On anti-Black racism (Canadian)

When I first thought of starting a blog I wondered whether I truly had anything to add. Are there not already a plethora of parenting blogs? What could I possibly add to the conversation? But then I started to pay attention, like REALLY pay attention, to which voices are represented and which are not.

I’ve always been aware that as a Black woman my image and voice is either underrepresented or misrepresented. But as I began to think about raising my children and searching for resources for the challenges I was facing, I struggled to find anyone who was both Black AND Canadian. For a while I thought this was reflective of a lack of need. Maybe there really is no difference between being Black in Canada and Black in the USA. Maybe it was enough that there were some great Black parenting blogs and it didn’t matter that none were Canadian. Or maybe there really isn’t much racism in Canada, which seems to be the general consensus in the mainstream parenting groups I have come across.

But then….

In 2016, following an investigation by the Toronto Star revealing that Black children are hugely over-represented in care, a ministry-funded review of the Children’s Aid Society recommended changes at every level in order to dismantle the systemic anti-Black racism within the organization.

In November 2016 a school trustee used a racial slur when addressing a Black parent. (After a lot of pressure from community members she eventually resigned.)

In April 2017 a review of a local school board revealed “systemic discrimination” which echoed what parents have been saying for years.

Finally last month, June 2017, an inquest was held into the July 2015 shooting of Andrew Loku by a police officer. The inquest jury put forward a number of recommendations for addressing anti-Black racism within Toronto Police Services. (Although the coroner’s inquest ruled the death a homicide, no charges are being laid.)

And it became clear to me that not only is racism a huge Canadian problem, but anti-Black racism in particular underlies many of the systems which my children and I will rely upon. And I began to interact with other Black and racialized parents who are feeling the same way. My initial instinct had been right, our voices are missing not because we don’t exist but because in a strange Canadian twist, it has been seen as impolite to discuss racism. Our voices had been “swept under the rug”.

So while I have already started this blog, I have become more and more aware of the fact that anti-Black racism in Canada is both insidious and systemic. And that there is absolutely a need to both address this racism, and to share resources and experiences amongst ourselves to help navigate this racism. There is something unique about Canadian racism, something that distinguishes it from that in the USA, and which needs to be exposed and discussed. I hope to provide a space here for those of us who are living this racism every day to both unpack what racism looks like here, and to share how we are working towards dismantling it through our parenting.

I look forward to hearing from all of you about the challenges of raising Black/racialized Canadian children and to sharing my own journey!

 

On raising race-conscious kids

There are some things that are just hard to put into words sometimes. This is one of those times. Story here; synopsis: a viral story about a little white boy who is getting a haircut so he can look like his “black buddy” and trick their teacher.

This story does not sit right with me for so many reasons. The more I learn the details the worse I feel. Because I know it’s supposed to be a feel-good story about two little boys who don’t see race, and isn’t the world such a beautiful place, if only we could all be so innocent…

But…….really? Are we all going to sit here and watch a story go globally viral because it “proves that a colour-blind world is possible”? It’s just too much. I see the reasons why so many people find this adorable. But, it’s also really not. The little black boy in this video is in for a rude awakening. In fact, I find it difficult to believe that he hasn’t already been introduced to or noticed that he is black. Especially given that his parents are not (he’s adopted…from Congo…as the video mentions). Not to mention that clearly the only reason this story is getting so much attention, or why it was even shared to begin with is because everyone else sees this boy’s race. So if he hasn’t noticed it yet, he’ll be sure to start asking questions now. This story is basically outing him.

But I honestly find it hard to believe this child has not noticed that his skin is darker than that of both his friend and his parents. My three year-old is aware of race. Sometimes the language fails them, but they notice skin colour just like they notice hair colour and all the other colours around them. Sometimes we talk about race. And my partner and I of course talk about it a lot. And although I might wish I didn’t need to think about these things it comes up in simple decisions like choosing which school to register at for kindergarten.

Being able to ignore race, or even celebrate a child who is “innocent” to race and racism, is a privilege that not all parents have. So for the media to take this story and just keep repeating it without any critical thought or discussion…well. It’s tiring. And I’m not here for it. Racism is a real thing, whether or not some people choose not to “see it”. So let’s teach our children what it is, and work with them to change the system so that they can live in a world where all children are able to hang on to their innocence. Anything else is not good enough.

On being black in Canada

This week in Canadian news to incidents occurred. Two separate completely unrelated events with nothing to do with each other. Or so some people seem to be arguing. Despite the similarities and obvious racism in both incidents (in my experience) some seem to think there is no proof that either was “motivated by racism”.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care about motivation. It doesn’t matter that it’s possible (although unlikely) that neither woman had any realization that they were addressing a person of colour. I don’t care. Because I am not here to centralize the feelings of the offenders. Both of these women were in the wrong. And there is a deep and long history behind the racial stereotypes which they imposed on these young people.

Let’s focus on the what these two must have felt. Fact is, racism exists. All around. All the time. And if you’re not white you experience this racism. All around. All the time. And since I personally have experienced both of these and worse, in Canada, I can tell you that being in a situation where you KNOW you are being racially profiled but the person is being polite, is THE WORST FEELING. Both of these young people were more collected and calm than the offender deserved. Because they have both been here before, and they are exhausted.

I’m exhausted too. It is exhausting to read these stories. It is even more exhausting to read racism deniers try and explain why it’s never racism. I’m not here for it. So please, don’t even bother.

Here are the two incidents:

A black man was physically assaulted by a white woman. And the internet came to her defense. Video and story here.

A black man was racially profiled (by a white woman) and found guilty of “being black while shopping”:

Immigrant

I am an immigrant.

My parents were refugees, fleeing a civil war in which my father fought. I was born along the way, on the journey from there to here. From the motherland, the land of origins. A warm country, noble, enduring, steady. To here. An unpredictable place, a cold country built on stolen land by a nation of people who still struggle to acknowledge their place in history as oppressors. Colonizers.

Immigrant. A person living in a foreign land.

Foreign. Not your own.

That is what we are. Never belonging, always searching for a place that fits just right. Looking for a space that is ours.

My children are the first generation born on this soil. What does it mean? For me, as a mother. For them, as black children. Immigration amplifies the generation gap. Will it affect my ability to understand my children? To prepare them sufficiently for what they will face, to overcome life’s challenges. Will they find a place to settle?

Or will they roam, like we do, searching for a place that fits just  right. Looking for a space that is ours.

Seeking a home of our own.