Black History, Diversity and Injustice

Every human being on the face of the earth who has already passed the standard age for admission to primary school should see and hear the History lesson delivered by Mallence Bart-Williams at TEDx Berlin in 2015.

It is no secret that, in spite of decades of multiculturalism as official government policy, Canada still has a long way to go on the road to full equity and justice for the groups that, much to the chagrin of the late Charlie Roach, are referred to as visible minorities.

So no one was surprised by the public declarations made recently by two prominent members of the federal government on the subject of Black History, Diversity and Injustice.

These two senior Liberal politicians must have been still feeling the inner glow of having played a part in the ousting of the previous Conservative government that had embraced the heinous strategy of using anti-Muslim rhetoric to increase their chances of winning the 2015 federal elections.

Speaking at a reception she hosted to mark Black History Month at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau Quebec, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly did not hesitate to recognize the nagging reality of the pattern of racial discrimination that has historically stained the lives of Black Canadians such as Viola Desmond. She went on to remind Canadians of a key aspect of that reality: “All of us have a responsibility to fight injustice and discrimination in our daily lives.”

For her part, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Celina Caesar-Chavannes engaged attendees at the Ontario Black Historical Society’s annual brunch in her vision for “a future that has humanity, compassion and peace.” She further urged that all of us should take action: “Rise up, lock arms with our brothers and sisters and ensure that injustice never wins”.

Against that background, two questions remain unanswered.

Why are we taking so long to make more substantive progress in this aspect of national life?

What is to be done to push that process forward at a much faster pace?

As we attempt to address those two questions related to race relations in Canada, we cannot isolate ourselves from the most unfortunate ripple effects of the political, social and policy developments coming our way as a result of the ascendancy of the newly elected President of the USA, Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, our path forward has to be guided by a clearer understanding of History and, in particular, of the place of Black History in World History.

That journey takes us back in time to a period in World History when the trade in and exploitation of Black slave labour laid the foundation for the genocidal intersection of Economics, Politics and Psychology.

This particular segment of our journey forward begins with a fundamental acknowledgement: one of the deepest effects of centuries of Black slavery in the western hemisphere has been the consolidation of the mindset of Black inferiority.

The total and absolute subordination of the Black slaves to the authority, the business interests, the sexual abuse and the whims and fancies of the slave owners has profoundly damaged some essential aspects of the Black person’s psyche, such as identity, self-esteem and self-perception.

The complicity of the political and Christian authorities at that time has been continued right through to today’s world.

We are still waging unending battles to counter the channeling of the same racial and ethnic values surrounding superiority and inferiority which are embedded in all levels of the educational system, in the Christian churches, in the mass media and in world literature.

These battles should have become easier to win in the era since the late Walter Rodney and others publicized the historical facts about “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, the title of the ground-breaking masterpiece that he wrote in 1972.

But, to this day, even the heavily evidenced-based truth does not count.  Control of the levers of politics, money and information is what counts.

Which is why the brief History lesson by Mallence Bart-Williams is so important.

Humanity today is still located somewhere between ignorance and complacency about how the resources of Africa continue to be systematically stolen by those who dominate the world economy.

All hail the words of the late great Bob Marley:

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.
None but ourselves can free our minds.”

The direct link between Black History and Injustice is far more than a matter of diversity and multiculturalism.