Image of still life “Rest in Peace George Floyd” by Gurmeet
Gurmeet is one of 8 creative non fiction writers in our Seastrand Story Group. Here is her unedited offering in response to George Floyd’s death.
George Floyd struggled to breathe for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This 46 year old mountain of a man cried out for his mama with what was his dying breath.
While I was watching the callous murder of George Floyd something cracked deep within me. Feelings of anger,sadness, abandonment and shame all entangled into a ball of intense helplessness hotly surged through me.
Nigger,black bitch,dirty hindoo,words I thought were long forgotten,resurfaced and seared my soul. I have been negatively targeted in Canada,England and Spain because I am coloured. Racism truly is worldwide.
Racism was blatant in the 1950s. I was 6 years old when we moved from a remote logging camp to Victoria. Our neighbourhood was what I refer to as low class/no class. It was rough. It was where immigrants could afford to live.
My mother, who I called mama, had an arranged marriage and came from India when she was 19. My mother was illiterate. I learned early on that intelligence and education are two very different things. My mom was extremely hard working. It was only as an adult that I realized that she was very intelligent. Not only was she an excellent cook but she could sew,knit,crochet,embroider, and garden. She raised 5 children without pounding them as some mothers around us did.
Seared in my memory is an incident that occurred when I was around 9 years old. All my girlfriends were white. This day my mother was walking down our street from the grocery store. A group of boys began hurling insults at her such as a dirty hindoo. How ironic. There were some filthy houses in our neighborhood but ours was not one of them.
I froze. My friends froze. My mother didn’t see me. She ignored the boys, kept her head high and kept walking. My friends remained silent as did I. I sensed that this would never happen to their mothers.
When I came home later my mother was busy making dinner. We never discussed what had happened earlier in the day. That night as I lay in bed I was ashamed that I never stood up for my mama. I felt very alone. I knew I was different from my friends.
It is very complicated how the experience of racism has affected my life. I have been denied jobs and opportunities. It has made me more demanding that the world be more equitable and just. I can never be silent. The possibility of discrimination has lessened but it remains a possibility
That little girl who was confused and ashamed has been forgiven. The problem is how to get her to forget. Now that George Floyd no longer breathes will it be easier for others to?