Thursday, December 29, 2016

ABCD: Can all Black people dance?

Contrary to popular belief there are probably some Black people out there that can't dance.

Kind of like unicorns or Tupac: we know they might exist, but can't really prove it.

All jokes aside, I think it is safe to say that most Blacks can keep the beat. Can they win Dancing With The Stars 10 times out of 10? Nope, but a two step is like a duck taking to water.

A black duck swimming in purple kool-aid.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ask a Black Canadian Dude: Are all people with dreadlocks musicians?

So you see a Black person walking down the street with dreads and your first thought is:  "man, that's gotta be a Marley. I wonder if he can drop a verse from 'no woman, no cry' ."

Newsflash, my White friends, all dreads (Black people with dreadlocks) are not musicians.

Yes, some are, just like some White people belong to the KKK.

So before you assume you're standing next to that next reggae star on the subway, that's probably your banker. Or doctor. Or plumber. Or any damn thing other than a musician.

Monday, December 26, 2016

ABCD: Do Black people really like chicken?

Well my White friends, this is one stereotype that is pretty damn true.

Black people love chicken.

Shit, I love chicken so much I don't even bother for it to grow from an embryo before I eat it.  Raw too. #EGGS

Fried. Baked. Boiled. Jerked. BBQed. Curried.

Shoot, Black people love chicken so much they invented a new way on how to cook it: broasted.  Yes, broasted.

Some Bajans even chew down the bones cause hey, the marrow is damn good too.

But before you get super racist, White people love chicken too. But they love cheese more.

ABCD: Can Blacks be racist against Whites?

I've heard this one bandied about quite a bit.  It doesn't have to be Blacks vs Whites, but any non-White group vs Whites.

Let me break it to you White folks,  and you are not going to like my answer: you can't be victims of racism.  Ever.

Why you ask?

A fundamental feature of racism is power.  Because of funny things like imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, and now Trumpism, White people have created a system of White supremacy that the institutions around us (ie every damn thing) were created to keep Whites at the top of the food chain.

So long story short, even if a Black person supposedly "gets" a job because he or she is Black and White folk are mad that they were denied an opportunity and scream "anti-White" racism, you need to understand that for every one "token" there are 100 others being denied opportunities that they are beyond qualified for.

It may not be you personally saying "no," but take a step back and see who runs the company you work for or the country you live in. What colour are they? What made them more qualified than a non-White person? Why is it "normal" to have White leaders?

Think about it.

ABCD: Can I touch your hair?

Before you ever ask that question (or attempt to put your cheese eating fingers in La'Quanda's new weave), ask yourself this:

Would you like it if a stranger drove by your kids walking home from school and offered them candy if they came in his white van with no windows?

I didn't think so.

Keep your hands to yourself. Or buy a dog.

ABCD (Ask a Black Canadian Dude): Do all Black people celebrate Kwanzaa?

The short answer? No.

The long answer? No.

Considering that most Blacks in Canada are from the West Indies and the vast majority of West Indians are Christians (Protestants) because of a funny thing called slavery followed by colonialism, we celebrate Christmas.

In fact, as a whole,  Black people in Canada are probably more religious - Christian - than the dominant White majority.

Oh ya, and Kwanzaa is an African American tradition. Not Black or African.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

New Blog Series: Ask a Black (Canadian) Dude

Have you ever wanted to ask that one slightly racist question,  but were afraid to be labeled an alt-right Trump loving xenophobic racist?

You ever wondered if all Black people can dance? Or if we can get  a sunburn?  Or if we all celebrate Kwanzaa?  Or if we really do like watermelon  or fried chicken?

Or maybe on the subway you looked at a person with dreads and really wanted to know how they got their hair that way. Or wondered how one day say your colleague at work has long hair and then short hair and then even longer hair the next day.

Well, my White friends (I assume you are White), you are in luck.

I was given this idea from a great intellectual brother in arms, Brother S, where folks can ask slightly kind of racist questions and I will do my best at answering them with all the qualifications I have as a Canadian Negro. I might throw in some perspectives of my Bajan background or if you are lucky, my PhD.

Can hit me up @DrCSTaylor on Twitter or email me at I will not post your name or pass judgment.

Unless you really are a racist and I will berate you with all of my pent up anger of a Black man.

Happy Kwanzaa

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post # 19: Ola Osman - An African Child Becomes a Black Canadian Feminist: Oscillating Identities in Black Diaspora

On “An African Child Becomes a Black Canadian Feminist: Oscillating Identities in Black Diaspora”

Notisha Massaquoi’s “Oscillating identities in the Black diaspora” looks at the ways African identities are discursively produced based on geographical location. Specifically, Massaquoi is interested in the fluidity of gendered subjectivities that cross borders. She maps out the ways in which our names and bodies cannot be separated from Africa as home but also the ways in which we produce romanticized constructions of a forever shifting home. We negotiate our performances of African personhood based on our understandings of viable personhood inter-racially but also intra-racially “where it becomes more advantageous to identify with the homogenous group ‘Black people’” (Massaquo 1). As pre-narrated identities we produce communities based on our collective Othering.  Personal testimony is central to Massaquoi’s work, as a first generation African woman her identity is taken up as negotiable and her Canadian citizenship is constantly questioned. Massaquoi interrogates Othering of African identity within the context of academia because she does not fit within the framework of a victimized “third world” gendered identity. This then places Africa in the essentailized rhetorical trappings of the “west vs. the rest” (Massaquo 5).  Massaquoi is interested in feminist literature that frames African women as agentic textual subjectivities and locating/understanding her layered identity within that literature.

