Douthat: A Case for Patriotic Education

More on capturing the “the good, the bad and the ugly” and finding a balance, along with age appropriateness for the negative parts:

I have my doubts about America. As a Catholic, my first loyalty is to a faith that predates and promises to outlast our Republic, that was disfavored for much of our history and may be headed into disfavor once again. American anti-Catholicism is far from the worst evil in this nation’s history, but it still instills a special obligation to take critiques of our Anglo-liberal-Protestant inheritance seriously, whether they come from radicals or traditionalists or both.

But when it comes to introducing American history to my own American children, none yet older than 10, I’ve realized that we’re giving them a pretty patriotic education: trips to the battlefield at Concord; books like “Johnny Tremain” and the d’Aulaires’ biographies of Lincoln and Franklin and Pocahontas; incantatory readings of “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

One of my son’s favorite books is an account of Lewis and Clark’s mission that pairs extracts from diaries with vivid illustrations. Laura Ingalls Wilder may have been canceled a few years ago, but she’s a dominant literary figure for our daughters. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” plays in our minivan, and when my eldest daughter tries to win arguments by declaring “I’m a free American!” I let the claim stand, rather than answering her with Catholic critiques of liberal individualism.

I should say that we also deliver doses of realism about slavery and segregation and the importance of seeing history from the perspective of the defeated, from the Tories to the Sioux. (Though many older texts contain those perspectives, however un-P.C. their form; tragic realism is not the exclusive province of the early 21st century.) And we are not home-schoolers; our patriotic education interacts with what our kids learn in school and pick up through osmosis in our progressive state and city.

But having written recently about the race-and-history wars, I think it’s worth talking about what makes patriotic education valuable, even if you ultimately want kids to have critical distance from the nation’s sins.

Here I want to disagree mildly with David French, the famous conservative critic of conservatism, who wrote for Time magazine recently chiding parents who are “afraid children will not love their country unless they are taught that their country is good.” The love for country we instill, he argued, shouldn’t rest on American innocence or greatness; rather we should love our country the way we love our family, which means “telling our full story, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

To which I would say, yes, but … you probably want to feel a certain security in your children’s family bonds before you start telling them about every sin and scandal.

Admittedly there are families where that isn’t possible, as there are political contexts where young kids need to know dark truths upfront. But we aren’t living in Nazi-occupied France, and there is easily enough good in America, past and present, to lay a patriotic foundation, so that more adult forms of knowledge are shaped by a primary sense of loyalty and love.

Moreover, with families the people you’re supposed to love are usually there with you, and to some extent you can’t help loving them even in their sins. Whereas the nation’s past is more distant, words and names and complicated legacies, not flesh and blood. So if historical education doesn’t begin with what’s inspiring, a sense of real affection may never take root — risking not just patriotism but a basic interest in the past.

I encounter the latter problem a lot, talking to progressive-minded young people — a sense that history isn’t just unlovable but actually pretty boring, a grim slog through imperialism and cisheteropatriarchy.

Whereas if you teach kids first that the past is filled with people who did remarkable, admirable, courageous things — acts of endurance and creation that seem beyond our own capacity — then you can build the awareness of French’s bad-and-ugly organically, filling out the picture through middle and high school, leaving both a love of country and a fascination with the past intact.

And starting with heroism doesn’t just mean starting with white people: From Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King Jr., the story of the African-American experience is the most straightforwardly heroic American narrative, the natural core of liberal patriotism — something liberalism understood at the time of Barack Obama’s election, but in its revolutionary and pessimistic mood seems in danger of forgetting.

This idea of a patriotic foundation hardly eliminates controversy. You still have to figure out at what age and in what way you introduce more detail and more darkness. This is as true for Catholic doubts as for radical critiques: I’m not sure exactly how to frame Roe v. Wade and abortion for my older kids.

In this sense French and others to his left are correct — there is no escape from hard historical truths, no simple way to raise educated Americans.

But still I feel no great difficulty letting my children begin, wherever their education takes them, with the old familiar poetry: Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/opinion/sunday/history-education-patriotic.html

Paris: The discovery of the unmarked graves brings us face to face with our suppressed history

Erna Paris’s book, Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, inspired the Canadian House of Commons motion to apologize, on behalf of the government, to survivors of Canadian residential schools

Good commentary, with an appropriate caution regarding erasing history.

Money quote:

“But history neither begins, nor ends. It is a cumulative record of people, events and changing ideas that cannot be buried. It can only be managed – with factual truth, contextual understanding and a commitment to change direction. This will be best accomplished by adding interpretative material to disputed monuments to enhance a layered comprehension of our country’s less-than-honourable past.

We are again reminded that the forced assimilation of devalued peoples will always fail, for humans cannot change their inner selves the way a snake sheds its skin. In his 2008 statement, former prime minister Stephen Harper said, “The apology today is founded upon … the recognition that we all own our own lives and destinies, the only true foundation for a society where peoples can flourish.””

