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Is Everyone Out for Themselves?

I would be an insensitive writer if I didn’t note that times are tough. If the last few years of the pandemic have taught me anything, it is what true resilience, struggle and hard work can look like. As a Black, queer, French speaking woman – adversity is no stranger to me and yet the uphill battle of the pandemic certainly took everyone down several pegs. Through out the beginning of the pandemic we saw people come together, protect themselves, stay inside for a few weeks, abide by lockdown measures. I remember the excitement when we saw how clear the air had become in places with heavy smog because of the lack of driving out of fear during this pandemic. It felt serendipitous that we all had time on our hands to march for Black Lives Matter and people could truly support this movement and be purposeful with their outrage. Then things took a turn.

As the pandemic pressed on, and we grew collectively tired, we watched people “get over” masking, denounce vaccines, beg for things to “go back to normal”. To be quite honest, I was also frustrated with how the government was handling everything, but I cannot live a “let’s just move on” life. With my mother being sick and working for Community Health Centres, I couldn’t act if there were no consequences, and yet I did still have fun – I just tried to be cautious. More and more people wanted to throw away the precautions that were keeping elderly, immunocompromised, ill people safe. Around this time the “Freedom Convoy” took place and we really saw how far people are willing to turn a blind eye to support a cause they believe in. The audacity, nay caucasity, to stand beside someone with a Nazi flag simply because they also no long want vaccine mandates is startling to any minority person. It reinforces in us this idea that as long as you share one ideal and are both white, you can look past other transgressions because you believe you can “understand your brother”, which is startling. It’s the same mindset I believe led to the increase in PPC votes – so many extra votes simply because they said they were against vaccine mandates, despite being also homophobic, racist and generally quite extremist.

Now fast forward to last month with the start of the war in Ukraine. We now see evidence that white people, fearing for their lives are denying Black students and citizens the ability to flee the country as if their lives are not valuable because they are not “truly” Ukrainian. Until this weeks podcast episode, I was unsure how racist Ukraine was. I know Europe tends to be racist, like most white-centric places (whoops), but I didn’t realize there were Nazi sentiments in this country. Of course these facts do help understand why some people would deny Black people refuge, access to trains/busses and make the ability to leave a country being bombed more difficult than necessary.

All of these sad situations over the last two years brings me to my title, and question: Is everyone just out for themselves? I was raised with the mindset that it takes a village to raise someone, and because of that I try conscientiously to give back to that village when I can. I try to contribute to the storytelling narratives of the minorities that comprise me so people have something to relate to, so we can encourage even more storytelling and amplify more voices. Throughout the pandemic I grin-and-bared each lockdown measure, each mandate because I didn’t want to be the reason some granny died buying apples, or get my mom sick in anyway, and when I heard the concerns of friends, other Black folks and Indigenous people with hesitancies I listened and offered education. I’d like to think if a war were to ensue I would never deem someone’s life lesser than mine while in line to catch a Via Rail train to safety.

As someone with so many intersectionalities, it is frightening to see people genuinely feel that Black people do not deserve safety in comparison to white people, and after watching my country tiptoe a similar line with the convoy it is hard to feel comfortable in my skin. A new sense of anxiety as a minority has appeared. Will I get profiled for wearing a mask? Will being Black and masked aggravate someone on the subway? What about being Black, masked and a woman with pink braids? Am I asking for trouble simply by existing? Are we back in a place where if the work gets dire I should expect to be treated like scum because of the colour of my skin? From what the world is showing me, I pray we never end up in that position because when push comes to shove, everyone does what they think is right for themselves and their cohort and not the greater good of society.

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