldn't take seeing or hearing about it anymore.

"It's like the hits just keep on coming," John said. "I'm raising a black son who just turned 19 in May. So we have the talk every single time he leaves the house in my car." 

"I tell him...if a police officer asks you a question, just answer the question and say nothing else. Don't add anything. Don't be disrespectful. Just answer the question."

"And if he has friends in the car with him who are not people of colour. We tell him to let them talk. Let them do the talking because then it'll be less dangerous for him maybe if someone white is in the car."

John said she's further conflicted because her brother is a police officer in Bermuda. She said authorities there don't carry guns. 

But the reality here, she said, is different. It's especially difficult to explain to people who don't have a black son or black daughter.

"That's the truth of what we tell him. That's how we get through each day waiting for him to come home," she said. 

Racism in Sudbury

John recalls several interactions with racist undertones that are common in Sudbury. They're called "microaggressions" but John says there's nothing small about them.

"It's being followed around a store in Sudbury," she said. "My wife is white and she gets a lot more upset about it than I do now because I'm so used to it."

"She's with me and is like 'No we're not putting up with this.' So she'll go and complain."

"And it's like when you arrive somewhere, if you're the only black person you get that look of shock like 'what are you doing here? Why are you here? You don't belong.'"

John said although she won't be taking part in protests planned in Sudbury Wednesday, she still wants black voices to be amplified. She also said she cautions people against making the protest about their own feelings, and focus instead on the roots of racism.

 "I want people to actually do the hard work of finding out what it is to be anti-racist," she said. "I want people to look at how they justify their own racism and prejudice because we all have prejudices against things."

"It's very hard work and it can be very hurtful but you come to the realization that you are part of the problem," she said. 

"But without people doing the hard work things just won't change. We'll just keep having George Floyd. All of these things are happening because people aren't doing the hard work of examining their own privilege and their own prejudices."