When I started this blog almost 5 years ago, I planned to keep things light and positive. I would only post about good experiences and encourage the culture of supporting local. I also made the decision to not include myself in any of the photos because I wanted my audience to be able to picture themselves eating at these restaurants and taking part in these fun events. But if I am being honest with myself, I didn’t think people would relate/care about my content if they saw that I am Black. And I’ve never addressed race here because I just didn’t want to go there, really. But recent events and my peers’ reactions have made it clear that I need to address a few things.
In case you didn’t know, Kingston has a notorious issue with race. Yes, it is a beautiful city and people are pleasant. It truly is a Hallmark card. However, for anyone who isn’t white it can be problematic. I grew up here and when I was moving back after living in Toronto for ten years or so, friends would say “Why are you going back there? Nobody there looks like you.” I would laugh it off and say, “If I am not going to subject myself to some of the inconveniences that come with being Black in a predominantly white town, how can I expect anyone else that looks me want to move there?”
I grew up in Kingston, after all, I went to school here and for anyone reading this who knew me back then you know that I had a fun high school experience. But it was fun because I allowed myself to be the butt of the jokes about race. I leaned into being the clown that allowed everyone else to feel comfortable about their intolerance. “it’s cause I’m Black! Get it? HAHA!” And that’s what a lot of us do to fit in, to assimilate. If I called out every off-side comment about my race I doubt I would have the friend circle I had. It’s the hard truth.
Now that I am back in town as an adult, raising a mixed-race daughter. I am over it. I am over making everyone feel comfortable by not calling people out. I am done with comments like “I don’t even see race!” For anyone reading this that is white, that is not a flattering thing to say. It is simply an example of your privilege. It is a dismissal of the minority experience. Also, I am tired of non-minorities telling me what’s racist and what’s not racist. If you don’t experience it on a personal level, you don’t get to dictate my feelings toward it.
I realize now that all of those years in school I spent dismissing offside comments and laughing along, making fun of myself, I was contributing to an intolerant society. I enabled this behaviour. People could now treat other Black people the way they treated me and justify it with “But I had a Black friend in high school and she never cared when…”
It makes me angry that it took a national viewing of a man being murdered by police for everyone to wake up. Do you know when Rodney King happened? In 1991. 29 years ago. And here we are having the same conversations.
If you think this is an American problem, you’re wrong. If you think the responsibility doesn’t lie with you to educate yourself on making Kingston a better place for people of colour, you’re wrong.
For those of you doing the work to raise awareness and having the hard conversations, thank you. And months from now when the news cycle has passed, I hope you continue to do the work.