On We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity       

bell hooks’ We Real Cool is about intervening in the larger American imagination that constructs Black men within tropes that script them as inherently violent super-predators.  She interrogates Black masculinity by framing gendered masculine Blackness as a repressed form of personhood. She looks at the image of the “untamed, uncivilized, unthinking and unfeeling” Black man (xii). Culturally curated imaginative notions of Black males as animalistic in nature operate as a threat to the state, because at any given moment this angry uncivilized brute could potentially incite an actual revolution. What this then does is produce what hooks calls the ‘symbolic lynching’ of Black men on the public stage but also in the most private, intimate moments of their lives.
Hooks posits that what is truly suffocating Black men is the idea that their survival rests on patriarchal masculinity. The text is interested in shifting away from the neoliberal approach to “the problem with Black boys” to analyse the “crisis” in Black masculinity. Black boys are socially constructed as other through the language of “at risk” and their boyhood is always pathologized. The text moves away from this narrative of Black boy bodies as inherently bad and moves towards holding oppressive structures accountable. Hooks tells us that we exist in a “culture that does not love Black males, that they are not loved by white men, white women, black women or girls and boys. And that especially most Black men do not love themselves. How could they, how could they be expected to love surrounded by so much envy, desire, hate” (xi)? Let me just say that no one loves Black men more than Black women. No one has loved Black men more than Black women. Our racial allegiance has been so unconditional that we have literally given up parts of our identity and sometimes our lives. This is a reminder that Black women are dying not only at the hands of the state but at the hands of Black men, the hands of our brothers and that needs to be approached with intellectual seriousness.  Moreover, hooks’ approach of “hurt people hurt people” and the claim that Black women do not love Black men positions Black men as the actual receivers of harm and Black women as in part producers of this collateral damage.
Within the context of Black radical politics Black men have been mapped out as exceptionally vulnerable bodies and Black women have been completely written out of that narrative. This is rooted in white women’s struggle for an electoral reform that was grounded in a racist politic but also a Black Power movement that could not understand racism as a gendered problem. Black radical tradition is in part couched in this belief that oppressive structures are dismantled from the top down, that the most vulnerable among us should be waiting for what Kimberlee Crenshaw describes as a “trickle down social justice” (Crenshaw). And hooks reminds us that “it has served the interests of all who are the enemies of black self-determination to keep black females and males vying for the position of most oppressed rather than working together to end our collective suffering” (hooks 147). It is absolutely not my intention to become an agent of division work and “I want to stay attuned to both the danger and the futility of placing Black youth in discursive predicaments where they must compete for space at the bottom” (Cox 6). However, I want to centralize the jeopardies of reading liberation work that takes up the vulnerability of Black girl and womanhood as doing the work of racial division for a white supremacist agenda or that this work is disruptive of a larger social justice project.
Finally, we can understand that hip hop, gangster culture, and American Cool pose are all heavily intertwined concepts. Further, hooks does the useful work of rooting violent hegemonic masculinity in whiteness but also charts Black dispossession as leading to a life that is rooted in a consistent yearning for successful assimilation. She makes the claim “[Black men] moved from brilliant critiques of white supremacy and capitalism into assimilating into whiteness and striving to get money by any means (selling dope, creating fashion, etc.)” (hooks 18). Human value is measured by the dollar in the same way that we understand valuable citizenship as capital producing citizenship. In the late sixties Black men were looking to make money by any means necessary, hooks understands this moment as the embrace of capitalism. In the nineties Black people started owning their own businesses to produce a dignity in labor. Cool pose is rooted in dignity and a form of re-drawing boundaries. I think practicing group economics is a dignity producing project that actually embraces neo-liberalism for collective survival. A dignity producing project that must be contained by the dominant culture. We can look at Black Wall Street as the epitome of containment, Americans will bomb their own country to contain the cool. I am interested in the unconscious political interventions that further situate already dispossessed bodies as “at risk”. I would like to locate these lived out moments of opposition as legitimate productions of theory that should be considered with scholarly urgency. Particularly, the ways in which the personal can become an unintentional site of political negotiation which constitutes a larger social justice project. The language of Cool pose is deployed out of context to valorize this unattainable white masculinity and frames Black boys as performers of a failed white boyhood. The naturalization of whiteness constructs the performance of blackness as a yearning for white acceptability. The cool is a performance in and for the margins, for their fictive kin. Black youth are not in a constant state of deliberate deviance to disrupt white hegemony. The assumption that they are, traps them in this binary state of being in between “not good enough” and whiteness. It constructs them as never resistant enough to attain normalcy. Traditionally, Black radical politics in part rely on an active refusal of engagement with oppressive social, political and economic institutions through public demonstrations that disrupt daily activity. I am interested in writing the bodies whose performances of race and gender are unconsciously theatrically disruptive to daily activity into the discursive spaces of revolutionary academic engagement. I am looking to explicitly locate performative cools that are understood as criminal or deviant as legitimate sites of theory making, “I’m referring here to evasive, day-to-day strategies: from the footdragging to sabotage, theft at the workplace to absenteeism, cursing to graffiti” (Kelley 7). Specifically, the resistance potential latent in the performance of a ‘cool pose’ that is inherently oppositional and therefore read as what Cathy Cohen calls “seemingly self-destructive” behavior. Let us try to situate cool within a framework that locates us as agentic intentional or accidental political actors instead of social problems to be solved. Hooks, fundamental claim is that gangster culture is inherently a yearning for whiteness and patriarchal hip hop “had for the most part no transformative power no ability to intervene on politics of domination and turn the real lives of Black men around” (hooks 150). I am wondering if patriarchal hip hop and “selling dope” can be understood as a politics from below, that can actually generate some form of social returns. That this behavior that has been scripted as self destructive in the discursive spaces of academia is actually in part fertile.  
How do we understand theory and can we consider deviance through a performance of gangster and the production of a patriarchal hip hop culture as actual legitimate theory making? Further, is the theoretical work of hip hop useless because it dehumanizes Black women?

Works Cited
Cohen, Cathy. “Deviance as Resistance: A New Research Agenda for the Study of Black Politics.” Cambridge Journals, vol. 1, no. 1, 2004.
Cox, Aimee Meredith. Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship. United States, Duke University Press, 14 Aug. 2015.
hooks, bell. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. New York, Routledge, 27 Nov. 2003.
Home. KimberlĂ© Crenshaw on “black girls matter” and Shifting Community and Policy Priorities. For Harriet | Celebrating the Fullness of Black Womanhood, 2 June 2015, Accessed 10 Nov. 2016.
Kelley, Robin D. G. D G, and George Lipsitz. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class. New York, NY, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 1 June 1996.
Massaquoi, Notisha. ““An African Child Becomes a Black Canadian Feminist: Oscillating Identities in Black Diaspora.”” Canadian Woman Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, 2013, pp. 140–144.

#WS3330F Blog Post #18: Jamie Kim - Reel to Real

“Reel to Real”  by bell hooks is a collection of 21 essays and interviews that engage “movies” and visual culture as a site of critical analysis. I couldn’t cover all the chapters in the presentation, but I encourage checking out some of them: e.g., “Artistic integrity: race and accountability” and “Neo-colonial fantasies of conquest: Hoop Dreams.”

“Reel to Real” in the Western Library Catalogue:

The chapter on Crooklyn: Crooklyn tells the coming-of-age narrative of a young girl named Troy Carmichael, daughter to Woody and Carolyn. Now Carolyn, the mother, is portrayed as an “emasculating Black matriarch,” who usurps her husband’s parental authority, shames her husband in front of the children; she is volatile and over-reactive and portrayed as standing in the way of pleasure and happiness.

“Powerful Black mothers, the film suggests, who work outside the home “fail” their families, as Carolyn does, by not fulfilling the sexist-defined feminine role. Their punishment is death.” (hooks 56).

hooks argues that Spike Lee represents “dead female mothering body” of the matriarch as an ungrievable death. The Angry Black Woman’s death is not seen as a loss of individual life, but rather, as a gain for the family as a whole; this is a death that is not mourned; instead, it is a sacrifice necessary to uphold patriarchy and white supremacy. Carolyn’s death is not only a punishment for a Black woman defying the role of subservience and passivity, it is also a tragedy that “needed” to happen to teach the young Black girl, Troy, a valuable life lesson. Implicit in this narrative structure, is the idea that a Black girl’s coming-of-age is supposed to have trauma or some form of violence.

