In Canada, we pride ourselves in not being a part of the rampant tribalism and racist attitudes that are increasingly being displayed by a segment of the American population.
We can be a bit smug about our culture of acceptance and inclusion of minorities; but it’s a dangerous assumption. We recall low points last year when some UVic students created social media posts ridiculing the First Nations community and in November, when anti-Semitic posters were found on campus. While racist actions don’t hit the media often here, they do still occur with some regularity.
As Black History month begins, we’d do well to recall that, while Victorians were generally accepting of the “Black Migration” of 1858, there was racism then as well. When the steamship Commodore arrived that spring and Bishop Edward Cridge welcomed some of the migrants into his church, he faced backlash from some who complained about “crowding negro men into the same seats with white and respectable women.”
Racism is a complex issue and a single cure for the fear, ignorance and hatred embodied in that term has yet to be found.
But Pulcherie Mboussi’s comments in today’s feature on Black History Month are instructive. The founder of the Victoria African Cultural Society urges people to take time to talk to others, particularly those of a different ethnicity than one’s self. Find out about them, she advises, because it’s only through learning more about people that true understanding and acceptance is possible.
And don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t realize that not all black Canadians’ descendants came from Africa, a continent as diverse and varied in culture, language, history and heritage as any on the planet, you should.
There’s no shame in not knowing, but there is in letting ignorance breed discrimination.
Make Black History Month a time to start to learn about other cultures and people, and extend your knowledge about the broad tapestry that is our region’s population.