Two Solitudes. That was the title of Hugh MacLennan’s famous 1945 book about the chasm between Quebec and the “Rest of Canada” – a fault line that has been negotiated continuously since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. But what if there were three solitudes all along, the third being the Indigenous nations that were suffering cultural decimation far below the radar of most Canadians? I was born and raised in Ontario and never heard, or read, a word about residential schools during close to two decades of schooling. Textbooks referenced the original Indian wars, but what happened to the Indigenous populations as the entity known as Canada emerged was obscured.

Over the past two decades, Canadians have gradually learned the fate of the 150,000 children who were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in residential schools run by often abusive religious authorities, mainly Catholic. The purpose of the schools was to forcibly assimilate the children by all means possible – language, dress, culture – and to be in breach of the rules was to court punishment. We now know that the children living in these 139 institutions were underfed, that many were subject to sexual assault, and that disease, neglect and abuse killed at least 6,000 of them.

On June 11, 2008, the government of Canada mounted a moving spectacle to apologize for the treatment Indigenous Canadians had received. The apology was meant to be a symbolic turning point. It even had a follow up: a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose primary goals were to acknowledge and record the residential school experience, including its consequences; to provide emotional support for individuals wishing to come forward with their stories; and to educate the Canadian public about this previously occulted history.

The broadcast sessions of the TRC were affecting. But there was a structural flaw: they included no accountability for what had occurred. The Stephen Harper government had carefully excluded legal culpability from the Commission’s formal mandate. The TRC would “not hold formal hearings, nor act as a public inquiry, nor conduct a formal legal process…”

What this meant was that the perpetrators – primarily the Catholic churches – were paradoxically allowed to behave like social workers, comforting the survivors as they completed their personal testimony. Yes, individual bishops had issued apologies, but the Catholic Church, the Vatican, had not, and no one was accountable. How much more compelling it would have been had Canadians been allowed to watch the upper echelons of the clergy testify about what they knew about gross breaches of human rights and possible criminal behaviour, even if the original perpetrators were dead? The Harper government may have rightly feared evidence that Canadian governments knew about these abuses and did nothing. It is to be noted that as early as 1907 a lawyer who conducted a review of the schools told Duncan Campbell Scott, then deputy superintendent-general of Indian Affairs, “Doing nothing to obviate the preventable causes of death brings the Department within unpleasant nearness to the charge of manslaughter.”

Fast forward to June, 2021, and more words of remorse by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A radar search had uncovered the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and it is widely assumed that there are thousands more elsewhere.

The discovery of the bodies of maltreated nameless children has unleashed a cascade of grief among Canadians, as though the truth of what was revealed at the TRC hearings has only now become visceral. The deaths of children abused and neglected by their caregivers touches a chord. That this continued for a century in our land of “peace, order, and good government” has elicited outrage that will be assuaged only by a process of accountability. A group of Canadian lawyers has already asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Vatican and the Canadian government for crimes against humanity. According to Asad Kiyani, assistant professor of law at the University of Victoria, there might also be grounds for domestic prosecutions for manslaughter.

In my own study of five countries that had to confront shame-producing historical truths, Canada may be unique. Unlike those who participated in authorized attacks on devalued minorities, or watched as bystanders, then struggled to create a narrative of who they were in light of what was done, Canadians were kept in the dark by successive governments that opted to efface history by means of isolated residential schools and sanitized text books. Today, there is little, if any, debate in this country about the need to make substantive amends. This does not absolve us from knowing that what was done to Indigenous children was done in our names, nor does it erase the reality of continuing racism – a prolongation of the 19th-century attitudes that produced the schools in the first place. There has been progress since the TRC issued its report in 2015, but in light of what we have recently learned, we must put pressure on government and the churches to provide all requested documentation to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Anything less than full disclosure will be seen as stonewalling.

Unsurprisingly, the question of what to do about monuments that honour those who initiated human rights abuses has intensified. A statue to the 19th-century educator, Egerton Ryerson, who helped create the residential school system and is the namesake of a Toronto university, was torn down earlier this week. Just days earlier, a picture circulated of a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald being carted away in Charlottetown, looking not unlike the French monarch, Louis XVI, in a tumbrel en route to the guillotine. There are persuasive arguments for removing the late Ryerson, although, to his credit, he was also known for promoting free education. But we, too, should be careful about excising history. Although he operated according to the repugnant “White Man’s Burden” ideology of his age, MacDonald was the lead figure in the creation of Canada and our first prime minister. To “remove” him is to reject the origins of a shared country. The French revolutionaries also believed they could sluice away history: they even devised a new calendar, starting with Year One. In our own day, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama fantasized that the Cold War victory of liberal democracy indicated “the end of history.”

But history neither begins, nor ends. It is a cumulative record of people, events and changing ideas that cannot be buried. It can only be managed – with factual truth, contextual understanding and a commitment to change direction. This will be best accomplished by adding interpretative material to disputed monuments to enhance a layered comprehension of our country’s less-than-honourable past.

We are again reminded that the forced assimilation of devalued peoples will always fail, for humans cannot change their inner selves the way a snake sheds its skin. In his 2008 statement, former prime minister Stephen Harper said, “The apology today is founded upon … the recognition that we all own our own lives and destinies, the only true foundation for a society where peoples can flourish.”