“The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples” was written by Anthony Morgan, a lawyer and social justice advocate based in Brampton, Canada. This charter emphasizes that popular media and culture have a direct impact on the quality of lived experiences of Black people. It says that media representations are inseparable from issues of  impoverishment, incarceration, and institutionalized neglect of Black people; representations actually perpetuate and justify the precariousness of Black lives in a white supremacist society.

“The Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples”:

The Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers (the third reading for the seminar), published in 2011, had this to say about racialized labels: “Black women have worked tirelessly since the 19th century colored women’s clubs to rid society of the sexist/racist vernacular of slut, jezebel, hottentot, mammy, mule, sapphire; to build our sense of selves and redefine what women who look like us represent.” This was a letter produced by Black Women’s Blueprint and signed by a host of other organizations across North America, in response to the “SlutWalk” which started in Toronto after a police officer advised a group of York University law students that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

The Open Letter commends the SlutWalk organizers for mobilizing against rape culture and misogyny, but criticizes them for the exclusion of Black women from leadership and design of the movement, and the erasure of the particular needs, histories, and lived experiences of women of colour. SlutWalk was centred on white women “reclaiming” the word “Slut” in defiance of slut-shaming and victim-blaming; However, the letter suggests that the word “slut” has different associations for Black women due to the history of slavery, Jim Crow lynchings and kidnappings, the racist and sexist constructions of Black women.

An Open Letter from Black Women to Slutwalk Organizers

Additional Resources:

YouTube Video - Tropes of Black Women in popular entertainment

“Another Round” Podcast - Black Films

The Black Film Canon - The 50 greatest movies by black directors

Thursday, November 24, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #17: Allie Phillips - Eritrean Refugee Women in Canada

For Eritrean refugee women in Canada, their transition into Canadian society is marked by employment concerns, isolation and loneliness, and changes in gender dynamics. Political unrest and severe droughts in Eritrea have caused massive economic decline, resulting in nearly half of the population living in extreme poverty. Starvation, forced military conscription and extreme subordination of women have resulted in a refugee crisis. The majority of Eritrean refugees came to Canada in the 1980s to escape the violence and oppression of their war-torn country. For refugee women in particular, their experience as refugees was marked with additional threats of sexual assault and exploitation. Resulting from their subordinated status in Eritrea, many women arrived in Canada with low levels of education and English proficiency. With many women coming to Canada as family sponsors, this negatively impacted their eligibility to access government programs to increase their education and improve their English proficiency. As a result, women experienced employment concerns, often being forced into low paying service sector jobs. Lack of adequate employment and income resulted in financial insecurity, and often forced the women to rely on social assistance. Family ties were broken during the refugee experience, and women lost valuable women’s networks in their home country. Lack of English proficiency and income stood as obstacles to the formation of new friendships in Canada. Gender dynamics were also disrupted within Eritrean refugee families. While Eritrea is a strictly patriarchal society and women occupied a subordinate status, these values are not tolerated in Canada. Men lost their sense of authority within their families, and women often became the primary breadwinners when men were unable to find employment. Eritrean refugee parents experienced a double burden of employment and childrearing. Maintaining a strong sense of their Eritrean cultural identity, while also transitioning into Canadian society is of primary concern.

            Media representations of Black women contribute to the building of a national identity. While shaping our opinions of oppressed peoples, media also constructs racialized bodies as “outsiders” within White Canadian society. These “outsiders,” or social deviants, are perspective threats to national identity. Less obvious forms of segregation exist to maintain “safe” spaces for the larger White population, and to prevent the crossing of boundaries between “normal” and “deviant” aspects of society. An example of this would be the “ghettoization” of Black communities, while White suburbs are normalized. Both living arrangements are essentially the same, but Black communities are seen as deviant. By portraying Black women as hypersexualized in the media, it renders them mere sexual objects for men and promotes their subordination in society. Negative portrayals of Black women result in a lack of role models for young women and girls, and limit their life chances. If the Black female experience is defined by a stereotype, how are Black women able to live authentic lives?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #16: Marie Kamukuny - Flying Fish in the Great White North (Review)

Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor’s book Flying Fish in the Great White North: The Autonomous Migration of Black Barbadians outlines an extremely important and ignored part of the history of Canadian immigration. It situates the West Indies, particularly Barbados, as having a history with Canada that I never knew existed due to the lack of its teaching and acknowledgment. The history of immigration policies in Canada is one filled with vile discrimination and overt racism--particularly anti-Black racism. It brings shame to, and taints the image of the accepting and inclusive, multicultural country we have been so distinctly taught. In par with the rest of the colonial lands, Canada, led and modelled by Great Britain, has its very own history of land theft, enslavement, segregation, genocide--all concepts that began with White superiority and supremacy.

The foundation of racism lies on the fragility of a concept such as skin colour, the identification of Africans as a monolithic colour. It continues to be the reasoning behind lack of value of Black lives. Lighter-skinned people worldwide are taught to internalize feelings of superiority while darker skinned people are encouraged to do the opposite. This goes back to the White hegemonic rule of Indigenous and African peoples. Whites have a history of cold-blooded murder, destruction of communities/families/culture, and a pattern of grounding it in religion--removing the guilt or empathy as they situate themselves as doing good. The ‘Curse of Ham’ is a great example of this, as it is often described as one of the key religious reasoning behind the justification for slavery.

Although the curse fails to mention Blackness or Africanness, the sons of Ham were misinterpreted to be Sub-Saharan or Black Africans and this text was used as a Biblical fact to justify slavery of Africans, which was endorsed and condoned by the church. Although there is no direct link to race or colour in the text, it became the foundation of anti-Black racism and slavery. The outcome of the oppressor's implications of this text is important to consider when thinking about current racial tensions and the concepts of racism. It aids in contextualizing the realities we have now, to understand that there are roots in the negative ideologies of Blackness and Black identity and many of these roots were formed here in Canada, specifically through immigration policies that continuously barred perfectly eligible West Indian Black people. On the quest toward creating a White liberal and Anglo-Saxon Canada, the Canadian government spearheaded by the British, created obscene policies and regulations that would make entrance into Canada by that of a person other than the White Christian, almost impossible. Barbadians showed a particular resistance to this pushback as they utilized education and government led Schemes in order to make their entrance into this land.

