'Am I Next?' Campaign Spreads Across North America
In Canada, we have the sad legacy of our most marginalized citizens feeling under attack by the police state, bureaucracies and political leaders such as Stephen Harper who don't care if a First Nations woman cries out, "Am I Next?"
"Am I the next victim of personal or systemic violence?" One more addition to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) statistics (May 2014) show that 1,017 Indigenous girls have been murdered between 1980 to 2012. The violence experienced by Indigenous women is more severe than average and more severe than what the statistics report -- crimes are not always reported.
And what of the violence occurring now throughout the U.S. -- young, black males fear becoming a statistic, as twenty-nine Black males have been killed by Police/Security since Jan 2012, with sixteen of those since Trayvon Martin was shot.
The blog Bougie Black Girl lists the names of black women and girls who were killed by law enforcement, as well.
These are difficult numbers to have to swallow, but someone has to ask. And they will prompt difficult questions about the nature of the quality of life in North America?
If 1,017 white women had gone missing or had been murdered, would there have been a different response?
What if the twenty-nine males who has been killed by police had been white? I'm not saying that white males are not also shot dead by the police, but the context and public and official reaction is different.
It is a tragedy of our human society that, advanced in so many different ways that we are, with super-computers and attempts at Space Exploration, we still struggle to cope with the socially marginalized.
For all politicians and economists care, at least we can keep the market machines turning, in both countries, despite the blaring social inequality down the hill and outside the gates of their mansions.
This is what caused Indigenous women to start spreading their own message to the world through the hashtag #AmINext.
This is the voice of an Indigenous woman asking if she is next to be assaulted or killed at the hands of others -- perpetrators could range from intimate partners, to truck drivers along lonely, northern roads, to the police themselves.
By posting their photos on Twitter using #AmINext and carrying "Am I Next?" placards at demos, these women want the world to see that it is a human being who disappears, one with a face and a family and dreams, not just another statistic after the fact.
The grassroots "Am I Next?" campaign highlights the concerns of these communities. According to a 2014 Human Rights Watch report, "In five of the 10 towns Human Rights Watch visited in the North, we heard allegations of rape or sexual assault by police officers."
We are seeing a similar phenomenon in the states, though by no means would anyone assume this context behind "Black Lives Matter" is a new development in the struggle for social justice.
In the United States, the recent killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice (for example -- there are many examples) has caused a spasm of demonstrations against police-based racist violence and murder from Miami to Oakland to Ferguson to New York.
Demonstrators from different U.S. cities use geographically bound slogans such as, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!" for Ferguson to "I Can't Breathe" in New York, but under the umbrella term "Black Lives Matter."
For Canada and the United States, it's the same fight.
In America's street, we see both women and men -- whole targeted populations -- chanting, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" and "I Can't Breathe" while hopefully more and more Americans (and Canadians) will want to affirm their basic right to be treated like human beings with dignity, as they ask society as a whole, "Am I Next?"
Perhaps one day Indigenous communities and people of colour can stand as one and leave the fear embedded in "Am I Next?" behind as we would together bring an end to violence against any marginalized group. If the state can't protect people, in fact targets people, anyone should protect themselves.