These were fine words, but words will no longer suffice.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-discovery-of-the-unmarked-graves-brings-us-face-to-face-with-our/

David Olusoga on race and reality: ‘My job is to be a historian. It’s not to make people feel good’

Thoughtful interview:

History’s purpose isn’t to comfort us, says David Olusoga, although many in the UK seem to think it is. “History doesn’t exist to make us feel good, special, exceptional or magical. History is just history. It is not there as a place of greater safety.”

As a historian and broadcaster, Olusoga has been battling this misconception for almost two decades, as the producer or presenter of TV series including Civilisations, The World’s War, A House Through Time and the Bafta-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners. His scholarship has been widely recognised: in 2019, he was awarded an OBE and made a professor at the University of Manchester. (He is also on the board of the Scott Trust, which owns Guardian Media Group.) Yet apologists for empire, in particular, like to dismiss him as a “woke historian” in an attempt to politicise his work or flatly deny the realities that he points out.

Now he can expect more flak, thanks to the new edition of his book Black and British: A Forgotten History.

First published in 2016, and made into a TV series the same year, the book charts black British history from the first meeting between the people of Britain and the people of Africa during the Roman period, to the racism Olusoga encountered during his own childhood, via Britain’s role in the slave trade and the scramble for Africa. It is a story that some of Olusoga’s critics would prefer was forgotten.

Hostility to his work has grown since the Brexit vote, shooting up “profoundly since last summer”, he says, speaking over Zoom from his office in Bristol. “It has now got to the point where some of the statements being made are so easily refutable, so verifiably and unquestionably false, that you have to presume that the people writing them know that. And that must lead you to another assumption, which is that they know that this is not true, but they have decided that these national myths are so important to them and their political projects, or their sense of who they are, that they don’t really care about the historical truths behind them.

“They have been able to convince people that their own history, being explored by their own historians and being investigated by their own children and grandchildren, is a threat to them.”

A recreation of the Empire Windrush at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012
‘You have to have a real tenure in the country to play your ancestors’ … a recreation of the Empire Windrush at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012. Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP

For Olusoga, 51, this hostility can in part be explained by ignorance. “If you were taught a history that the first black person to put his foot on English soil was stepping off the Windrush in 1948, then this can seem like a conspiracy,” he says.

But there is a deeper issue at play. “If you have been told a version of your history and that is part of your identity, it’s very difficult when people like me come along and say: ‘There are these chapters [that you need to know about].’ People feel – wrongly in my view – that their history is being undermined by my history. But my history isn’t a threat to your history. My history is part of your history.”

When the book was published in 2016, it ended on a hopeful note. Olusoga was writing just a few years after the London Olympics, in which a tantalising view of Britain emerged – a country at ease with its multiculturalism, nodding with pride to the arrival of the Windrush generation in 1948. Black Londoners dressed up as their ancestors for the opening ceremony, “with long, baggy suits, holding their suitcases”, says Olusoga. “You have to have a real tenure in the country to play your ancestors.” That moment, he says, was profoundly beautiful.

But that upbeat note has begun to feel inaccurate – an artefact of a more optimistic time. In the new edition of Black and British, which includes a chapter on the Windrush scandal and last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Olusoga describes that moment in 2012 as a mirage. The summer afterwards, vans bearing the message “Go home or face arrest” were driven around London as part of Theresa May’s notorious “hostile environment” strategy, aiming to make the UK inhospitable for undocumented migrants. Thousands of people who had lived legally in the UK for decades, often people who had arrived from the Caribbean as children, were suddenly targeted for deportation.

In 2020, protesters in more than 260 British towns and cities took part in BLM protests, thought to be the most widespread anti-racist movement since the abolition of the slave trade. A statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol; a Guardian analysis suggests about 70 monuments to slavers and colonialists have been removed, or are in the process of being removed, across the UK.

But this movement for racial justice has been met with a severe backlash. In January, Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, said he would introduce laws to protect statues from what he called “baying mobs”. The government’s recent review on racial equality concluded controversially that there was no institutional racism in areas including policing, health and education, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

“I’m really frightened about the future of this country, and frightened about people using forces of race and racism for electoral reasons and not being cognisant about how difficult it is to control those forces after elections have been counted,” says Olusoga. “I’m really frightened about the extent to which people are able to entirely dehumanise people who they deem to be their enemies in this culture war.”


Olusoga was born in Lagos in 1970, to a white British mother and a Nigerian father, moving to his mother’s home town, Gateshead, at an early age. As one of a handful of mixed-race families on the council estate where they lived, they were regularly terrorised by the far right. The violence culminated in a brick being thrown into the family’s home, wrapped in a note demanding they be sent “back”. He was 14. Eventually, the family had to be rehoused.

His early experience of education was also distressing. “I experienced racism from teachers in ways that are shocking if I tell them to young people at school now,” says Olusoga. He was dyslexic, but the school refused to get him tested until he did his GCSEs: “It was the easier story to believe that this kid was stupid because all black kids are stupid.” When he finally got his diagnosis and support – thanks in large part to his mother’s fierce determination – Olusoga went to study history at the University of Liverpool, followed by a master’s degree at Leicester.