When looking at the history of Canadian immigration, it is essential to observe the reasoning behind leaving one’s home and emigrating to a unfamiliar place. In regards to Barbados, the dense population of the British colonial Island post-slavery led to a lack of opportunity available for the citizens. Their governments encouraged emigration in order to decrease the population size. In addition to this, following the rise of the Black Intellectual era education became an essential component of Barbadian culture and society. Education was largely government sponsored and funded, people were encouraged to study and use education as a tool to gain opportunities abroad. Education became the keys to a better future and a life outside of the Island. While this was good due to the fact that education provided a valuable service to its citizens is, as Dr. Taylor puts is, Barbados exported its most valuable commodity. Those who gained that British education that is so valuable abroad, were those whom the Island could not afford to lose for its own success. However, emigration to other British colonies, primarily the United Kingdom and Canada (also the United States) became the goal.

What followed this emigration was a negative response from both the British/Canadian governments and their citizens. The author describes “immigration policies prior to its deracialization as a major vector of state power through which Jim Crowism (anti-Black and social segregation) was institutionalized in Canada” (9). Such as the 1906 Immigrations Acts that excluded Black migrant settlements through invasive and unnecessary medical examinations.The government went through great lengths to lower the population of Black settlers and migrants, they did well in such that “between the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, most Black Canadians were native born” (9). Acts were utilized as a prime way to be overtly racist and have to not completely explain your position or have them make real sense. When a mass migration of Barbadians took place in the United Kingdom following WW2-- “an estimated sixty thousand” (Taylor 75). Eventually, the British government formed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act which was an act fuelled by anti-Black racism. As a direct response to the flow of British colony migrants of colour, this act was created to restrict movement. Citizens responses also fuelled these Acts, they responded by forming a series of violent attacks and hate crimes. They formed racist youth cults such as the ‘Teddy Boys’ who led and formulated many attacks. The government responded by trying to get rid of the Barbadian and West Indian migrants and prevent more from entering the country. This a history that is unknown to many people, one that is barely touched upon in Canadian history classes, this history is important to Canada as it was meant to be a country that reflected only the kind of Whiteness that the UK produced and actively worked to maintain it.

In Canada, despite its positive business related, trading affairs with the West Indies, racism still prevailed. Dr. Taylor quotes Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King saying the following WW2, in regards to Canadian racist immigration policies:

“I wish to make it quite clear that Canada is perfectly within her rights in selecting the persons whom we regard as desirable future citizens. It is not ‘fundamental human right’ of any alien to enter Canada. It is privilege. It is a matter of domestic policy.”

This to me summarizes the level of racism in Canadian immigration policies prior to it deracialization in 1962. Whiteness was a keep part in the Canadian nation building rhetoric and they were willing to go retouch lengths and enforcing senseless Acts in order to gain this ‘ideal citizen’--in order to keep non-white people, Black people, out. There were no politically, economical, or governmental strategic reasoning for excluding people based on race, yet Canada clearly excluded immigrants based on their race. They stated that “the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration shall decide if an immigrant is suitable for Canadian climate, society, education or that they do not have undesirable habits, customs and or model of life” (Taylor 113). These are texts that can be found in the archives of Canadian history yet it is not a piece of it which we are exposed to unless we seek it on our own based on some personal or social connection. Although Canadian immigration policy is ‘de-racialized’ today, I believe that once you understand and learn about the history of how it has been racialized in the past, you can find similar connections in these policies that are in place today.

Overall, I believe that Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor’s book Flying Fish in the Great White North: The Autonomous Migration of Black Barbadians book is truly detailed and informative. It uses both a historical facts and social narrative/analyse in order to showcase the ways in which both facts and societal analyses complete the missing gaps in history and root the social order we live in today. Canada is very dishonest about their past and they are deliberately removing the contributions of non White people and allow an understanding of whiteness as the foundation of Canadian identity. When we learn about the realities of the Canadian past, we start to understand why the racism that exists here is done in such a way that the victims are conflicted about acknowledging it as such. There is a very undertone version of racism in Canadian history that exists behind the mosaic blanket of multiculturalism.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #15: Nancy Turner - Racial Segregation and Litigation in Canadian History

Racial Segregation and Litigation in Canadian History.
Nancy Turner

When many think of racial segregation, most would probably think of Brown v. Board or Rosa Parks in the US rather than the history of Canadian racial segregation. Racism in Canada is severely overlooked, Judge John Sprott Archibald argued in 1899 “Slavery never had any wide influence in this country […] All men are equal before the law and each has equal rights as a member of the community”. Revisionist history like this has helped to hide the very real influence of racism present in Canada from the country’s inception. Walker Barrington’s book The African-Canadian Legal Odyssey reveals this secret past, bringing to the surface the stories and legal battles of those who questioned the discrimination they faced in Canada.

The first case I explored was that of Viola Desmond outlined by Constance Backhouse in Chapter 5. On the 8th November 1946, Black Business Woman Viola Desmond decided to watch a film at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. When attempting to take up a downstairs seat in the theatre she was told by the ticket attendant that these seats were reserved for white people and she must sit on the balcony section of the theatre. Viola refused to move and was forcefully ejected, arrested, detained over night, and fined. Viola’s case is arguably the most well known in Canadian history and has been given some acknowledgment in Canadian culture for example the incident was made into a Canadian Heritage minute on TV (; however, clips such as these oversimplify the dynamics of Viola’s case.

Firstly, while the Heritage Minute creates the impression that the community stood behind Viola completely, Constance Backhouse’s chapter complicates this. Viola did have some support from the community, for example her friend Pearleen Oliver convinced the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) to provide legal support in Viola’s appeal case. However, there were still many who were reluctant to support Viola’s case fearing racial backlash, questioning the use of law to stop segregation and generally questioning if segregation in theatres was a pressing matter.

Secondly, although Pearleen Oliver argues the case touched a nerve in the Black community and enhanced the prestige of the Black community throughout the province; as a matter of legal precedent the case was a complete failure. The case and verdict were clouded by technicalities and refused to explicitly discuss the racial discrimination at hand.  Viola’s Lawyer (William Bisset) framed his legal review in racially neutral terms and the case was thrown out by the judge due to wrong use of legal review – the fact that Viola was Black was never even mentioned on the official record. As a result, to many it appeared clear that courts were not willing to defend individuals from racial discrimination or even acknowledge its existence and there was subsequently an increase in racist attacks in New Glasgow.  

