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For years, Canada has adamantly presented itself as a country that embraces multiculturalism and diversity. This narrative hides the distinct systemic racism experienced by Black Canadians: anti-Black racism. Be it overt or covert, anti-Black racism is ingrained in our everyday lives.
Here are four ways anti-Black racism can be seen.
School should be a place to achieve higher learning and self-esteem. For most Black students, it is a place where anti-Black racism perpetuates racial stereotypes and prejudicial treatment. Even the manner in which some teachers grade is steeped in racism and preferential treatment towards White students. In many cases, Black students are graded lower than their White peers, despite performing at the same academic rate. In Ontario alone, Black students received 2X fewer “excellent” ratings than White students despite having the same standardized test scores.
In a census survey, only 54 per cent of black students reported that they felt supported by teachers.
These students are right to feel this way.
Data shows that Black students are disproportionately streamlined into non-academic (applied) courses and pressured into vocation training. For those who are in academic tracks they are encouraged to switch into applied courses. With advice coming from teachers – who they are told to trust, many follow their advice. But following this advice often limits Black students from pursuing postsecondary education and their future career options.
—Dr. Eugenia Duodu-Addy
Anti-black racism has also robbed Black students of simply being children. Quickly written off as a thug or a threat, Black students are sentenced to harsher punishments than their white peers. In fact, Black elementary students are suspended at three times the rate of White students. What’s worse is these suspensions are typically unwarranted but stain their permanent record.
In the job market alone, Black Canadians are met with prejudice and discrimination from the moment they submit their resume. Many times Black candidates are denied because their name is too ethnic or their address is in a predominantly Black neighbourhood – deeming them “ghetto” and “unfit” for the job. Research shows that it is three times less likely for “black-sounding” resumes to get a callback versus “white-sounding” resumes. And Black women are more likely than white women to be unemployed or underemployed, despite having higher levels of education. 8.8% of Black women with university degrees are unemployed, compared to 5.7% of white women with high school diplomas.
While we continue to see minimal improvements, discrimination is still a reality within the workplace. When it comes to racial wage gap, Canada has a big problem.
For many Black Canadians, advancing in a company is overtly difficult. Even with new policies to promote diversity and inclusion, Black Canadians are still not advancing at an acceptable rate.In surveying 48 of Canada’s largest organizations, 89 per cent have zero black women in the pipeline to the leadership level.
Even within our healthcare systems, anti-Black racism is prevalent and silent killer for the Black Community. For instance, Black women are under-screened for cervical and breast cancer in comparison to White women. The same goes for chronic pain management.
Healthcare inequality in the Black Community is certainly a by-product of anti-Black racism. It creates inaccessibility to care, less-equipped hospitals and a lack of culturally relevant medical practices. This leads to worse physical and mental health outcomes.
Anti-Black racism has also infested Canada’s criminal justice system and police practices. Black existence is criminalized and policed. Generations of Black Canadians have been disenfranchised, marginalized, brutalized, and in many cases killed.
Take carding, where police officers stop, question, and document individuals without any evidence of wrongdoing. Black Canadians are disproportionately carded in comparison to any other race because many police officers use bias and prejudice to make decisions.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Data is still very limited when understanding the extent of police brutality. This in of itself, is another example of anti-Black racism given that such an important issue is not heavily investigated. Still, research that is made available is jarring. The Ontario Human Rights Commission reported that while Black people make up 9% of Toronto’s population, they represent:
36% of cases where police used pepper spray on an individual
46% of cases where police used a Taser on an individual
57% of cases involving a police dog
Additionally, Black men are over represented in Canadian prisons. In fact, one out of every 15 young Black men in Ontario has experienced jail time, compared to approximately one-in-70 young white men.
Canada’s justice system is not the fault of a “few bad apples.” Quite the contrary, the system is actually built on a foundation that perpetuates anti-Black racism.
The examples discussed merely touch the surface of anti-Black racism. And goes to show how much work needs to be done. As a nation, Canadians must unlearn negative stereotypes, dismantle racist systems, and develop new social structures centred on equity. Most importantly to end anti-Black racism, we must focus on and support the advancement of Black Canadians. This means greater representation, more opportunities for higher education, safer neighbourhoods free of over policing, celebration of culture and contributions to Canada, and much more.
If you would like to join the fight to end systemic anti-Black racism and contribute to the advancement of Black Canadians, support the Black Solidarity Fund by Unite for Change. This Fund includes over 70 charities that are providing critical programs such as, social services, arts and culture, mental health supports, and more.