Olusoga was confident about having two identities, despite the prejudice he had encountered. He was proud of being a black Nigerian of Yoruba heritage and was perfectly happy being part of his mother’s white working-class geordie tradition. But he has always had a third identity.

“I’m also black British – and that had no history, no recognition. It was presented as impossible – a dualism that couldn’t exist, because whiteness and Britishness were the same thing when I was growing up. So, to discover that there was a history of being black and British, independent from being half white working-class and being half black Nigerian, that was what was critically important to me,” he says. His book does its best to uncover that history, exploring the considerable presence of black people in Britain in the age of slavery, as well as the part played by black Britons in both world wars.

He says that some of the aggression shown towards black historians who write honestly about Britain’s past comes from people who think “this history is important because it gives black people the right to be here”. They hold on to the belief that the UK was a “white country” until the past few decades and refuse to accept evidence that shows the presence of black people goes back centuries. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand what drives him and also why this history is important for black people.

“I don’t feel challenged in my right to be proud to be British,” he says. “I’m perfectly comfortable in my identity. I’ve looked at this history because it’s just exciting to be part of a long story. This comes out of wanting to enrich life, not seeking some sort of needy validation of who I am.”

He found it refreshing to see the UK’s history of empire and colonialism acknowledged in last summer’s anti-racist placards, with one popular slogan stating “The UK is not innocent”. “A generation has emerged that doesn’t need history to perform that role of comfort that its parents and grandparents did,” he says.

As for black people’s experiences in Britain, he says, there is a “hysterical” level of anger if you point out that many have lived in some form of slavery or unfreedom. Recently, historians have uncovered notices of runaway enslaved people or advertisements for their sale. This adds to the evidence that thousands of black people were brought to Britain, enslaved as well as free.

“It brings slavery to Britain and therefore undermines the idea that it doesn’t really matter because it happened ‘over there’,” says Olusoga. “It short-circuits an idea of British exceptionalism. And there are a lot of people for whom that idea of exceptionalism is a part of how they see themselves. I’m really sorry that the stuff I do and that other people do is a challenge to that, but my job is to be a historian. It’s not to make people feel good.”

Olusoga is often accused of pursuing a political agenda. He is asked, for instance, why he doesn’t speak about the Barbary slave trade of the 16th to 18th centuries, in which Europeans were captured and traded by north African pirates. He has a simple response: that he has been trying to get a programme made about it for his entire career and it is finally happening.

He gives another example: “I have been accused literally hundreds of times of ignoring the slavery suppression squadron that the Royal Navy created after 1807.” Its task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of west Africa. “I think the chapter in Black and British about that is 30,000 words, which is as long as some books.”

What his more extreme critics fail to understand, he adds, is that he is loyal to history and not a political agent. He remains committed to one goal: to uncover the stories of those who have long been deemed unimportant. When he wrote his first book on the 1904-08 Namibian genocide, he went to mass graves where he saw bones sticking out of the ground. “We promised the victims of that genocide that we would be their voice, we would fight for them and we would tell their story – and we use every skill we have to do that.

“I care deeply about people who were mistreated in the past. I care about the names on slave ledgers, I care about the bones of people in Africa, in mass graves in the first world war and in riverbeds in Namibia. I care about them. I think about them when I read the letters, when I look at their photographs and their faces. No one gave a damn about them. That’s my job – to care about them. And I will be ruthless in fighting for them.”

Source: David Olusoga on race and reality: ‘My job is to be a historian. It’s not to make people feel good’

In Fight Over 1619 Project and Nikole Hannah-Jones, White Ignorance Has Been Bliss—and Power

Of note, particularly the historical reminders and context:

Hell hath no fury like a white conservative confronted with the unvarnished history of slavery and racism in America.

For nearly two solid years, right-wing reactionaries have been apoplectic over the 1619 Project, a journalistic exploration of the indelible impact of Black enslavement on these United States put together by New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The same angry mob has also attacked a heretofore obscure, four-decades-old analytical methodology for understanding the institutionalism of white supremacy and anti-Black racism called Critical Race Theory.

The white conservative rage has been prolific, producing two House bills seeking to ban CRT and other “anti-American and racist theories” along with legislation in about a dozen states. The Trump administration put out its own 1776 Report, meant to “correct” the 1619 Project—which the American Historical Association called “simplistic” and full of “falsehoods, inaccuracies, omissions, and misleading statements.” Now the mob is vilifying Pulitzer Prize-winner Hannah-Jones, getting the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to cravenly retract a tenured position offer, replacing it with a five-year professor of practice contract.

All of these efforts obviously aim to re-center the white supremacist historical fable that roughly 350 years of slavery and Jim Crow were unfortunate—but inconsequential—events in an America of full equality of opportunity, where any difference between the races could only be a result of Black laziness and white superiority. That fairy tale speaks volumes about how desperately reliant white supremacy is on maintaining white ignorance. You just can’t have one without the other. It’s that embrace of ignorance that lets these racists ignore the long tradition of mandated white ignorance they’re now trying to extend into the future.

