Equity, Diversity and Inclusion:
Black History Month posting – February 2023
Black Lives Matter is an overdue call for unity
Racism will continue to shape world
if we don’t act, says Courtney Walcott.
(Tuesday, February 28, 2023 CALGARY HERALD)
I know many people who have been triggered by the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” Triggered might actually be an understatement.
Obviously, many people have not learned the history behind Black Lives Matter and, thus, may even struggle with the significance of Black History Month.
I’d like to help.
First, let’s explore what it means to be Black and ask why Black is set apart or considered differently from what is so often considered the norm. Starting with the unfortunate history of racial discrimination and racial classification, to have even one ancestor of African descent – “one drop of Black blood” – was considered enough to be racially categorized as Black.
This classification was paired with the socioeconomic systems of slavery and racial segregation. The bogus “science” of racial ancestry, alongside differences in melanin and skin pigmentation, became the founding logic of entire nations and economies.
Each nation that participated in the transatlantic slave trade, imperialism and colonization extracted wealth from the land and the bodies of people who were seen as less human than their white counterparts, with Black people at the extreme end of the spectrum.
A dichotomy was created that would have the world believe that whiteness was synonymous with humanity, and Blackness with inhumanity.
This racist belief system was not simply accepted as self-evident. It was taught, enforced, embedded in laws, grounded in religion, told in our stories and structured into a self-perpetuating system of racism that continues to shape our world – until we change it.
Think of it another way: the first enslaved person touched North America in 1619, the Abolition Act came into force in 1834, the Emancipation Act abolished slavery in 1865. History shows that here in North America, people of African descent have been enslaved longer than we’ve been free. A system that persists still.
However, despite the inhumanity that was thrust upon Black people, our humanity was never truly taken away. Slavery and colonization tried to take away defining aspects such as culture, language, customs, beliefs, stories, histories and our elders. The enslaved people of African descent, who through time and tragedy lost the more direct connection to Africa, resisted dehumanizing efforts to form a new culture, a new heritage under a new given name: We became Black people.
Black culture is a rebellion against dehumanization. Black became a new ethnicity for those forcibly distanced from their own. Black people developed several distinct cultures of music, art, poetry and several new languages, including Patios, Gullah, Pidjin, or African-Americano Vernacular English, with only one thread connecting them all: the legacies of the trans- atlantic slave trade.
To be proud to be Black and to recognize Black history is to recognize and share in these experiences. It is to in proclaim our humanity and celebrate it, against the odds.
For me, Blackness is the reality that even though I may not know what nation my ancestors called home, I know that my culture connects me through time and space to the peoples of Africa.
But our roots run deeper still.
I am a Black man whose heritage extends to Ireland and Scotland through my mother, and through my father my heritage is rooted in the culture and experiences of being a Black Canadian from Nova Scotia.
I say “Black Lives Matter” because I want to acknowledge the inherited legacy of joy and beauty that persists through one of the greatest atrocities humanity has ever committed against itself, and to acknowledge that there is so much more work to do.
As we take in the end of Black History Month, I invite you to join in the celebration of Black history no matter your own ancestry. And in doing so, I invite you to reject the thinking and systems that exclude and dehumanize, and instead help in the work of affirming the humanity of those who are excluded or marginalized today.
This Black History Month, be reminded of the phrases “Black Lives Matter.”
Cause it ain’t going nowhere.