This post is directly inspired by an OpEd from the Washington Post, and reblogged with commentary on Word Press by Filosofa at http://jilldennison.com/2021/07/16/my-worst-nightmare/ To publish Jill’s post here and then add my commentary to it might make for a very long read, but if you are not already aware of her post, or Mr. Charles M. Blow’s excellent history of systemic racism in the USA, I would suggest you read it before reading the rest of this post to give a framework for the inspiration. For those of you who have already read either of the above works, please read on.
When I was a K-12 student in Canada in the 50s and 60s, I was taught a lot of American history, along with a lot of British history, and a good smattering of world history. Our educators told us we had one of the best history curriculums in the world. And we believed those educators. Certainly we learned more about Americans than they learned about Canadians. What we did not know, what our educators never told us, is that what we were learning was White American history, indeed, White World history. While some mention was made of slavery, and the struggle of the Negro to gain equality, it was bare basics. Everything we were taught glorified America, and was intended to make us look up to Americans. I hate to admit it, being a person of colour in Canada, red, I had no idea how badly White Americans treated Black Americans. At that time there was no mention of people of other colours. While we were told there were brown and yellow people in the world, we were never taught much about them except as they interacted with White Canada, and White America and White Europe, especially White Britain. There were Black and Asian Canadians where I grew up in Winnipeg, but we learned little about them, other than that they were now Canadians, and so worthy of our respect and acceptance. In schools we were not taught to hate. What we were taught at home will not be discussed here at this time. Suffice it to say, we were taught it did not matter what colour people were, we were all equal, at least in theory.
Mr. Blow’s history of America blows what we were taught to hell and back again. Yes, we were aware of Rosa Parks, and a few other Freedom Riders, but we were never given the context in which Ms Parks’ actions were so earth-shattering. We watched on TV as black students were bussed to White schools, but we were not asked to understand the significance of these actions. No one told us about racism!
How could they not? Did our educators really believe they could hide the seedy side of America from us? They must have, because they succeeded for a long time. We students had no idea of the depths of racism in America. In fact, when we were finally taught about Apartheid in South Africa, we were made to believe that was the height of racism in our world. How badly we were lied to! How utterly we were lied to.
At least the White Afrikaaners in South Africa admitted they were racist. White Americans hid the fact that they were racist from the rest of the world, telling us everyone in America was born free and equal. What a bunch of bullshit! America was hiding it’s dirty laundry behind the lily-white Constitution that all men were created equal, not telling the world that Black people were not men, meaning not human.
Eventually, what we Canadian-taught people discovered, was that there was literally a dark side to American history, a side so dark that it was actually Black. But still, if I take myself as an example of a somewhat typical Canadian, I still did not understand how deep racism runs in America. And here I want to clarify that while Mr. Blow’s history is mainly about the Southern States, it is equally as condemning of the Northern States, because they sat by and allowed the Southern Whites to perpetuate their racist Jim Crow laws. And it makes me wonder, while I do not want to paint all non-coloured Americans with the same brush, how many White Northern Americans are actually closet racists, believing all people are equal, while still holding on to the British idea that all non-Whites are a step or more below them.
When Britain ruled the waves, they treated everyone they came across, all people of colour, as savages, non-humans, beings unfit for polite society. Even people of China and India, to mention just two present-day nations, who had historical societies much older than British society, were beneath the ever so righteous Brits. Those are the people who settled, read stole, North and South America from their rightful inhabitants. They conquered the people of these lands with their greater technologies, weapons, and horses. The original human inhabitants of these territories welcomed White people with open arms, at first, only to be slaughtered in numbers impossible to imagine, even as the Whites slaughtered the buffalo that owned the plains. Only, the White people did not succeed as well with wiping out the indigenous peoples of the New World as completely as they did the buffalo, but it was not for lack of trying.
The truth of the Residential Schools in Canada is only now being brought to light, while it was known all along by the victims of those so-called schools. And Mr. Blow’s history of White America gives the lies to America’s history. Here we are, in the year 2021, still doing nothing to stop the disenfranchisement of Black People in America. While people are whining about the Jim Crow laws 2.0 as Mr. Blow so aptly names them, no one is doing anything effective to stop them from being passed. This makes me ask, HOW DEEP DOES RACISM REALLY RUN IN AMERICA, AND IN THE REST OF THE SO-CALLED FREE WORLD?
How deep does racism run in Canada?