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If Joyce Echaquan had been white

Stories and News No. 1244

Well, I believe that we should all do this whenever we read particularly tragic, current and very significant life stories: identifying with them.

That is the only way to imagine sensations, understand something, change for the better and grow.

Come on, let's try together, let's strength each other and for a few seconds let’s become her.

Now, at this very moment, we are a woman named Joyce. We are located in Canada, precisely in Joliette, in the Lanaudière region of the province of Québec. But you might also read in the land that saw the first human beings at least eleven thousand years ago, the Paleo-Americans, or the ancestors of the indigenous peoples in the territory, the First Nations and the Inuit. We are 37 years old and we are sick. We are a woman under the age of forty and we live in a country that currently ranks 21st among the richest in the world, above the United Kingdom and Japan. We are very ill and we have seven children. As much as billions of women before us and even after on this planet, also mothers, despite everything it is essentially for them that we are concerned. It happens that we have had heart problems for a while and the torment today was too strong not to go to the hospital. Because it is in such places that we all go when the body screams and asks for help. This is exactly what we try to say: we feel pain, too strong not to give up everything and come here to seek comfort. However, something incredibly wrong happens, but we could also call it horrendous. Even if the rightest and at the same time most uncomfortable definition is inevitable, given how we have chosen to connect each other in the neglected network called modern humanity.

"You're stupid as hell," one of the white-clad ladies tells us, as we wriggle on the bed with spasms in the room that has suddenly become yet another room of systemic torture.

"Are you done, stupid?" she adds another, as if to say: it is no coincidence, it is not the usual, abused, only rotten apple. The fact, which is the most legalized infamy in the world, is that from the moment we entered the apparently safe facility they immediately identified us as a drug addict. Because the dress doesn’t make the monk, but where it is woven of brown skin, it still does everything to destroy lives and serenity. Nonetheless, despite our incredulity and frustration, we insist on asking for relief from the pain that is tearing us apart, ignoring that it was not our sick heart to condemned us, but the now defunct heart of our neighbors that you can encounter anywhere, even in the most unexpected places.

“You made some bad choices, my dear,” observes one of the nurses indifferent to our suffering. "What will your children think seeing you like this?"

We cry and complain in vain, and we think of our children, those still too young for anything that would be too much for anyone.

"Will you stop messing around?" says another. "Will you finish it?"

Anger mixes with tears, which hot streak our face like the first streams of lava from an erupting volcano.

"Damn!" exclaims the presumed angel with a feral face. "You're only good for sex, more than anything else."

"Especially if we have to pay for all this," replies the other. So, at the end of the nightmare, one of the two – it doesn't matter which one, since hell on earth is one and it's always the same for the unfortunate born souls – so she sentences: "Better off dead!"

This is exactly how our journey from the wrongly truncated path ends bitterly. We are dead, now.

Our name was Joyce Echaquan and the report attests that on that 27 September of a year ago we had our last breath at the age of 37 due to pulmonary edema linked to a rare heart condition. A little more than a year later, however, here is the human response, rather than clinical, Quebec coroner Géhane Kamel told the press yesterday: if we had been white, we would probably still be alive today, it's the essence of the speech. And if we hadn't filmed our own deaths, it's just as reasonable that no one would have bothered to investigate.

If we were white, yes.

I can’t know, maybe you are white, unlike myself. But now, here, it doesn't matter. Because if you have had the patience, the courage and the love for a life other than yours to relive this unacceptable tragedy with me, I am sure that both of us, equally, have perhaps learned something that will help us become better people of a moment ago...

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My recent book: A morte i razzisti (Death to racists)