“White ignorance,” according to NYU philosopher Charles W. Mills, is an “inverted epistemology,” a deep dedication to and investment in non-knowingthat explains white supremacy’s highly curatorial (and often oppositional) approach to memory, history and the truth. While white ignorance is related to the anti-intellectualism that defines the white Republican brand, it should be regarded as yet more specific. According to Mills, white ignorance demands a purposeful misunderstanding of reality—both present and historical—and then treats that fictitious world-view as the singular, de-politicized, unbiased, “objective” truth. “One has to learn to see the world wrongly,” under the terms of white ignorance, Mills writes, “but with the assurance that this set of mistaken perceptions will be validated by white epistemic authority.”

To challenge that epistemic authority with uncomfortable but verifiable facts about race and racism guarantees the wrath of those who are otherwise quick to claim “facts don’t care about your feelings.” The 1619 Project has required tweaks and corrections. But the wholesale discounting of the initiative by white conservatives, who ignored the sloppy, error-filled 1776 Report, is more than a classic display of hypocrisy. It’s a testament to how deeply critical white ignorance is to white supremacy.

In reality—not the manicured “reality” of white supremacist historical delusion, but bonafide existence—historical fact has always hurt the feelings of white supremacists. In response, they have consistently used self-serving lies of omission to make themselves feel better. Were they less averse to historical truth, today’s white conservatives might already know this.

They’d perhaps be aware that the United Daughters of the Confederacy—the white Southern ladies group that put up most Confederate monuments, including one explicitly lauding the Ku Klux Klan—released a 1919 manifesto in all but name demanding “all authorities charged with the selection of textbooks for colleges, schools and all scholastic institutions” across the South only accept books depicting the Confederacy glowingly. Conversely, those books that correctly identified Confederate soldiers as traitors or rebels, rightly located slavery as the central cause of the Civil War, depicted the figure of the “slaveholder as cruel or unjust to his slaves,” or “glories Lincoln and vilifies Jefferson Davis,” were to be rejected. The UDC ordered school librarians to deface books that were insufficiently praiseful of the Confederacy by scrawling “Unjust to the South” on the title page. Well into the 1970s, these rules dictated the history lessons taught to Southern children, both Black and white. The group’s rewriting of history to make slavery benign, Black resistance invisible, and white terror no biggie—also known as the ahistorical Lost Cause myth—is being re-engineered for this moment.

Modern complaints about so-called “cancel culture” and political correctness are also linked to white ignorance, allowing the know-nothings who wield it to deny the harms of whiteness while turning themselves into victims of overly aggressive Black declarations of personhood. Across the 1940s and ’50s, the NAACP campaigned to purge racist language from history books, targeting passages that extolled the KKK and references to enslaved Black folks as happy “Sambos.” In response, the Washington Post dismissed their concerns as “humorless touchiness,” an old-timey way of calling them snowflakes. One WaPo editorial stated that to “insist that Negroes be given equal rights with other citizens is one thing. To insist that their particular sensibilities entitle them to exercise a kind of censorship is quite another.”

It took the longest student strike in U.S. history, held in 1968 at San Francisco State College, to finally get collegiate ethnic studies, which have been under attack ever since. To wit, in 2010, Arizona legally banned Mexican American Studies until a judge forced the state to overturn the unconstitutional policy, while the perennial fight over textbook history in Texas led to textbooks that in 2015 featured a section titled “Patterns of Immigration,” stating “the Atlantic slave trade from the 1500s to the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” In addition to a bill to prohibit the teaching of the 1619 Project currently making its way through the Texas legislature, conservatives in the state are trying to ensure minimal mention of slavery or anti-Mexican discrimination in textbooks and pushing legislation to create an 1836 Project to “promote patriotic education.”

“Do you want our Texas kids to be taught that the system of government in the United States and Texas is nothing but a cover-up for white supremacy?” State legislator Steve Toth reportedly asked his Congressional colleagues.

And here, Toth is doing what white conservatives actually do with surprising frequency, which is screaming the supposedly quiet part. It’s an admission that by merely telling the whole story and including all the facts, the long and carefully maintained narrative of white innocence—a kind of perpetual white alibi—is disrupted. White ignorance is basically just a “refusal to recognize the long history of structural discrimination that has left whites with the differential resources they have today” creating a fake “equal status and a common history in which all have shared, with white privilege being conceptually erased.” The intentional know-nothingness of white ignorance “serves to neutralize demands for antidiscrimination initiatives or for a redistribution of resources.” Instead, it holds that “the real racists are the Blacks who continue to insist on the importance of race.”

So we have Florida Gov. Ron Desantis declaring the 1619 Project is “basically teaching kids to hate our country and to hate each other based on race,” and Tom Cotton, who performatively introduced a bill last year to ban the 1619 Project in schools, complaining the initiative paints the U.S. as “a systemically racist country” instead of “a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal.” Earlier this month, during a press conference for the Stop Critical Race Theory Act, co-sponsor Dan Bishop called the academic theory “a smokescreen for racism” and a “divisive ideology that threatens to poison the American psyche.” Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who of course was also there added, “These are the things that we overcame in the civil rights era and I’m so proud that we did.”

White conservatives only get real into anti-racism lip service when the reality of white racism threatens to blow up their spot. That’s surely why in April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona labeling the 1619 Project “activist indoctrination that fixates solely on past flaws and splits our nation into divided camps.”

