By YASMINA KETITA
Most of you know me as an evocative member of the horror community. My passion for horror films and VHS are expressed through platforms like my podcast and my columns/series for Rue Morgue. It is my way of contributing to something that I love and it is amazing to be part of a world that is filled with incredible people who share this passion. I have received nothing but admiration and trust from my listeners and readers. You have always thanked me for the countless amounts of trivia and information on movies and that I am continuously grateful for. You as a horror hound may be reading this article that is written by a horror personality, but today I am speaking to you on a personal level and as a person of colour. My interest in horror and VHS are a large part of who I am as it is the basis of my craft but behind that are experiences that helped shape the person you may not truly know. As I sit here thinking about the current state of the world and its affairs, I wanted to take some time to share myself with you in order to bring awareness to on-going racism and to encourage more space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) within the horror community. Black people do not have equal choices or privileges and if you do have a choice to be informed or to incite activism, I will do what I can to help.
My brother and I are first generation Canadians and our parents are Algerian. If you’re unfamiliar with Algeria, it’s next to Libya and between Tunisia and Morocco in North Africa. Growing up as a minority surrounded by white people while being subjected to domestic abuse was not easy. My ethnicity, my name and the way my parents raised us were all a part of what differentiated me from everyone around me in my adolescence causing nothing but strife and isolation. Let me put it this way: when I was a kid, I wished I were white. As a child I was very jealous of the other white kids who were complacent and lucky to live a life free of oppression. I wanted so badly to be included and accepted just like them. I hated my name. I hated my race. I hated everything about myself. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I started to notice a shift. Even though my name indicates I’m a “different race that isn’t white,” my lighter skin tone has deluded many into thinking that I “look white” therefore I “must be white”. With this new white passing privilege, I got away with tricking people into thinking I was white and didn’t mind this new feeling of being included. My close friends and I would often laugh about the fact that it surprises many when they learned that I am in fact not white to the point where I often forgot it myself. My brother on the other hand has not been so lucky and we used to make jokes about how much he looks like a terrorist in his passport and drivers license photos, but we’re not laughing when he gets pulled over for “matching a description” and to the extent of a police officer insinuating he couldn’t afford the nice car he was driving because he was an Arab.
Many Islamic people like my parents are no strangers to being harassed and discriminated against. When mosque shootings began to proliferate around the world (most notably the 2017 Quebec tragedy), I would often think about the very plausible possibility of what could happen to my mother for going out in public in her hijab and it is unquestionably terrifying and devastating. It’s an unpleasant thought that no one wants to have go through their mind, and Black people go through this on a much more severe level every damn day. I’ve had feelings of anxiety and nervousness when crossing the border or confronting police because when they see my ID, my “non-white” name is clearly visible. I’ve been subjected to questioning more than once, but never had the thought that I might be killed ever entered my mind. Safety is a basic human right and because of white supremacy, Black people are subjected to violence that creates unsafe environments. This needs to stop: it isn’t right and we as human beings must help in order for this to change so we can rebuild trust within our systems and communities.
Shortly after George Floyd was murdered sparking an outrage in Minneapolis, the history of racial injustices began to surface and it initially shocked me how much of an impact it made on me. Then I realized, once all my childhood trauma began to flood in, that I completely broke down into a deep depression because I was suddenly reminded of my Arabic ethnicity and those feelings of isolation from being discriminated against came back to haunt me quickly reminding myself that I’m not white. All I felt was pain day after day from watching the news showing Black people being mistreated and killed, constant police brutality towards protesters and the endless corruption and ignorance of the President of the United States and his government. I wholeheartedly believe racism is undoubtedly cruel, immoral and completely appalling. A system that has and does benefit from white supremacy and racial injustice is inexcusable and quite frankly, angers me to my bitter core.
Millions of people around the world came together in solidarity to speak out against on-going racism by protesting in the streets of their cities, signing petitions, donating to funds, sharing personal stories, all signifying the whole of humanity has had enough. Justice should not have to depend on a viral video. Yes we should treat each other as equals, but we must recognize the inequality of racial injustices before equality can happen. We must address racism and confront the fact that BIPOC have been and are under attack before we can move onto building a better future for us all. When I think about the anger that I and millions of other people have experienced and are experiencing now, I am reminded of the importance of what a revolution’s true meaning is. If you are in pain let it be heard, don’t minimize it and don’t be afraid to be angry, you have my full support. I have benefitted from my white passing privilege and I acknowledge that fact but now having knowledge of the true pervasiveness of racism is crucial. I am a newcomer to this movement as well and we can learn and grow together. Think about why we’re tuning in now then move forward onto where you fit into this movement so we can evolve together.
Al Sharpton gave impeccable speeches at George Floyd’s memorial service and funeral. One part stuck out for me that encouraged me to be more involved in this fight. He said that while racism has continued to go on, there has been some changes since the protests of his day when Martin Luther King Jr. lead a movement to fight racial injustice in the United States. What we see now from those images was that it was mostly Black people marching the streets. Now, in 2020, we have seen a plethora of white people unite with BIPOC to fight racism together and for the first time in my existence, mankind came together and that really made me feel more appreciative to march alongside my white friends in my city’s protest, because everyone should be furious and outraged by racism.