Chapter 7 and 8 go on to discuss the case of Christie v. York. In 1938 the York Tavern in Montreal moved from its old location to the Montreal forum and with this move created a policy of refusing to serve Black people. Fred Christie had frequented the York Tavern in its original location but when Christie attempted to order himself and two friends a beer in the new location he was informed that he could not be served. Outraged Christie took this incident to court. Christie was initially successful in court winning his case on the basis that the tavern had violated section 33 of the Quebec Licence Act - No licensee for a restaurant may refuse without reasonable cause, to give food to travellers". However, the verdict was successfully appealed in 4-1 vote in the Supreme Court that found the Quebec Licence act not applicable. Just as in the Viola Desmond case, the court set a precedent that the freedom of commerce was more important than the freedom from discrimination.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Christie v. York case is the way in which Christie was introduced throughout the case that Eric Adams explores in Chapter 8. Justice Davis described Christie as a gentleman that had lived in Canada for 20 years, rooted him in a province a city and a suburb The fact that Christie had white friends was also deemed important and it was even made clear on the record that Christie was “not extraordinarily black”. Moreover, the fact that Christie was a Hockey fan and possessed a hockey season ticket was repeatedly mentioned and the entire case incident was understood as having happened after a hockey game – even though evidence shows that there were no hockey games on that day. Hockey became a shorthand way of understanding Christie as Canadian and a part of white Canadian culture. In the words of Adams the case implied “He deserves equal treatment not because of any free-standing abstract individual right to equality, but because, in a very real and practical sense, he is already a functional and accepted member of the city. Hockey tells us so.”

In the same way as Christie was repeatedly understood as a gentleman, Viola’s case was repeatedly framed as the injustice of a respectable lady being mistreated by thuggish, hostile men. It appears clear that throughout Canadian history if cases of racial discrimination are to be taken seriously enough to get to court the Black victims of discrimination must “act white”. The defence of the York Tavern even argued that part of the reason that Christie had been served in the past was because he had been mistaken for being white. It is clear therefore that that racial equality is not understood as a human right but instead as a right that is allowed if individuals “pass” as white.

Has this changed?

When you look at the demonization of movements such as Black Lives Matter movement by many that see it as too violent and aggressive it is clear that there is still a greater respect given to those that protest against their discrimination in a way that is quiet, restrained and put simply: “white”.

Interesting speech about “acting white”:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #14: Kiran Bal - Carrie M. Best

Accrediting Carrie M. Best

By: Kiran Bal

Canadian history has documented the way in which a young, brave Black woman by the name of Viola Desmond pushed back against racial segregation by refusing to sit in the “Black section” of a theater she frequented. Many poems and short films about Desmond’s life have either been written, or are in the works. However, the accuracy behind whether or not Desmond was the initial trailblazer against racial segregation in the theater has proven to be not so accurate. In Constance Backhouse’s article “I was Unable to Identify with Topsy” Backhouse wrote about a woman named Carrie. M. Best who brought a lawsuit against racial segregation in Nova Scotia to court four years prior to Desmond after Best experienced the same racial discrimination. The Backhouse paper reported on an eventful court case that has been buried in Canadian legal archives for many years. In 1942, Carrie Best brought an action against a Nova Scotia theatre, charging the owners with overt racial discrimination in a public place.

In December of 1941, Norman Mason apparently decided it was time to respect the racist complaints of some of his White patrons who felt as though African-Canadians and Whites should be seated separately (after years of having so seating arrangements). He instructed the staff of the Roseland Theatre to insist that a new seating policy be implemented, and when several African-Canadian high school girls refused to comply, he had them forcibly ejected from the theatre. When Carrie Best learned what had happened, the forty-one year old woman resolved to take action. (Best v. Mason and Roseland Theatre, 1942). Her first strategy was to go to the theatre in person and insist that the discriminatory policy be dropped. When this failed, she wrote a letter to theatre-owner Norman Mason directly. In clear and forceful language, she recounted what had transpired, laid out her arguments against the discrimination, and demanded a change in policy. Best would actively attend the theatre and refuse to sit in the balcony seats that were designated for coloured people—as a result she was consistently thrown out of the theatre.

In 1941, there were no Canadian statutes expressly prohibiting racial segregation in public facilities. The first such legislation would not appear until 1947, when the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act, Canada's first comprehensive human rights statute, outlawed discrimination in hotels, restaurants, theatres, business ventures, employment, housing and education.

Best ended up taking Mason and the theatre to court only to lose her case. The preceding Judge Graham conceded that theatres advertised their services generally to the public. However, it was his view that "the management had the right to exclude anyone from the theatre." Theatres were no different from private dwellings, as far as Judge Graham was concerned. "The ordinary citizen had the right to exclude anyone from their home unless a contract had been entered into," he stated before urging the jury to disregard any other questions raised in the litigation. All else was "irrelevant. Frustrated but not defeated Best took up a career in journalism, going on to start The Clarion newspaper and through her passionate writing and active resistance against racial segregation she won many awards and acknowledgements of public service. Four years later when Viola Desmond experienced the same prejudice, Best helped her formulate her case. Desmond, unlike Best, won her case, which is perhaps why her story has been better documented—her story and victory illustrates a progressive stride for Black Canadians whereas Best’s case is an example of the oppressive discriminatory nature of legislation in Canada that is forgotten in Canadian history.  In spite of the fact that the fights of both of these women are equally valid and both helped to ameliorate racist segregation by making valid contributions to the community, it is important to create an accurate timeline of Black Canadian history and appoint credit to all Black women who fought for equality and justice in order to create a more complete and accurate reiteration of Black Canadian history.

The link below is an example of the way Viola Desmond’s story has been documented in a Canadian Heritage Moment:

Constance Backhouse Article:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #13: Natalie Gaskin - Black Refugees

 Stories of Black people in general is unwritten in Canadian history, however, this claim is particularly true for Black women. Our understanding of Black women and how they came to Canada is lionized through names like Harriet Tubman, who took an estimated 19 trips into slave territory and recused over three hundred slaves from bondage. Her incredible life and deeds took a course that few women would or could emulate, however, her courage and tenacity in the face of all odds was certainly not unique in the history of African-Canadian women. The problem here is that we rarely are taught about much more than Tubman herself, as her name alone has come to symbolize in many ways the struggle for all African people working toward freedom and justice.

Between 1815 and 1865, it is estimated that tens of thousands of African-Americans sought refuge on Canadian soil. These settlers were free Blacks migrating from northern free states & fugitive slaves, for whom the road to freedom was made possible via The Underground Railroad (UGRR). The UGRR took place during 1850 to 1860 as a response to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which made it legal to capture Black people, free or not, and return them back into slavery. The Railroad was comprised of a series of secret routes or ‘trains’ through northern states to ‘terminals’ in Canada. After reaching non-slaveholding northern states, some Blacks received aid through organized systems that spirited them to freedom, which involved ‘conductors’ who personally transported ‘passengers’ from point A to B or ‘station-masters’ who received and hid arrivals at transfer points (Ch. 2, 42). It is important to mention that many of these freedom seekers actually received little or no aid, resulting in the slave's’ own locomotion north and into Canada. The UGRR undoubtedly saved many African-Americans, however the number of women who were able to seek freedom to Canada was proportionality fewer than men.

