I don’t know what compels me to do these paintings. The audience I reach with this blog and my Instagram feed is somewhat limited. And yet, I still do them. I still do them despite the fact that they are sombre and somewhat depressing to research and execute. I would like to think that I’m contributing something to the grand scheme of things in my own small way. That it matters. Somehow.
Since my early teens, I’ve settled into the habit of watching the evening news, and what I’ve seen lately doesn’t look good. Granted, only the most sensationalist events ever make it on the evening news. Events like the plight of the Syrian refugees. These people want nothing more than what my parents wanted for their children: opportunities. They’ve risked everything to flee from the civil war being waged in Syria. In return, they are met with indifference, annoyance, suspicion, or sometimes open hostility by certain communities in the countries they wish to join.
Being a naturalised Canadian citizen has afforded me and my family a life that I could not possibly have imagined in my country of origin. It has opened up opportunities. It has given me a chance to meet people I would never have met. It has given me a chance to participate in a free and honest society. For this, I’m forever grateful to Canada.
That being said, there have been jarring situations where I’ve been reminded that I’m a person of colour. That I somehow don’t belong in this place that I call home. Simply because of the colour of my skin. As much as this bothers me, it’s no comparison when contrasted with the plight of people of colour in the U.S. Especially young African American men. Simply because of the colour of their skin, they are harassed by the police. They are treated with suspicion. The most disturbing aspect of this is the fact that guns are more freely available in the U.S. than in Canada.
In the end, I guess that it would be far easier for me to stop watching the news. To stop being engaged with what’s going on around me. To stop caring about what happens to my fellow human beings. To stop voting. To stop advocating for issues that I deem important. In essence, to allow myself to die inside and buy more material things to fill that empty hole.
So, in the end you have to ask yourself, am I my brother’s keeper? It’s a hard question to answer. Everyone answers it differently. But I continue to answer it the best way that I can.