As this year’s Black History Month comes to an end, here is a list of things you should keep in mind throughout the rest of the year:
Asking why there is no “white history month” is ridiculous. From preschool to university we learn about Christopher Columbus, revisit Shakespeare multiple times, and celebrate Canadian liberalism while still denying it’s continued colonization of indigenous people.
Black history is reduced to Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Abraham Lincoln, so please allow us a month to educate you on why racism did not end in the 1960s and how it is still very much present in our society.
When a black person says “black lives matter,” it is not an argument that black lives matter more than others — so do not counter by saying all lives matter. With the recent brutalization of black civilians by public officials, please be aware of the daily events around us and practice sensitivity.
Statistics speak for themselves. American columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote that black men are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than young white men. In a 2013 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence programs, it was reported that 72 per cent of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims were transgender women, while 89 per cent of victims were people of colour.
Touching the hair of a black person without consent is not only uncomfortable, it is offensive. My hair is not for show and tell. Imagine if someone constantly touched your hair without asking, or asked if it was real. It is none of your business. Do not reach out to “feel it” unless you have explicit consent. This is simple common sense and etiquette.
Another tip that goes without saying: do not the N-word or any slang variations. That term was created to oppress, degrade and dehumanize black people and is still used for the same reason today. When black people use the word, it is as an act of reclamation. It is not possible to reclaim a word that was not used against you. This word will break black people. I can assure you they will take sticks and stones to you if you do say it.
On the question of whether or not reverse racism exists, in my opinion, it does not. Racism is not simply about colour. Racism is a systemic structure of privilege and accessibility. Racism is North America unfairly policing through “random” spot checks simply based on race and stigmatizing black citizens as criminals. Racism is African-Americans making up 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population in America, even though they are only 12.6 per cent of the nation’s total population.
Black people can be prejudiced, they can be discriminatory and they can be rude, but they cannot be racist. Not liking a white person because of the way he or she looks is not going to result in his or her death. Trayvon Martin, Vonderrit Myers, Islan Nettles, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Eric Garner were not killed because of their actions. They were killed because of racism. It was the same systemic racist structure that not only allowed the murder of these people, but allow for the justice system to not see these murders as racist — as hate crimes. As a result, all offenders were acquitted or served small sentences because they were white.
Racism is the one thriving black community in Vancouver, Hogan’s Alley, being eradicated to build a viaduct. Racism is the denial that there ever was slavery in Canada.
These situations and the experiences of black people in terms of gentrification, racial profiling, police brutality and socio-economic status will never be equated to the experience of white people feeling not liked.
By Tarisai Ngangura