“My view—and I think most Americans think—dates like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Civil War are sort of the basic tenets of American history,” McConnell said in remarks earlier this month. “There are a lot of exotic notions about what are the most important points in American history. I simply disagree with the notion that the New York Times laid out there that the year was one of those years. I think that issue that we all are concerned about—racial discrimination—it was our original sin. We’ve been working for 200-and-some-odd years to get past it. We’re still working on it, and I just simply don’t think that’s part of the core underpinning of what American civic education ought to be about.”

That sure is a long-winded way of advising folks to stick to the white supremacist storyline. McConnell is unwittingly offering an example of how, as Charles Eagles writes, “the powerful can make decisions that actually “strive for a goal of stupidity,” rather than for genuine education. Under the guise of protecting children, imposing an engineered ignorance protects the privileged by preserving the status quo and by releasing leaders from responsibility… Too much knowledge could lead to troubling questions and a loss of control of the classroom, and the elite feared the unknown results.”

The price for not adhering to those rules is that white conservatives (give it up for The Real Kings of Cancel Culture, everybody!) will do all they can to have you blackballed, legally banned, discredited and defamed. Jay Schalin, of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, a right-wing think tank that led the charge against Hannah-Jones, maligned the 1619 Project as mere “political agitation”—inadvertently suggesting he already knows the horrors of American slavery and racism are reasons to be furious. Schalin and his co-conspirators, to protect white ignorance, went after Hannah-Jones. It all brings to mind yet more ignored history, cited by Mills, about how the terms of enslavement included that “Blacks were generally denied the right to testify against whites, because they were not seen as credible witnesses, so when the only (willing) witnesses to white crimes were Black, these crimes would not be brought to light… Moreover, in many cases, even if witnesses would have been given some kind of grudging hearing, they were terrorized into silence by the fear of white retaliation.”

Silence was the end goal then, and it’s the goal now, as a means of preserving white ignorance—which is to say plausible deniability. But the work of Hannah-Jones and folks like Kimberlé Crenshaw, an architect of CRT (and so much more) are undoing myths that are difficult to perfectly assemble without the cracks showing.

“If Black testimony could be aprioristically rejected because it was likely to be false,” Mills notes, “it could also be aprioristically rejected because it was likely to be true.”

Source: In Fight Over 1619 Project and Nikole Hannah-Jones, White Ignorance Has Been Bliss—and Power

Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

Useful historical reminder:

The pandemic has been responsible for an outbreak of violence and hate directed against Asians around the world, blaming them for the spread of COVID-19. During this surge in attacks, the perpetrators have made their motives clear, taunting their victims with declarations like, “You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China!” and assaulting them and spitting on them.

The numbers over the past year in the U.S. alone are alarming. As NPR has reported, nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians have been reported just in the past year to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

Then came mass shooting in Atlanta last week, which took the lives of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The shooter’s motive has not been determined, but the incident has spawned a deeper discourse on racism and violence targeting Asians in the wake of the coronavirus.

This narrative – that “others,” often from far-flung places, are to blame for epidemics – is a dramatic example of a long tradition of hatred. In 14th-century Europe, Jewish communities were wrongfully accused of poisoning wells to spread the Black Death. In 1900, Chinese people were unfairly vilified for an outbreak of the plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And in the ’80s, Haitians were blamed for bringing HIV/AIDS to the U.S., a theory that’s considered unsubstantiated by many global health experts.

Some public health practitioners say the global health system is partially responsible for perpetuating these ideas.

According to Abraar Karan, a doctor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the notion persists in global health that “the West is the best.” This led to an assumption early on in the pandemic that COVID-19 spread to the rest of the world because China wasn’t able to control it.

“The other side of that assumption is, ‘Had this started anywhere else, like in the U.S. or the U.K. or Europe, somehow it would’ve been better controlled, and a pandemic wouldn’t have happened,'” says Karan, who was born in India and raised in the U.S. He has been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to respond to COVID-19.

China’s response was not without fault. The government’s decision to silence doctors and not warn the public about a likely pandemic for six days in mid-January caused more than 3,000 people to become infected within a week, according to a report by the Associated Press, and created ripe conditions for global spread. Some of the aggressive measures China took to control the epidemic – confining people to their homes, for example — have been described as “draconian” and a violation of civil rights, even if they ultimately proved effective.

But it soon became clear that assumptions about the superiority of Western health systems were false when China and other Asian countries, along with many African countries, controlled outbreaks far more effectively and faster than Western countries did, says Karan.

The Twitter Blame Game And Its Repercussions

Some politicians, including former President Donald Trump publicly blamed China for the pandemic, calling this novel coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” They consistently pushed that narrative even after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned as early as March 2020, when the pandemic was declared, that such language would encourage racial profiling and stigmatization against Asians. Trump has continued to use stigmatizing language in the wake of the Atlanta shooting, using the phrase “China virus” during a March 16 call to Fox News.

A report by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), released this month, directly linked Trump’s first tweet about a “Chinese virus” to a significant increase in anti-Asian hashtags. According to a separate report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 U.S. cities increased 149 percent in 2020, from 49 to 122.