Why? Deborah Gray Write gives insight into this female fugitive phenomenon. Firstly, the age profile of the average fugitive was 16-18, the peak years for childbearing at the time. In a slave family, the decision of who could escape was based on who could run without encumbrance; as you could imagine, a pregnant mother or a mother travelling with a young infant was much more difficult than running freely in full health. As Adrienne Shadd puts it, “a fugitive mother simply did not have the same assurances that her babies would be properly cared for if she became a fugitive” (Ch. 2, 43). And the fact that more women were unable to take flight has its explanation in the nature of female slavery itself.

William Still, a Black abolitionist from Philadelphia ran a well-organized UGRR depot with his wife that aided hundreds of fugitives by providing food, shelter, clothing, and free passage to destinations in the North. It is through William Still’s dairies, that we are able to put Harriet Tubman’s life in context as one of the untold thousands of previously unknown women who endured similar risks and hardships and exhibited similar courage and tenacity in the fight for themselves and their people.

I wanted to conclude with one case in particular that has stuck with me. Margaret Garner, a woman who may not have had the same ability to escape and save as many people as Tubman did, should be seen as a woman with the same courage that Tubman had. Garner escaped from Kentucky with her husband, in-laws, and four of her children. Sadly, she was captured in Ohio. Knowing the horrors of slavery, she attempted to ‘save’ her children the only way she knew how by grabbing a butcher knife and slitting their throats, with the intention of finishing with her own. Although she was over-powered after killing only one and sent back into bondage, along with her remaining three children and the dead body of the fourth, her story is one that is important in understanding the extents to which Black woman resisted slavery and attempted to save those around them. Women who risked their lives in escaping freedom or in helping others escape are much higher than you might expect; Harriet Tubman was only one of many who fought for free life in Canada for themselves and their families. The antislavery work and the struggle against racism was particularly burdensome, yet, the vibrancy of the communities and Black women’s push for self-improvement, courage, tenacity, and racial advancement was exceptional.  

#WS3330F Blog Post #12: Saredo Mohamed - 19th and Early 20th Century Black Women in Canada

Blog Post:19th and Early 20th Century Black Women in Canada
·       Reading: Chapter #4: Black Women and Work in 19th Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb

Within the text, “Black Women and Work in 19th Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb”, Afua Cooper explores the life of abolitionist activist and teacher, Mary Bibb. Mary Bibb, along with her husband Henry, migrated from Boston to Sandwich Canada West as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act, which granted American slave holders from the south to travel North to recapture escaped slaves, resulted in a mass exodus to Canada. Many of these people already established in the north with forms of education, trades, and they were leaving economic stability.


Bibb’s First School & Entrepreneurial Spirit
Within Black communities in Canada, there existed an entrepreneurial spirit that pushed Mary Bibb, and her husband Henry to initiate Black empowerment projects. As Henry founded a newspaper titled “The Voice of the Fugitive”, Mary opened a school in her region to provide Black children with access to education.
In the same year, provincial legislature passed an act that promoted segregated schooling. This act legalized the creation of Black academic institutions, which was used as a justification by White Canadians to bar Black students from attending their schools.

For the many years that Mary Bibb taught in Canada she was acutely aware that the powers-that-be meant for Blacks to be placed firmly at the bottom of society’s ladder. Inferior education was one way to ensure this outcome.”
// Afua Cooper, pg. 122
Although Bibb was dedicated in her efforts to combat state-sanctioned racism through education, she was forced to resign from her position shortly after a year. According to Cooper, the school was unsustainable for 2 reasons. Firstly, parental poverty within the region made it difficult for adults to invest in these institutions. As a result, Bibb was not compensated for her efforts. Secondly, the lack of governmental financial support tied with this parental poverty made the schools collapse inevitable.

Bibb’s Second School
In 1852, Bibb moved to Windsor and once again, founded a school for her community members. This school was successful because of Bibb’s determination to have a private institution independent of the government.

Discussion Question: In what ways can education be used as both a tool of marginalization and liberation for Black Canadians, and specifically Black Canadian women?

Notably, Bibb aspired for her second school to be open to all “irrespective of colour”. In her last spring term in 1855, there were 46 pupils, 7 of which were White students.     Let’s consider Afro-centric Alternative Schools in Toronto!

Discussion: After acknowledging Canada’s history of excluding Blacks from academia through legislation, are Afro-centric schools helpful/necessary to combat anti-black racism? What do you think about Afro-centric schools? Are they still useful institutions?

Other Black Empowerment projects in Windsor:
·       Bibb assisted in local religious services
§  Sunday school was the only opportunity for many blacks to receive education in Essex county
·       Helped to establish Windsor anti-slavery society
Cooper notes that Bibb was influential in aiding in the settlement of Black ‘refugees’ in Canada. This is interesting because Cooper evokes the language of ‘refugee’, which I would, not deemed these migrants prior to reading the text.

Discussion: What links can we make between the experiences/treatments of Black migrants/refugees in Canada in the19th century and current Black refugees in Canada?

Jane Rhodes Reading: Mary Ann Shadd Cary

·       First Black female publisher in North America
§  Edited ‘Provincial Freeman 1853”
·       First female publisher in Canada
·       Abolitionist
·       1850 – Moved to Buxton due to Fugitive Slave Act

#WS3330F Blog Post #11: Samah Ali - Black Women During WWII

Breaking Barriers and Staying Resilient: Black Women during WWII

Dionne Brand examines the history of Black female entry into jobs outside of the domestic sphere in “‘We weren’t allowed to go into factory work until Hitler started the war’: The 1920s to the 1940s”. By interviewing various women and archiving their experiences during World War II in Canada, it’s clear that Black women could not access other work fields due to their race and gender. Black men were regulated to labour-intensive jobs while Black women were pigeonholed into domestic work. These jobs did not offer women reasonable pay as some were paid through items of clothing instead of money. As a result domestic work kept Black women stagnant in the early twentieth century due to low income and high work demands however the oncoming war opened up the job market.
Since white men were required to serve for the Canadian forces, industrial jobs were increasing and allowed women to break gender norms and access the mechanical work industry. Marjorie Lewsey mentions this in her anecdote saying, “Really and truly, we weren’t allowed to go into factory work until Hitler started the war, and then they’d beg you, ‘Would you like a job in my factory?’ But we weren’t allowed in [before]. We were left more or less to clean their dirty houses” (Bristow 179). 

Black men also considered the war their opportunity to raise their rank in society through economic means as well as educational resources offered to soldiers and veterans. As Black men took these opportunities Black women shared the same beliefs since industrial jobs offered a consistent and higher salary than domestic work. An anecdote from Bertha McAleer expresses this as she says, “When I come to think of it – my goodness, the place could’ve been blown up! You didn’t really think too much about it, not when you’re younger” (Bristow 185). The increased pay outweighed working conditions since it was a means to survive and a job opportunity outside of the tired, unwanted domestic sphere. And even though fighting in the war and working in industrial factories were marketed as a time to step up for the country, most people took these jobs for economic purposes rather than following their patriotic duties.

