Alec Jacobson is a photographer and writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, who likes to dive deep into slow-moving stories. Drawing on his studies in Anthropology, French and Arabic at Amherst College, he prefers to be the only...
"I was sixteen years old and I got invited to a party. I got there but the host said I had to leave. I was going down the stairs and two of her friends came after me. They punched me while they called me a n***er."
I just want people to think that we’re not going to steal from them or we’re going to hurt them. When I go to a store, I have to deal with them racial profiling me and watching me, even if I’m in designer brands.
"I came here when I was sixteen from Nigeria. My third day in Canada, I got lost. I asked this white man if he could help me out to find my way home. He said he does not talk to black people, so I just left him alone.
On my first job interview, I got a job as a dance teacher and I was about to teach the kids how to dance. And the moment that we started, the friend who got me the job heard them say, 'why is the black teacher teaching the class?' They felt as if their kids were not safe with me. And that really hurt me. They feel that their kids are not safe with me all because of the color of my skin?
I am a black, queer man and I know what it feels like to be rejected."
"This was 2010. I was playing football and going to school at Ohio University. My girlfriend’s sister went to Marshall. So, we go to drive from Ohio to West Virginia to the hospital to go support her. On our way, we get pulled over. The police officer says, “the light above your taillight is out.” Which, is bullshit, it wasn’t out. He asked for her license and registration. I’m in the passenger seat and he asked for my license. I said, “I’m not driving, so you don’t need my license.” He says, “yes, you do. Or you want me to take you to the station?” He asks us, “how do you guys know each other?” We’re wearing matching Ohio athletics attire. She says, “that’s my boyfriend.” He asks her to step out of the car. I was anticipating this was going to be like Crash. He walked her to the back of the car and he asked her, “do you really know this man? Are you ok? You can blink to let me know if you’re not ok?” In the process, she starts to understand what’s going on and she starts to cry. The police officer says she can get back in the car. We wait for the police officer to drive off. I end up driving because she was too hysterical to drive. I’m not surprised. It just shows how delicate those times are, because that could have changed my whole life. You know he was probably scared. Me, I was very scared. Just one millisecond, everything could have flipped."
"When I was seventeen, I went down to the corner store to get groceries for my mother. There was a gentleman in the background who I didn’t recognize. I left, but I forgot something in the store so my mom sent me back. As soon as I came around the corner, that’s when the weapons were drawn on me. They were police. They took their guns at me and said, “on the ground.” I got pinned to the ground. I got arrested and I got handcuffed in my neighborhood. They had me on the ground for 30 minutes. When I was crying, asking, “what did I do?” they wouldn’t tell me what was going on. The handcuffs tightened on my arm and it hurt so badly. It was one of the most painful things I’ve gone through. They say you’ve been a victim of mistaken identity. The person they were looking did two attempts of murder. If I had run, if I had reached in my pocket, I could have been dead. That is the reality of black youth in this country."
Luna I would say I’m white passing, I don’t get anything that outwardly racist to me. We’re originally from Syria. We were going to the States a couple years back. We had our Canadian citizenship, everything was fine. We were stopped at the border for four hours. The officer who was doing our thing told my mom, “It’s because you guys were born in the wrong country.” Kabir I’m Afghan. If I’m around my muslim friends who are visibly muslim, we get pulled over very often. Just in one trip, I got “randomly” selected three times. I’ve been told to go back to my country.
"The first thing I want to say is that this isn’t about me. I’m here in solidarity with black lives and the black community. Being here is the least that we can do. I have been thrown off airplanes because of the way I look, I have been detained at airports because of the way I look, I have been asked where my parents are from because of the way I look. I can empathize through the black community. I can’t say that at this time my struggles are equal or at the center of the story."
"I grew up in a place where the high school I went to had one black kid. The racism that’s inherent in Canadian settler colonial society, I was so blind to it. I’m ashamed to talk about the fact that it took me having a deep and committed relationship to a black person for so long for me to really start to figure it out. We’ve been married for almost five years and dating for almost ten. My wife has put in a lot of unpaid, hard work."
"I started straightening my hair at twelve years old because the girls use to make fun of me for having me black hair. It’s taken me since then to be comfortable having my hair natural and to be comfortable with it."
Thousands of Canadians have demonstrated in solidarity with US protests against the kind of police violence that killed George Floyd. Canada is stereotyped as a nice place full of nice people, sort of Garrison Keeler's Lake Wobegon, compared to the US. But recent demonstrations are a clear reminder that racism and police violence are problems in Canada too. I made a series of portraits of protesters and paired them with their personal stories about experiencing racism.