Am I Not My Brother’s Keeper?

To Those Who Would Be Silent — I wish you were in the bus with me today when I was verbally bashed and folks just stood around staring. For those who think racist bullshit doesn’t happen that often, or that vigilance is not required, or that all the screaming of the past few days is at an overkill point… To those who feel that silence is best, that it is not their fight, that it is a matter of interpretation, who worry about how they will be perceived … Know that my humanity will not allow me to disregard what is important to you or stand idly by when you say “help me.”—K. R.

The above is taken from one of my best friend’s Facebook page after she was racially abused on a bus in Vancouver. Unfortunately, the people on the bus stood silently by and no one came to her aid. This is 2013. The discussion still rages about the need for Black History Month. This incident makes me want to scream ‘Yes!” But the issue goes a bit further for me than racial violence and black history to the core of who we are as human beings on this planet. I find myself asking the questions. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” When did our responsibility to take care each other stop?

I think back to the days of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.  At its peak, strangers from all over America came together to march in demand for equality. When the police and dogs attacked, folks helped each other; no one stood silently by and watched. But sadly, times have changed.

When I was a child, if I did something wrong all the neighborhood mothers would smack me in the back of my head and ask me why I was giving my mother trouble. Today, you can’t even speak to a child that isn’t yours about their inappropriate behaviour. That child would probably cuss you worse than a sailor could. And heavens forbid if that child’s parent is in earshot. You would probably get threatened but you would definitely get a solid tongue-lashing. When did that all change? When did caring about another individual and offering assistance become something to be ashamed of? When did the fear of reprisal become the main reason people “mind their own business”? What will it take to swing the pendulum back to being our brother’s keeper?

I felt badly for my friend. I felt badly that I wasn’t there to speak up and break the silence that allowed this degrading act to occur.  But I felt worse that other didn’t say what needed to be said or even just a simple “Stop!” And as long as these incidents continue to happen, the world will need Black History Month and all the other cultural holidays that are being added to the calendar to create awareness and eventually, acceptance.

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