Factories were often integrated and this gave blacks the opportunity to demystify myths, stereotypes, and ignorant thoughts that white people believed. It also proved Black women’s capability to perform the same amount of work as whites so when the war ended they refused to return to their previous jobs. The absence in domestic workers eventually caused white women to resort to migrant workers for their house chores since Black women had opened up new job markets for themselves after the war and refused to return to their disliked working standards before.

Acknowledging the previous obstacles set in place to bracket Black women into certain jobs, their expansion into different work fields was a product of the war rather than societal changes or governmental policies. Remembering this is essential in understanding why Black women continuously have to prove themselves in the workplace since they were never really welcomed there but rather stayed resilient to keep their jobs in their field. Despite the new jobs being an opportunity giving them the ability to combat stereotypical thought, their agency amended a societal norm rather than removing it all together, allowing it to live on today.

Bristow, Peggy. "'We Weren't Allowed to Go into Factory Work until Hitler Started the War': The 1920s to the 1940s." We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History. Toronto: U of Toronto, 1994. 171-92. Print.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #10: Frankie Banks - Fugitive Slave Narratives

Fugitive Slave Narratives by Benjamin Drew.
Blog Post.
Frankie Banks.

“In justice … to the heroic female who was willing to endure the most extreme suffering and hardship for freedom, double honors were due.” William Still.

This quote from Still perfectly describes how heroic Black women were during the slave trade and how they should be celebrated for their acts. However, when looking at Canadian history you will struggle to find much work on Black women in the slave trade, for several reasons. One of these reasons is because Canadian history has seemingly written them out because to feature them would mean Canada having to acknowledge that slavery happened and was fully legal here. Also, Black women specifically are written out potentially because of the negative stereotypes surrounding Black women, stereotypes which originated during the slave trade. When exploring resistance in slavery and slave rebellion women are again further excluded again because Canada doesn’t want to admit that slavery happened and because slave masters would have been reluctant to admit their slaves had out smarted them and escaped so these stories would have rarely been told or investigated.

One text which does tell the story of Black fugitive slaves is The Refugee; or, the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada. Related by Themselves, with an Account of the History and Condition of Colored Population of Upper Canada by Benjamin Drew. It is an important text because it contains narratives of Black women who escaped slavery. It is an interesting text in the way it addresses the testimonies of fugitive slaves in Canada. Firstly, Drew introduces the topic of slavery, explaining that it was the most “irritating subject of discussion between the North and South” and something which he disagreed with as he was an abolitionist. After this he introduces different cities or towns in Canada before noting down the testimonies of Black escaped slaves who lived there. In the introduction, he addresses the argument that Southerners use to justify slavery, that in Southern cities there is order and the streets are quiet because Black people do not have freedom and the belief that slaves are happy. He disputes this argument because he explains that if a slave is happy it is because “he is ignorant of his condition” and he then uses the testimonies to support his argument that slaves are unhappy and they escape to Canada to finally be free.

Have you heard of Harriet Tubman?

I’d be surprised if you haven’t.

Harriet Tubman is arguably the most famous heroic and defiant women of the Slave Trade and hers is one of the first narratives we come across in the book. Her narrative is one that is taught throughout high schools across the world, however she is primarily associated with America, not Canada. Although there are remnants of her Canadian legacy in Canada such as the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas at York University. We can assume that she is largely remembered in American history as apposed to Canadian because she was raised a slave in America and returned there multiple times to help hundreds of fugitive slaves escape to Canada through the underground railroad. Not only was she incredibly brave to return to a country where she was a wanted criminal but she defied expectations of a Black person and as a woman and therefore is rightfully celebrated. However, her celebration could allow for some to argue that heroic women are given equal weighting in history, especially with Harriet Tubman being recently added to the $20 in The United States but Drew highlights other equally defiant women who also deserve recognition.

A key woman who’s narrative deserves celebration is that of Mrs John Little who was a domestic slave in Tennessee until she was an adult when she was sold away from her husband and employed in hoeing cotton, a job she struggled with because of blistered hands and the heat. She was obviously a clever woman because after working here for several weeks she had persuaded her owner to also buy her husband and so he came to work on the plantation too. They quickly planned their escape together, but her husband had to leave earlier because he was threatened with the ‘paddle’ for disobeying the master. After his escape Mrs Little truly showed her defiance by refusing to give up his location or tell the master anything of their plans, she even comments that despite being put under watch she was “too cunning” for the master and managed to escape. After being reunited with her husband they had a very tough journey to reach Canada which included them nearly being killed after being noticed as runaway slaves, so it’s clear to see that Mrs John Little – despite her first name not being given in this book – was clearly an impressive, defiant woman. Her husband sums this up when he says “I did not realize it then; but now I see that she was a brave woman.”

Mrs John Little wasn’t the only woman who was cunning and defiant during their time in slavery, another testimony that supports this is that of Nancy Howard. Nancy was a slave in Maryland who explains that in slavery “when you tell them the truth, they whip you to make you lie. I have taken more lashes for this, than for any other thing, because I would not lie.” Her refusal to lie is a clear indication of her resistance to slavery, her refusal to be controlled and her expression of her autonomy. This rhetoric of Black slave women refusing to be controlled and using ‘small’, or passive, acts of rebellion is translated into fiction as seen in Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. In this novel the protagonist Aminata learns to read and write without her masters permission and then when she escapes she is able to build a life for herself because of these skills. These narratives depict the harsh realities faced by both men and women during these times but more importantly they give a voice to the Black women whose voices have been left-out of mainstream Canadian history.

As I previously mentioned, these narratives are found under chapters titled by location. It was incredibly interesting to read the narratives of people living in London, where I am currently studying because it’s a piece of history that seems long forgotten when I ask people here about local history. Drew does an excellent job of explaining the circumstances of every city and London had schools open to children of all colours however the population of Black children was very small because of the prejudice they faced from white children and even the white teachers. This very fact is probably why this history is forgotten in London, other communities and Canada as a country, because people want to forget that Canada had, and still has, racist beliefs.

Drew creates a book which explores multiple slave narratives to create a collection that accurately depicts the life of refugee slaves from all areas and genders. The result is the creation of a powerful book which every Canadian should read to fully understand the history of slavery, the underground railroad and racism/prejudice in Canada. A video discussing a film which explores rebellious and defiant Black women during slavery. Video of Viola Davis’ acceptance speech at the Emmy’s where she quotes Harriet Tubman and addresses racial inequality. Video exploring the life of Harriet Tubman and her amazing contribution to the underground railroad.

