While the world actively fights a global pandemic, another more rampant and resilient pandemic has come to the fore around the world. Systemic racism and intolerance, unfortunately, are woven into the fabric of our society. In the wake of the current international landscape, a sentiment of solidarity has led to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. TRP student, Vida Maksimoska, stands firmly in support of those peacefully fighting this disease that has far-reaching roots in our society. In this candid blog, she shares her thoughts, views, and talks about how we can help change the status quo. She shared open-source resources to educate us on why this movement is essential and why we need to lend our voices to turn a new leaf in the history of equality.
Vida Maksimoska, TRP Student, June 2020
Standing off to the side of the crowd with my mask on, hearing the message our crowd was chanting through the streets of downtown Toronto, made me tear up a little. We were shouting – No Justice, No Peace! We were yelling Black Lives Matter! We were protesting in a pandemic. Let that sink in for a moment. It was a global pandemic and yet we needed to drive home a point.
The Black lives matter protest in Toronto reminded me that we, as a society have plenty of work to do to address the systemic racism and the racial microaggressions that we perpetuate. This message is not a new one, and the inequalities and racism black individuals’ experiences are rooted in the very laws and systems we live within. We must work to do better and be better. For instance, I must be able to acknowledge my white privilege to see why it is not okay and work to be a better ally. Together we must support this movement and be willing to learn continuously. It is imperative to hear the stories of black individuals to remind ourselves that ignorance is NOT bliss. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye when we can help be part of the ongoing solution. We need to check ourselves and remind ourselves that racism is indoctrinated and systemic.
Racism does not end in a week! Honestly, now that our social media platforms return to normal, I worry the movement will start to fade. It is a privilege to be able to take a break from posting about racism because it is too overwhelming, or because we are tired. Imagine what it must be like to be living with systemic racism and experiencing microaggressions every day.
At times like this, active listening and empathy are some of our greatest assets. We must continue to educate ourselves, learn about white privilege, listen to black voices, and help amplify them. We must not only show empathy but take tangible steps to make our society better. Being able to talk about racism with other white people, no matter how uncomfortable, is essential. These conversations probably feel like just a step, but eventually, these small steps and actions can help transform our society.
There is more we can continue to do, to keep the momentum going. Continuing attending future marches or rallies, donating money, signing petitions, contacting people in positions of power, and demanding change. I’m grateful to share this list of resources that friends Shiza and fellow science communicator Sam Yammine, helped curate. They shared these resources with me and I encourage you all to continue to research and share resources further.
So, my simple reminder for today is to check our white privilege, educate ourselves, and have uncomfortable conversations. Lastly, my main message for today is that Black lives continue to matter. Today. Tomorrow. And Always.
Resources: Black Lives Matter – Resources
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I have been mentored by amazing researchers, learned about great innovators, and have been blessed to work on some amazing projects. But I have noticed a gap between translating observation and research impact – many times projects do not make the prominent difference in society that they should. This program aims to equip a cohort of students with the skills needed to address these gaps, and I can’t wait to start learning and developing my skills.
I also love that this program takes the idea of “exploration” and runs with it, we (the student) must choose our own path – as cliche as that sounds – it is up to us to give the direction of our project and it is up to us to be curious, ask questions and work collaboratively.
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Editor: Zoya Retiwalla