Black History Month is a time to reflect, honour and celebrate the many contributions made by Black people and all people of Caribbean and African heritage. It is a time to recognize the important role Black people and people of Caribbean and African heritage have played in the progress and development of Canada, as well as their impact on its history and the labour movement.
It is a myth that Canada is a model of diversity and inclusion. The reality is that Canadian society has achieved neither equity nor equality for Black Canadians. Black people and people of Caribbean and African heritage have a unique history and experience in Canada that is often ignored or seen through a colonizer’s lens. The voices of Black activists are rarely heard because of the rampant racism that keeps their voices silent.
Last year, everyday life came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. Shortly thereafter, the world witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed deliberately, and violently, by the police. Finally, there was a recognition of entrenched systemic anti-Black racism, not only in law enforcement but throughout our society. For many who experience anti-Black racism on a regular basis, they understand that it was not an isolated incident, but rather a pattern going back to the time of slavery. The killing of George Floyd is yet another example of the failure of society to value Black lives.
George Floyd’s death mobilized people across the world to action. People want to discuss and tackle issues of systemic anti-Black racism and we are witnessing the creation and organization of panel discussions, workshops, demonstrations, media reports, the forming of diversity and inclusion workplace committees, the collection of disaggregated data, development of anti-racism strategies and so on. For example, the Canadian federal government has recently made a commitment to addressing systemic racism in the federal public service and society. But let us not forget that the reality is that anti-Black racism is prevalent at all levels of society. Dismantling anti-Black racism requires foundational societal and attitudinal changes, not to mention on-going individual learning to undo unconscious bias. There must be condemnation and accountability of those who resist efforts of anti-Black racism initiatives and promote white supremacy.
There are many Black, Caribbean or African heritage voices calling for justice, equity and equality in our workplaces and communities. Black voices must be heard, Black contributions must be recognized, and Black lives must be valued. It is time to turn the page on systemic anti-Black racism because Black Lives Matter.
PSAC invites you to celebrate Black accomplishments and hear Black voices during this important month. Black activists and Black history will be highlighted on our website throughout the month of February. Join the conversation and be the change!
The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.