I’ve heard it argued numerous times that I have Donald K. Trump’s victory to thank for Tales from the 2.9’s popularity, with Canada and the US’ visible minority populations alike knowing fear and apprehension like never before.
But that’s not exactly right.
Our Black brothers and sisters were still meeting untimely ends by a police force who put no value in their lives in 2016. We still made up entirely too much of our urban centres’ fringes, representing a disenfranchised people withheld from the hope or power needed to break away from the negative cycle they’ve been thrust into. We still had to constantly prove our worth, knowing there’re all too many people waiting for us to slip so they can paint us with the brush of negativity that popular culture seems to favour all too often.
Sure, when Trump won the election, America’s ugly side surfaced with a brazenness we hadn’t seen in ages, but how different were things really?
These thoughts in mind, in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I thought why not look back at an unpublished post from last year’s Tales and see how the world’s shifted in the year since?
Jem Jackson’s piece touches on an element of Canadian race relations we rarely bring to light—while racism’s often not as overt as we see it down south, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s far subtler, to the point we might not even consciously know we’re doing it. It could be an unsolicited touching of hair. Addressing your Black friends differently because you’re “homies”. Choosing a seat on the bus anywhere other than next to the Black person, because you never know what might happen. We come with our biases and assumptions galore, and it’s far too seldom that anyone calls people on it.
So I’m happy to see Jem’s not about to just let that slide.
But I’ll let Jem tell her own story. I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll catch you tomorrow with another Tale from the 2.9!
Many Black Canadians come from families who sacrificed plenty to give them the lives they have today. What do you know of your family history and how has it shaped your current self?
My family history has definitely shaped who am I today. We didn’t have much in terms of material things but I wouldn’t trade anything for the life lessons that I had the privilege of learning. I grew up in a very political family involved in the Civil Rights movement – so I had the experience of witnessing my father sacrifice a lot for the Black community and be a change-maker. I also had the experience of living with and learning from my mother, who was a single mom – she taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to and that faith and hard work is necessary for success.
The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?
This is a very broad topic, but I will try to answer as succinctly as possible. As a Black woman in Canada, I have had many experiences that my peers of other ethnicities haven’t had – from the high school guidance counsellor scoffing at my career choice to being called a n***** while walking with a friend. Despite those examples, the experiences of prejudice I have had, have been mostly covert in nature. I have learned that this sort of experience is more dangerous than the overt sort – it’s very sneaky and confusing, and is usually brushed off as “you’re just overreacting.” Up until recently, I have felt the need to ‘keep quiet’ in certain spaces in order not to perpetuate any popular stereotypes attached to Black women – now, my opinion is mine to have, period, no explanation necessary.
I have also had incredible experiences of being a part of several community mobilisation hubs in Toronto – young people full of compassion and hungry for change. It has been a blessing and an honour as a young Black woman to be a part of these hubs that take the words ‘action’ and community’ to a whole other level.
In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
I would like my footprint on the world to be one of hope – that as long as there is life, there is hope.
Being part of such a small minority, it’s not hard to believe that most everyone around you might not get what it’s like to be Black in Canada — what’s one thing you’d like the other 97% of Canadians to know about being a Black Canadian?
I would like the other 97% to know that we are people just like them and although we are all diverse, we probably have more in common than not.
If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
We each have gifts within us to share with the world, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.