#WS3330F Blog Post #9: Naciza Masikini - Angelique's Story of Resistance

Slavery in Canada: Marie-Joseph Angelique’s story of resistance
The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper
The Atlantic Slave Trade was started by the Portuguese in 1444, when they sought access to the Gold Trade in Africa. They  began by forcibly taking Africans from their countries, until they found willing slave traders in the countries of the Gold Coast (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Senegal), as well as Angola and the Congo.  The Atlantic Slave Trade/ Slavery continued on until 1860. Portugal dominated the slave trade for the first 250 years,  until Great Britain took over.  The Portuguese and other Europeans were interested in Black slaves as labourers in their home countries but also in their new Western colonies. Portugal and other European colonies had citizens, who lived in varying degrees of poverty, however this was not a problem that the Crown wanted to fix by providing the necessary infrastructure. Instead, the Crown supported the migration of its citizens to the new colonies (i.e. Brazil, the West Indies, and the Americas, etc.).   When we think of slavery in the Americas, we often envision plantation slavery. This imagination makes it very difficult to place slavery within the Canadian context. Even though, Slavery was institutionalised in Canada for 206 years.
When Canada was a French colony, known as  New France, there were both Panis and Black slaves.  (Panis slavery was the enslavement of Indigenous peoples in Canada.) Black slaves were not brought directly to Canada and as a result in 1688, Marquis de Denonville and Jean Bochart de Champigny appealed to King Louis the XIV, for “Negro slaves” to be brought to New France. King Louis  XIV did not formally grant this appeal until 1701, but by that time the French settlers along with their Indigenous allies, Abenaki and the Iroquois, had been capturing slaves from the English to the South. They also bought slaves from New York and New England.    In New France, most people owned slaves. Since, the climate did not support plantation slavery the majority of the slaves engaged in domestic work and other  town functions, such as executioners and boats-man. The fact that the majority of Canada’s slaves were domestic, when slavery in Canada is acknowledged, it is often framed as milder or better or that Canadian slaves were happier. Domestic slaves still suffered. Their suffering was often because they lived in their master’s/ mistresses homes. As a result, it was difficult for domestic slaves to form  a sense of community, as they were under the constant watch of their owners. They faced constant scrutiny, as a result. For Black women,  this meant that the slave owners had more access to them and more opportunities to enact sexual violence on their bodies, whether that be through rape or forced ‘breeding’. Breeding is what occurred when two slaves are forced into a sexual relationship so that the slave owner can gain more ‘property’. The violence they experienced was varied but these slaves were not idle in the face of their own oppression. They resisted.
Black resistance, throughout the slave trade era took on many forms.  Some organized, like the Black fraternities that originated in Portugal. These fraternities sought to protect all Blacks both slaved and free, performed marriages and petitioned to have laws changed (e.g. King Manuel on street vendors).  Other forms of resistance were more violent.  Marie-Joseph Angelique was accused of setting fire to her mistress’ house on April 10,1734. This fire burnt down most of , what is now known as, Old Montreal. Slaves remained defiant . They spoke back to their owners and in some cases ,engaged in le petit marronage. This was when a slave ran away for a few days or weeks to show their owners that they didn’t own them completely and that they didn’t have to put up with their owners. While every slave did not become a free Black or runaway (marronage),Black resistance has always been present, in the face of Black oppression. Despite Canada’s efforts to rid itself of its past, Canada would not be what it is today, if it didn’t enslave Indigenous or Black peoples. The Underground Railroad may have ended in Canada but that does not absolve Canada’s involvement and investment in Black slavery and Black oppression.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #8: Papouleh Abdie - Ain't I a Woman, bell hooks

Ain’t I a Woman – bell hooks

          The site at which Black women experience subjugation has been historically, and continues to be, located at the crossroads of, at the very least, their race and their gender. In her book, Ain’t I a Woman, bell hooks argues for the recognition of the intersecting oppressions Black women encounter by analyzing the context of significant historical events in the lives of Black people, and particularly Black women. In addition, she emphasizes the hardship this divide of oppression causes Black women on a regular basis as it at times requires them to choose between prioritizing their Blackness or their being a woman. Hooks divides the book into five major sections, Sexism and the Black Female, Slave Experience Continued Devaluation of Black Womanhood, The Imperialism of Patriarchy, Racism and Feminism: The Issue of Accountability, and Black Women and Feminism in order to pinpoint the origins, and trace the lineage of the very specific intersectional race and gender based oppression experienced by Black women.
Hooks’ begins by focusing on the ways in which Black female slaves, although not historically remembered so, had to endure very harsh, anti-woman treatment, in addition to the racist one that the Black men endured (7). While the male slaves were exploited for their labor on the field, females slaves exploited for their labor the field, in the houses as a caretakers or housekeepers, or as ‘breeders’ of new born slaves (28-9).  While the male slaves experienced intense physical brutality in order to achieve submissiveness, female slaves endured this as well as well as sexual assault, most prominent between the ages of 13-16, and the harming of their children; relatedly, they were coerced into “prostituting themselves” in exchange for their safety, safety of their children, food, and water (26).
It is important to note here that this would not have been these women’s first encounter with sexist behavior as that was something they most likely has already experienced at the hands of Black men, rather, this might have been their first experience with sexist behavior inspired also by racist hatred; thus, marking the start of a race and gender based subjugation that continues to haunt the lives of Black women in contemporary Eurocentric societies (87).
Although patriarchy did in fact exist on its own in Africa, and African women were consistently subjected to it, the slave owners introduced news ways of subjugating women (87-8). These new forms of female subjugation when taken up by Black men, worked to create a form of male bonding between Black and white men. So, as described by hooks, while racism has always been a force that has worked to separate black men and white men, sexism has always been a force that has united them (99). Unfortunately for them, Black women continued to be the target of violence and assertion of male dominance by both of these groups of men.   
Black women’s subjugation and violation continues to be diminished and minimalized through its being referred to as a thing of the past, rather than as a thing with a long lasting impact (30). This inaccurate claim works to discount the reality that the violently sexist and racist brutalities that Black women endured throughout slavery set a precedent for the now deeply rooted institutionalized marginalization and sexual exploitation faced by Black women on a daily basis; contemporarily, Black women continue to be used as means to an end for achieving the ultimate levels of control and conformity, and thus profit, by those in power. It is important to actively emphasize that, because of this, most Black women constantly find themselves without allies that are sensitive to their intersecting identities; they are often forced to either identify with their Blackness, in which case their experiences with sexist behaviors are discounted, or they identify with their woman-ness, in which cased their experiences with racist behavior are discounted.
           It is because of this sense of dysphoria felt in both Black movements and women’s movements that there was a need for the creation of specifically a Black feminism. Inspired by the likes of Sojouner Truth, “a prominent abolitionist and women’s rights activist,” Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a black woman activist, Fannie Barrier Williams, a Black woman suffragette, and Anna Cooper, a Black feminist in support of higher education, Black feminism centers around the lived experiences of Black women and addresses both Black women’s race and gender (160-73). These Black women’s rights activists differed from most of the white feminists in that they possessed the lived experiences necessary to properly inform their activism, and performed their activism in a manner that was non-exclusive of other populations.

Kerry Washington performing Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”