We can’t wish racism away

By PAT WATSON

The profound wish of many people – both Black and White – is for any and all references to, and focus on, racism to end. Yet, the reasons may differ greatly depending on whether one is Black or White.

Many who identify with an ancestry associated with trade in, and profit from, enslaved Africans do not want to be reminded of that past. They are uncomfortable with the fact that those long departed who came out of Europe have done a great injustice to Africans.

They want to erase any connection between that horrendous past and the disadvantaged conditions in which significant numbers of Black people find themselves.

Many are in denial, not wanting to look at the legacy that still bears out. They accuse Black people of living in the past and not taking responsibility for their lives as if this horrible heritage of abuse could simply be expunged.

Some Blacks in the Diaspora would also like to forget the past (“we are no longer bound in chattel slavery”) yet post-slavery trauma is still very much a reality. When we look at some of the failings of the Black community we can trace much of our difficulties to the legacy of slavery, a legacy which continues to allow Black people, in the minds of many, to be viewed as unequal to Whites and not deserving of the same respect and treatment.

One head-shaking example involves Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen detained in Sudan on suspicion of being a terrorist, which has resulted in some White politicians crying shame and racism on the federal Conservative government for their treatment of the Sudanese-Canadian.

RCMP and CSIS investigations have proven that, in fact, Abdelrazik, who had traveled to Khartoum in 2003 to visit his ailing mother, is not a terrorist, yet his name appears on a UN Security Council’s terrorist blacklist. This purportedly is the reason he has spent the past 11 months stranded inside the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum and six years in Sudan, having been denied Canadian travel documents he needs in order to leave.

Federal New Democrat foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, is one of many who have questioned why the same consideration extended last year by the Canadian government to Brenda Martin to win her release from jail in Mexico has not been extended to Abdelrazik. It is always something to note when members of the White community pull back the veil and label a situation, in this case Abdelrazik’s, as racist. It irritates the deniers that much more. And so, Dewar has come under attack for calling it as he sees it.

Indeed, there are people who wish all this talk of racism would just go away so they can forget the past and go on to feel good about themselves. It’s like the person who cruelly abuses his or her spouse but doesn’t want to hear the victim speak of the abuse. The abuser doesn’t want to see – or be seen – any reflection of that horrifying side.

The answer to ending talk of racism is to completely end all forms of racism. Given the reliance our social system has on racism, however, it could be a daunting order, so it is more convenient to blame the victims for their condition.

Carrying the burden of guilt is not the solution; neither is trying to bury the past. But an honest review of what has truly transpired and the ways in which that past is reflected is necessary.

Why can’t Black people just get over it? Well, it could not have escaped some people’s notice that African peoples are traditionally and culturally a proud lot. To have been laid so low, in such a definitive way, materially and socially, and for such a long time and in such considerable numbers, means, day in and day out, living in a state of chronic trauma.

For Black people who want to live as if racism, the legacy of slavery, doesn’t exist – it, unfortunately, does and no amount of denial will minimize that dreadful truth.

On a completely different note…

Is it true that construction workers and road workers are often seen in groups of three (or more) with one working and the others watching to make sure the one who’s working is doing it correctly and working in relative safety?

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