THE HORRIFYING MURDER of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police two weeks ago has galvanized communities around the globe in actions of protest, demanding racial justice and police reform. The violence and racism targeted at Mr. Floyd and so many Black and racialized people is a distressing reminder of the deeply ingrained systemic inequities that persist in our society. These systemic inequities persist in Victoria as they do elsewhere.
The structures that uphold white supremacy have existed since the emergence of the concept of a racial hierarchy in the 17th century. Throughout the colonial period these concepts were used to justify the enslavement of black bodies and theft of Indigenous lands. Police violence, mass incarceration, and the state’s disregard for Indigenous sovereignty are but a few demonstrations of our adherence to the systems built around this long-debunked, 400-year-old European pseudoscience.
It is appalling that more than 50 years after the Civil Rights actions and achievements of the 1960s, we are once again forced into this level of protest. It is our deepest hope that the work that has been done to analyze and understand the origins, mechanics, and seeming intransigence of white supremacy and systemic racism, has provided the tools to dismantle them once and for all.
The concerns of Open Space, an artist-run centre in Victoria, British Columbia, might seem very far away from the rage-filled responses we are seeing in urban centres across the USA. However, not that long ago, our commitment to Indigenous curatorial and cultural practices and BIPOC artists and communities came under direct attack. The work that Open Space had undertaken in order to dismantle the colonial structures at its foundation elicited, for some, a response founded in fear and a threat to their unacknowledged privilege.
While Open Space has recovered admirably from the events of 2018 there remains a rift in Victoria’s cultural sector. Through the situation at Open Space, it became evident that there is a stark divide in Victoria’s artistic community between those who are committed to dismantling white supremacy, and those who would rather maintain the privileges they experience because of it. Some engaged in this actively; for those who claimed neutrality and remained on the sidelines or looked the other way, we hope you are starting to understand the insidious nature of systemic racism and the necessity to combat it at every level.
In the face of the horrific images of the violent abuses towards Black and other racialized bodies we see of late, it is nearly impossible for people of conscience to argue with the cries for justice. We ask that everyone take the time to think through how their silence, disregard and/or resistance to change has contributed to upholding the systems of oppression that have led us to this grievous and unbearable time in our history.
Hunter Boucher, Charles Campbell, Eli Hirtle, Michelle Jacques, Doug Jarvis, Megan Quigley, Sabrina Williams
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