• Nathaniel G. Sands

Black lives matter. My guide through this Tension and Division

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I remember being asked this as a child more times than I cared for. And my answer was more often than not, "I don't know," but eventually turned into, "A Cop." I don't know exactly why that was. It could be because I loved action movies and emulated the hero, or my want for prestige and respect which comes with authority, or maybe the desire to better my community by stopping those who pursue its fear and demise.

Regardless of the reason, this was why I joined the military 10 years ago - to gain experience in a relatable field. And after ten years of thinking it through, I'm quite glad I left this desire behind me. Especially now.

Recently, I joined a different kind of army. It has been a while since my last blog, as I have been undeniably busy - I'm working graveyards for the salvation army, then in the mornings I am attending "Sprott Shaw community college since 1903" (currently online because of the Covid) for the community support worker - social services program.

I knew these two before we started working together. Chris plays bass in my band, and I went to school with Natalie.

Apart from these business commitments, I have quite a few other commitments: I share custody of my 11 year old daughter, I have a 4 year old Dog (who comes to work with me! I have plans to utilize him for a future in animal therapy), a podcast I've been working on with a friend (check it out at, a band within which I'm the drummer (and honestly this has been my dream profession since the age of 16), and of course, sleep when I can!

Although my schedule often feels overwhelming, I still manage to stay on top of things. I still find time for friends and family (unfortunately, not as much as I would hope, or they might expect); and besides, I like keeping my mind focused on areas I find important and interesting... especially during seasons like this, where I can't help but feel the connections boredom and change have with anger, frustration, depression and dare I say hatred.

There is something odd going on in our society these days.

It's hard to make clear sense about this tension and frustration we continue to witness. I can't help but see an unconscious resentment reflected in the online passive-aggressive/hostile outbursts. Today the outrage is about those who don't support this black lives matter movement, yesterday about those who dared to step outside of their house during the pandemic... Personally, I feel like blaming each other over minor details as to how we react toward the injustices of others creates unnecessary division, and is really just an immature coping mechanism for this generation of broken hearts.

Me with a group of orphans in Ntcheo

I agree that racism and abuse of authority and power is worthy of outrage, and even uprising. But let's get to the heart of the issues, not get at each other's throats because instead of saying black lives matter, you say all lives matter... or be fooled into thinking one cop acts on behalf of all cops.

It seems to me that we as a society move so quickly from one outrage to another. (anyone remember the outrage of Kony that swept 2012? What ever happened to him? Were his injustices properly dealt with? Does anyone care anymore about the genocide he conducted?). My fear is this: we have fallen in love with calling foil, but don't follow through with our convictions. It hurts to see a generation so quick to make a commitment, only to bail at the last second (perhaps you as I have arranged a party where 50 guests reply attend online, yet 7 show up).

This latest movement may spark a change in thinking - it may also create further division and hatred. The fact that in 2014 we saw the same occurrence happen with Michael brown, an African American killed by police, followed by riots, doesn't exactly give me the greatest hope for the present. But I certainly hope I'm wrong, and I do genuinely believe each day brings with it an opportunity for people to change and grow. I too would love to see an end in racism and corruption. But the million dollar question is: what will actually affect change?

Unfortunately, I see this movement less to do with a new world order, and more to do with the fact that people are overwhelmed with: 1) the reality of injustice, 2) a need to be heard, and 3) the desire to be virtuous.

Now about this last piece, on being virtuous. I would just like to say that because it's socially acceptable (or should I say insisted upon) to make a claim that you care about black people, doesn't mean that you actually do. A friend of mine spoke the truth, and I paraphrase when I recall: "B****, don't try to pretend like you care about anyone's life but your own." It's hard not to see the truth in this the more I reflect on the nature of people and the influences we face in our modern western culture. The more I study human tendencies and humanity's history in general, the more I see how likely it is that we are posting about our virtuous stance to fit in rather than to effect lasting change.

As my dad used to say, "Don't talk the talk, walk the walk."

My dad in Malawi, Africa. He was a walker.

