This month’s Letter is a short essay on racism. I will resume the regular writings about analogue photography products and events in the July ‘20 Community Letter. For now, please accept this.
“I don’t mean to get heavy, but we’ve got to say something” — Dave Chappelle.
June is the fourth month of an uninterrupted state of emergency since the pandemic’s onset in British Columbia. It’s been tough to stay healthy; my wife and I have been stuck mostly indoors, only leaving the house for dog walks and grocery shopping.
Throughout, I’ve been observing manifestations of odd human behaviour and read even crazier things online — much of it — disturbing. The most emotionally-charged event so far being the eruptions of the George Floyd protests across the United States.
On June 1st, my Twitter account, which follows almost exclusively analogue-photo profiles, blew up with a visual cacophony of fire and violence. A few film and photography gear retailers and countless other businesses were hit by the looting that the media promptly highlighted. An immense number of unprovoked arrests, injuries, and more police-induced deaths followed. As of this writing, the (mostly peaceful) protests continue.
Through this experience, I gained deep resentment towards the unjust caste system we have built for ourselves and the ignorance of its damaging effects.
Having somewhat moved past the initial state of depression and confusion, I am now learning how my whiteness has been isolating me from the issue of racism in modern society. My privilege has been helping me advance past countless checkpoints, creating a livelihood for myself at the cost of others’.
Perhaps the feelings of my debilitating powerlessness to change the minds and attitudes of other white people can be better addressed with self-improvement and self-education?
Here’s what I’ve learned so far: the creative niche I consider myself a part of is awash with white cliques and leaderships pushing black photographers and creatives away. My professional community is a patchwork of either disproportionally white-male teams or brown/Asian programmers building tools for white clients. Even during our “we’re all in this together” pandemic, the doctors I write software for are unable or unwilling to provide fair, quality care to black people due to systematic racism.
In response, Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s talk “White Fragility” highlights the complexity and prevalence of racism, the ridiculousness of the thought that we are “past it,” or that it’s what “bad people” do. Racism is an integral framework of our entire society.
We may have some influence over the outcomes through continuous education and self-adjustment. Racism is not, however, something that could be just gotten over with via donations, statements, or essays, like this one.
There’s much to learn.