“Diseases have often been racialized in the past as a form of scapegoating,” says Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and lead author of the study on Trump’s tweet. Sometimes, it’s to distract from other events that are occurring within a society, such as the early failures of the U.S. response to the pandemic, says Hswen.

Suspicion tends to manifest more during times of vulnerability, like in wartime or during a pandemic, says ElsaMarie D’Silva, an Aspen Institute New Voices fellow from India who studies violence and harassment issues. It just so happened that COVID-19 was originally identified in China, but, as NPR’s Jason Beaubien has reported, some of the early clusters of cases elsewhere came from jet setters who traveled to Europe and ski destinations.

“What you’re seeing in the U.S. is this pre-existing, deep-seated bias [against Asians and Asian Americans] – or rather, racism – that is now surfacing,” says D’Silva. “COVID-19 is just an excuse.”

A Racist History In Global Health

For Karan, though, the problem lies deeper — with the colonialist history of global health systems.

“It’s not that the biases are necessarily birthed from global health researchers,” he says. “It’s more that global health researchers are birthed from institutions and cultures that are inherently xenophobic and racist.”

For example, the West is usually regarded as the hub of expertise and knowledge, says Sriram Shamasunder, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF, and there’s a sense among Western health workers that epidemics occur in impoverished contexts because the people there engage in primitive behaviors and just don’t care as much about health.

“[Western health workers] come in with a bias that in San Francisco or Boston, we would never let [these crises] happen,” says Shamasunder, who is co-founder and faculty director of the HEAL Initiative, a global health fellowship that works in Navajo Nation in the U.S. and in eight other countries.

In the early days of COVID-19, skepticism by Western public health officials about the efficacy of Asian mask protocols hindered the U.S.’s ability to control the pandemic. Additionally, stereotypes about who was and wasn’t at risk had significant consequences, says Nancy Kass, deputy director for public health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

According to Kass, doctors initially only considered a possible COVID-19 diagnosis among people who had recently flown back from China. That narrow focus caused the U.S. to misdiagnose patients who presented with what we now call classic COVID symptoms simply because they hadn’t traveled from China.

“Inadvertently, we [did] a disservice both to patients who need[ed] care and to public health,” says Kass.

It’s reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Kass says. Because itwas so widely billed as a “gay disease,” there are many documented cases of heterosexual women who presented with symptoms but weren’t diagnosed until they were on their deathbeds.

That’s not to say that we should ignore facts and patterns about new diseases. For example, Kass says it’s appropriate to warn pregnant women about the risks of traveling to countries where the Zika virus, which is linked to birth and developmental defects, is present.

But there’s a difference, she says, between making sure people have enough information to understand a disease and attaching a label, like “Chinese virus,” that is inaccurate and that leads to stereotyping.

Karan says we also need to shift our approach to epidemics. In the case of COVID-19 and other outbreaks, Western countries often think of them as a national security issue, closing borders and blaming the countries where the disease was first reported. This approach encourages stigmatization, he says.

Instead, Karan suggests reframing the discussion to focus on global solidarity, which promotes the idea that we are all in this together. One way for wealthy countries to demonstrate solidarity now, Karan says, is by supporting the equitable and speedy distribution of vaccines among countries globally as well as among communities within their own borders.

Without such commitments in place, “it prompts the question, whose lives matter most?” says Shamasunder.

Ultimately, the global health community – and Western society as a whole – has to discard its deep-rooted mindset of coloniality and tendency to scapegoat others, says Hswen. The public health community can start by talking more about the historic racism and atrocities that have been tied to diseases.

Additionally, Karan says, leaders should reframe the pandemic for people: Instead of blaming Asians for the virus, blame the systems that weren’t adequately prepared to respond to a pandemic.

Although WHO has had specific guidance since 2015 about not naming diseases after places, Hswen says the public health community at large should have spoken out earlier and stronger last year against racialized language and the ensuing violence. She says they should have anticipated the backlash against Asians and preempted it with public messaging and education about why neutral terms like “COVID-19” should be used instead of “Chinese virus.”

“Public health people know there is a history of racializing diseases and targeting particular groups,” says Hswen. “They could have done more to defend the Asian community.”

Source: Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

Gal Gadot as Cleopatra in new movie about Egyptian queen is causing misplaced outrage

Always useful to have historical and social context, rather than contemporary reflexes only:

I was happy for two reasons when I heard earlier this week that Israeli actress Gal Gadot had been tapped to play Cleopatra in her latest Hollywood incarnation. First, she’s a star who could help popularize the legendary queen in a rare female-directed blockbuster. Second, like myself and Cleopatra, she’s from the Middle East. I celebrated this fact with my partner, a fellow Middle Easterner from Lebanon and Turkey, who was excited in the same spirit of regional solidarity.

Claims that the casting was another example of “whitewashing” had an amusing side to them since no one seemed to agree on what exactly the acceptable ethnic origin for the actress playing Cleopatra is.

But we knew controversy was soon to follow given the demands of the current social climate that roles only be played by a person of the same ethnicity as the character. In this case, though, claims that the casting was another example of “whitewashing” had an amusing side to them, since no one seemed to agree on what exactly the acceptable ethnic origin for the actress playing Cleopatra is: North African, African, Arab and Egyptian were suggested. In other words, anybody from the region except Jewish Israelis.

