Denial of anti-black experiences are ‘suffocating,’ says advocate

Lawyer and advocate Anthony Morgan has written that ‘anti-black racism is most often subtly buried and embedded in Canada’s social structures and collective subconscious.’
Photo Credit: CJ Cromwell

By Lynn Desjardins |

When people talk about being subjected to anti-black racism, their friends or acquaintances will often downplay it, says Anthony Morgan, a lawyer and a community advocate. He says being black in Canada can sometime be suffocating.

‘Silencing a lot of African-Canadians’

“Often the experience of black people isn’t recognized when it comes to suffering, anti-black racism, issues of poverty. So, while we have different laws and provisions that protect equality and democracy, often the experience of black people is such that we have over policing, we have different unemployment levels, we have varying experiences.

“And when we articulate it as African-Canadians, sometimes it’s not recognized…Often we get a lot of push-back. People will say ‘at least it’s not as bad as America.’ And that’s standard. That ends up silencing a lot of African-Canadians and making it difficult to articulate our experience. So, it makes our experience of being black in Canada somewhat suffocating.”

‘It’s disheartening’

Morgan has often heard people in such situations question their experience and whether incidents of racism actually did occur to them. The facts prove they do. Although blacks make up only three per cent of Canada’s population, they make up 10 per cent of federal prison inmates. Their school dropout rates are higher, as are poverty levels.

Denial of personal experiences can be disturbing, says Morgan. “It’s disheartening for many. It can be heart-breaking for some.” He is heartened by a new generation of younger black Canadians that he says “is choosing to resist suffocation by eschewing silence and pursuing outright public resistance.”

Members of Black Lives Matter participated in the annual Pride Parade in Toronto on July 3, 2016. © Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press

Younger blacks grew up with charter rights

As examples, he mentions the Black Lives Matter protest against police killings of two black men that shut down one of Toronto’s busiest expressways in July 2015 and black activists insisting on being included in that city’s Pride Parade in July 2016.

He says younger people grew up with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They understand their rights and are ready to press to have them respected. But Morgan says they should not have to do it alone.

“Often we don’t see the kind of courageous leadership among our political leaders to name…(problems facing blacks)…and develop action plans and strategies to meaningfully address…(them)…in a long-term sustainable way.”

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