• Chantelle Cabral

A brown girl’s perspective on #BlackLivesMatter

Updated: Feb 26

In the past week, I’ve come to see a rise in protests in honour of George Floyd. # BlackLivesMatter. The movement has also brought millions of people together across the world. All raising their voices to fight the injustice and inequality that we see so visibly etched in society today.

Just the other day, my husband and I were chatting about how we have grown up seeing racial discrimination around us all our lives, like it was normal and justified. While books in school taught us that black is ugly and white is beautiful; where does that leave me as a brown person? Where do I fit in a society that screams white?

For decades, I’ve seen commercials for skin whitening products being endorsed by the infamous of Bollywood while at the same time, the very same voices speak out for women’s rights, equality and now, black lives. And while most of the world is in praise of their current advocacies, the actions of the past almost don’t seem to matter, as they continue to endorse skin whitening products. Their voices are subjective to the trends rather than the reality that persists around us. What is this hypocrisy?

I’ve heard some of the most depreciatory comments over the years. Most matrimonial ads read “Handsome and rich boy looking for a fair and pretty girl”, even in 2020. Are we not then being prejudice?

Now, living in North America, I could empathize with #BlackLivesMatter movement because I’ve faced equal criticism in the past. When described by a third person, I’m that “dark girl”. Not fair enough, but “dark”. I love my skin colour, it defines me. It's who I am and will always be. So why do people judge based on skin colour? Why is black bad and white good? Why do we look at a person through these prejudice filters?

This sparked an interest in me to read more, research and talk to people of colour, to share with each other what we truly felt. I came to realize that we live with this discrimination all around us all the time; race vs race, tribe vs tribe, ethnicity vs ethnicity… Every person I spoke to felt that the root of all this was the lack of compassion. A lack of love.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement is asking to be heard, to be shown love and compassion, for support, to discredit the wrongdoings that continue to unapologetically exist, till today.

Through a change in our behaviour and attitude we can change how we see the world. We need to speak of compassion and altruism to build world peace through equal harmony. Our actions need to reflect goodwill. Most importantly, our thoughts need to change. We need to foster a space that is accessible to people of all colours.

Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.

From the official website of #BlackLivesMatter

Stating 'Black Lives Matter' doesn’t insinuate that other lives don’t. All lives matter, of course. However, presently it is of utmost importance to recognize and acknowledge that black lives face more bias and they need our support and respect more than ever.

As a yoga teacher, I believe this is where mindfulness plays a very important role in our lives, every moment of every day; to be fully present in the moment and to respond with respect. Mindfulness is maintaining awareness of our thoughts, emotions and actions in the surrounding environment in every moment, through a gentle nurturing lens of compassion.

A counselling psychologist and healer, Dr. Candice Nicole has been using mindfulness and meditation tools, for white people who want to partner in liberation with black people. She mentions: “Partnering allows us to reach the goal of healing and liberation in a more loving and unified manner, but to be an ally requires an anti-racist mindset”.

Mindfulness and meditation create self-awareness and an open environment to address discrimination when we witness or experience it. I have come to accept that we live in a society that is multilayered. Not every question has a definitive answer. But maybe the practice of mindfulness could help us accept many truths in understanding humanity. Maybe we could use mindfulness to listen with an open mind and accept with an open heart to change our perspectives. In listening and learning there can be so much power.

I have learnt so much in the past few weeks and continue to learn each day as I listen to podcasts, watch videos, read articles or just chat with people of colour, who are living with this pain of being discriminated against. I draw parallels to the bias that I have faced growing up in a country that passes judgement based on the levels of melanin produced in my skin cells. A great resource of black owned businesses. Take a look and show your support.

Maybe it is okay then, for a brown girl to dream of a world where everyone is treated with equal compassion and respect, and that black lives do matter. Maybe that’s when we can take a deep breath knowing we all are making a change in our own little way. Maybe it is time for us to wake up and this is our call.

Quoting one of my favourite poets and civil rights activists, Maya Angelou;

“We can be better, we can be wiser, we can be more kind. Yes we have to change. We have to grow up and stop acting like 10 year olds. Yes there is much to do, much to see, much to go into.”

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