Personally, I didn't post a blackout on Tuesday, I didn't attend any protests, not that I think those are bad things! I've stayed relatively silent on the whole matters going on until now, not because I don't believe racism exists or that police corruption exists, but because I cant help but find it degrading to have to stand alongside a sea of talkers (and I'm not saying this is you, but it certainly could be - and in no way am I judging... but it is my belief that racism will only end through the process of knowing the self, and understanding the biases all of us have, but don't want to believe).

In times like these I feel privileged to have grown up in a family that consistently embodied a care for all people, regardless of such trivial aspects such as skin color, which I am so grateful for.

My grandpa honored for his humanitarian work in Africa.

Although I am aware this may come off as a greater than though reference, I continue to work to uncover the evil in my heart and the unconscious biases I face each day. I just refuse to thoughtlessly and reflexively posture my morality. My claim to love and empathize comes from the daily grind, not a keyboard (which if we each take the time to honestly consider, know that the words we type either fall upon deaf ears or those who already agree with us). It's hard for me to take part in a movement that seems from the outside looking in, deeply hypocritical. In one post, love for the black man, in another, hate for police officers, or any who don't adhere to my strict morale guidelines for that matter. Is it not the philosophy of racism we all so-detest, that assumes because of the mere appearance of another we can make assumption and generalizations about their character? Are not individuals more complex than that?

An example of this hypocrisy is a tangible case of abuse of power and corruption of law enforcement I have been embroiled in. If you read my blog from months back entitled, "Oh, Canada...", you will know what I'm talking about. A former co-worker of mine was assaulted by a peace officer on his own property, without a warrant or justifiable cause. The officer lied in his reports, which I went through and discovered, highlighted and reported, only to fall upon deaf ears. I reached out for help, hoping a lawyer or perhaps our MP might help. I also reached out to the Maple Ridge news, only to be told the incident happened too long ago, so they weren't interested in the story. I feel like if this 64 year old man was black, they would have jumped on the story. But I have found white privilege doesn't always prove to be a privilege, it can in-fact be a means to diminish the injustices many individuals have been through or are going through, and a means to discount honest feelings and struggles.

I believe the internet has brainwashed us. Instead of focusing on local injustices, we sit behind screens and broil over injustices happening hundreds of miles away, ones that are out of our reach and influence. The bigger issue I see locally here in maple ridge is not racial prejudice but a prejudice of class. I have heard from the mouths of those condemning the hate associated with racism, in the same breath hatefully condemn a poor soul walking the street, discounting the trauma, illness or perhaps injustice done to them leading to such a broken life. In fact I have seen this prejudice play out recently! I have only been working at the homeless shelter a couple months now, but in my first week I witnessed a community member physically assault a homeless man on the front doorstep of the shelter, in what I could only deem to be a hate-crime. Again, you won't see this kind of prejudice shared round the world.

Although I may sound critical as always, and wary of such grandiose movements such as this one, at least in theory it stands for equality and justice, which does give me some level of hope. But how do we hope to perpetuate this necessary movement toward equality and justice? I believe change is best achieved through love, not hatred. If hatred is the tool of deliverance, one injustice will be replaced by another. Are we going to rid the world of racism by perpetuating the philosophy that allows it to thrive? Fear mongering and group-think indoctrination are the driving force for racism, and incidentally, social media movements. Are our hearts full of hatred? hidden through the guise of forced equality and justice?

Who knows what group the mob will persuade you to oppose tomorrow. You may even find yourself in the next category. I'm seriously worried about this! People are talking about de-funding the police and allocating more resources toward social workers. What if in 20 years there is evidence that many social workers act unjustly - perhaps false diagnosis, forced institutionalization, and various unconscious prejudices manifested - I recently joined this field to help people in need! Those who i witness to be considered local examples of prejudice and injustice manifest. Is it possible because of a few bad apples, I will become a figure of oppression and prejudice? Will the social workers who replace the cops, be viewed by the next generation in the way we see modern day law enforcers? Maybe.

But for now, ill just keep walking.

I take solace in the fact that Jesus, when hung unjustly, said out loud, "Forgive them father, for they know not what they do." Can we dream of encountering such injustice with this radical love?

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