Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Racism and Nova Scotia

For anyone who likes to think that the issue of race has not been a problem in Canada, think again. We might not burn crosses on front lawns (although maybe we have, I don't know) but we certainly discriminate and did, indeed, have slaves.

Here, in Nova Scotia, the home of some who escaped via the Underground Railroad and Black Empire Loyalists, the divide between black and white is still intact.

This isn't a myth or my own meandering mind that says it's there. We have institutions trying to rectify the situation. The Black Business Initiative, the Black Educators Association, the Office of African-Nova Scotian Affairs.

These organizations are here because of the discrimination Black Nova Scotians face in the everyday world of ours. The bank loans that are harder to obtain than if they were white; the jobs that many believe are "white" jobs; the race-related violence in some of the high schools.

Sure, we Canadians pride ourselves on being polite. We don't utter ugly words in public. Usually. Yet they live on that side and we live on this side. If you're a white Nova Scotian, just try smiling and saying hello to a black Nova Scotian and guage the response. If you're like me, most times there is no smile given in response.

There are reasons for this.

In today's Chronicle Herald, a story ran about an apology that will be issued to Viola Desmond, a black business woman who, in 1946 was arrested, fined and jailed for refusing to leave the white-only section of a movie theatre.

Government refers to this sort of apology as a Royal Prerogative of Mercy Free Pardon.

I have no idea what that means. I speak English. I understand the words but what is mercy free pardon?

A mercy-free pardon? That sounds bad.

A mercifully and freely given pardon? That interpretation requires too much finagling.

Whatever the meaning, it won't matter a bit to Viola who is already dead though it might be welcomed by her family and may resonate within the Black community of NS.

If you're interested, the story is here.


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