Trinidad-born Cecily Pouchet Alexander pens a most impressive bio

“Immigration, Race and Survival: From Trinidad to Canada: Living in Parallel Worlds” is a collection of many journals Alexander has kept over the years. She has had a career as a dietitian for over forty years. She has a master’s in business administration specializing, in addition to her nutrition degree from the University of Guelph. She has taught at both the university and college levels. She lives in Southern Ontario.

By Andrew Camman L.L.B.

Cecily Pouchet Alexander

If you think you have climbed and conquered the racist mountain and now declare.  “I’m not a racist,” then reading this book will show you the mountain range beyond.  While this book dashes our self-delusions about racism it does so with a message of hope.

I am a racist. I believe that we all are. What perhaps distinguishes liberal racism from KKK racism is that we accept that it’s wrong and we fight it. However, like the alcoholic step program, we must begin with the admission: “Hi, my name is liberal Canadian and I am a racist.”  Cecily’s story of survival shows the immutable truth of this. It also shows that while our generation may always be “recovering” there is hope for recovery as long as we are willing to accept the truth, and as long as there are people like Cecily around to tell it.

I am the lawyer referred to in Cecily’s book. I have known and loved Cecily and Wayne for many decades. As her lawyer, and more importantly as her friend, I have gone through many of the traumas she describes in her book. No, let me correct that liberal fantasy; I was with her during those traumas but I did not “go through them” any more than one could go through another’s cancer by holding their hand.

I was there when a store owner insisted her son swore at him when he stuttered so badly it was apparent that the storeowner had misidentified the only coloured child in the group. I was there when Cecily went over borders and was questioned while I went straight through. I was obviously present when Cecily struggled with mistreatment by her managers in two local hospitals. I was there, but I never went through it with her. I was just there. I was just there until this book put me in it with her. Her simple, frank writing style made me feel her pain and realize the incredible strength that victims of racism must have to survive.

There is a poignancy and an Ann Frank diary quality to this book.  Cecily shows us what lies beneath her skin colour in an innocent, vulnerable way. As a white, human rights lawyer, I have prided myself on the ability to empathize with the victims of racism and prejudice.  Cecily’s story has taught me how wrong I was to celebrate my anti-racist accomplishments.  I have known her all these years and assumed that her racism experience wasn’t like deep-south racism, so it did not occur to me she was a victim even as I witnessed her victimization.  That I attribute to her resilience and ability to carry on as if her armour had protected her from prejudice. And to some extent it had. Liberals must learn that victims who refuse to be seen as victims still are. The greatest lesson may be that victims must survive, not as victims, but as conquerors. Cecily has suffered, I recognize that now, but the book you are about to read stands as testament to Cecily the Conquering Caribbean Queen.

I am sorry that Cecily suffered through our Canadian racism, but I am thankful her book took me, and those like me, up one more step to recovery.