This and prior civil rights movements are vital to the world’s outcome and right now we are making history. But there’s still a lot of work to be done until justice is served. Systemic racism and police brutality have thrived for far too long and its transparency must be brought up or else it will continue to go on. Implementing protocols like having schools educate the history of slavery and segregation is essential as well as informing students of the remarkable Black historical figures that did incredible acts of contribution that caused notable changes for their freedom like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Teaching ourselves and others the origins of racism like Jim Crow laws while also recognizing current corruption like ALEC and how mass incarceration is monetized which enables white supremacy and depletes resources to Black people such as jobs, student loans, and business licenses will help eliminate things like redlining and provoke action for reparations.
Racism is an uncomfortable subject but we need to sometimes take a break from our normal lives to have these uncomfortable conversations in order to evoke change so that Black people are no longer ignored. Oppression is a very unethical issue that strips impunity from Black people to this day and my message is this: I am here for Black people; I stand and fight with you and encourage all who are reading this to pay attention and to amplify the voices of the voiceless. We have an opportunity to do our part in order to abolish racism, bigotry, fascism, discrimination, and all forms of hate based on race, sex or gender. Black people have been pouring their hearts out regarding their injustices for many years through their music, art, film, and writing, but we haven’t been listening. Now is the time to listen! Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and others to have an open discourse.
The point of this article is to inspire people to wake up and realize what’s really going on because reality is much more problematic than you may know. Educate yourself on the civil rights that political figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela fought for and think about what the deaths of martyrs like Emmett Till, Fred Hampton, La Mulâtresse Solitude and Kalief Browder mean to these civil rights movements. Inform yourself on events like the Tulsa race massacre and the Colfax massacre. Do your own historical research on provisions like the confederacy and the three-fifths clause and how they impacted Black people being classified as second-class citizens and how the thirteenth and fifteenth amendments provoked violence from radical white supremacist groups. Learn what it means to defund the police and why these statues and monuments are being vandalized and taken down by looking up Robert E. Lee, Edward Colton and the many others. Read books and articles from political activists like Angela Davis, James Baldwin and Jane Elliott. Gain an understanding of what protests have accomplished, how white supremacy can be dismantled, and reassure the importance of voting and help by supporting Black owned businesses. We have the freedom to learn more and diversify our lives in order to keep up the momentum to help end racism and the killing of Black people, it’s the right thing to do and we owe it to them and ourselves to do the right thing. Forming these habits as well as learning and inspiring your efforts will generate more activism that will impact people in years to come resulting in a meaningful change. Activism takes many forms and you can find what works for you, but it starts with you.
My personal experiences with racism have transpired but cannot be compared to the continuous struggles of Black people’s oppression and this is an issue that is very important to me because Black lives should never be treated as inferior to anyone. What I can offer you is my story and feelings on this matter and hope this article influences allyships to advocate Black lives. My being stems from turmoil and anger and for a large portion of my life, it fuelled my existence. Throughout my life, because of abuse and discrimination, I was very submissive and lacked confidence. I was never taught to stand up for myself, but instead to obey rules and be quiet. At one point in my life I was judged by my race and not by my mode of conduct and that made me feel worthless. When I was younger (and even now) I always admired strong and powerful fictional women like She-Hulk, Private Vasquez, and Sarah Connor. The truth is, I always envied them because I so vehemently wanted to be them. It took me years to gain that confidence and now I use my anger as strength to further fuel my empowerment so I can be the Sarah Connor I always dreamed I could be by striving for success and willing to do twice the work regardless of what I endured as a child. Now I am able to be loud and confident enough to speak up for what I believe in and stand for. I am able to distinguish the validity of what’s more important in life. I can channel my rage towards a better cause, a cause that will change the outcome of my future, the future of others and inevitably the world around us. My struggles help me continue this fight and I now divert my focus to helping others in need of help.
My experiences and anger come out in the form of writing and for more than a decade it was in my lyrics when I sang in a metal band (Nothing Left For Tomorrow). I’ve watched and read a lot of people’s stories of their own encounters with racism and discrimination, and they have moved me in ways I couldn’t believe. So, after encouragement from a friend to write in a journal, I’ve decided to write on these matters for this month’s Rewind Zone instead of an 80’s horror movie for two reasons. One: to create awareness, assert the seriousness of Black lives at risk, urge you to keep up the momentum and fight for this cause of putting an end to centuries of racism and oppression. Two: to reach out to anyone who can relate to what I’ve gone through and if my story can make an impact on you, realize that if the work that I’ve done on myself has brought me this far, you can do it too. If you feel depleted, don’t keep your pain to yourself. Write it down and share it with someone, it’ll help, trust me. You have the power to help yourself while also being a good accomplice, take the initiative to research how.