The controversy shows a misunderstanding of history and an unfortunate persistence of racialized thinking about both Gadot and Cleopatra, two women born some 2,000 years apart in two relatively close parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. The fact that neither one’s background can be easily distilled shows why it’s wrong to insist that artists fit rigid identity boxes to qualify for a role and to treat historical figures as markers in our modern-day divides, rather than celebrating individuals for their talents and civilizations for their diversity. To do otherwise denies humanity its rich multicultural heritage.

“Was Cleopatra white?” is an essentially meaningless question since categories and morphologies of race in the United States of 2020 are not those of 1st century B.C. Egypt. And they are particularly inappropriate given that Cleopatra and the region she dwelled in were defined by a breathtaking array of cultural mixing — something the critics of her casting would do well to remember.

When Cleopatra was born in 69 B.C., her birthplace of Alexandria was the capital of Egypt’s Ptolemaic Kingdom. Though located on the southern side of the Mediterranean, the ruling monarchy was rather conscious of its Greek origins and wanted to maintain that cultural status; intermarriage with the native Egyptians was forbidden in Alexandria and other cities, although this wasn’t always observed.

The kingdom was part of the effervescent Hellenistic Eastern Mediterranean in which Cleopatra’s mother tongue, Koine Greek (the standardized dialect of Athens), was the lingua franca for the exchange of goods and ideas. The dynasty she was born into had been founded about two centuries earlier by its namesake Ptolemy, a companion of Alexander the Great whose conquests from Egypt to India laid the foundations of the Hellenistic world. The kingdom’s diverse people included Egyptians, Nubians, Syrians, Celts and Jews, some of whom would occasionally be granted the coveted status of Greek elites.

On her father’s side, Cleopatra was an eighth-generation descendant of Ptolemy. The identity of her mother has never been verified, giving rise to speculations that she might have been a native Egyptian or perhaps had some Iranian or Syrian heritage.

Either way, the debate over her DNA misses the much more interesting part of Cleopatra’s biography and the mix of worlds she encompassed by nurture if not nature. Although she had been born into an Alexandria with segregation between the ruling Greeks, native Egyptians and other ethnic groups such as Jews, her own outlook defied this rigid separation.

When Cleopatra came to the throne jointly with her brother in her late teens, Cleopatra became the first-ever Ptolemaic ruler to fluently learn the local Egyptian tongue. (The language is now extinct, but a form of it was spoken until around the 16th century and is now preserved as the liturgical language of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.)

Cleopatra also dressed and styled herself like an Egyptian, elevated Egyptian religious practices and identified herself with the Egyptian goddess Isis. If we are to believe the tall tales of her first-century Roman biographer Plutarch, she not only possessed an “irresistible charm” but spoke fluent Ethiopian, Arabic, Syriac, Parthian and Hebrew (one thing in common with Gadot, at least.) This probably exaggerated multilingualism wasn’t due to linguaphilia but her self-nativization attempts to help spread her authority in the region, challenged as it was by the might of Rome.

Ironically, her origins were the subject of conversation then, too. Her Roman opponents inflicted racist scorn on her, with Roman ruler Augustus deriding her as an “Eastern courtesan” and Latin poets Horace and Virgil speaking of her as a conniving “oriental.”

The black-and-white thinking that confines Cleopatra and Gadot to racial boxes ignores the complexities of human commonality and community. Gadot can indeed be a white-passing actor in the U.S. while also being a fellow Middle Easterner to Iranians like me, despite the unfortunate conflicts that pit our nations against each other. Someone who celebrates her origins from a “small country in the Middle East,” Gadot is certainly as fit as anyone to play Cleopatra — their hometowns are only a half-day’s drive away, after all.

The knee-jerk anxiety about unmatched ethnicities of actors and characters is understandable. The history of cinema is full of hurtful portrayals by white actors, ranging from the gruesome blackface donned by Al Jolson in the landmark sound film “The Jazz Singer” to Mickey Rooney’s infamous Mr. Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to Alec Guinness’ anti-Semitic Fagin in “Oliver Twist.” But the problem with these portrayals is their demeaning caricaturization — something that no one expects in the coming Cleopatra film.

Meanwhile, if we are to truly expand representation on screen, maybe we can look at some other ancient female leaders? How about a film on the 2nd century B.C. Nubian Queen Shanakdakhete, who reigned in today’s Sudan? Or a biopic on the 1st century A.D.’s Musa? Believed to be he first woman to have ever ruled Iran, she was originally an Italian slave gifted to the Parthian monarch of Iran by Augustus, the very tyrant who defeated Cleopatra. Maybe we can fictionalize history and watch her rise and take revenge for Cleopatra? I’d watch Iranians and Italians fight over who gets to play her any day.

Source: Gal Gadot as Cleopatra in new movie about Egyptian queen is causing misplaced outrage

Three contrasting narratives regarding statues of Sir John A and other historical figures

Three contrasting narratives: the first by Martin Regg-Cohn, of the Star (keep most statues but provide historical and social context), the second by Erica Ifill in the Globe (tear them down, lacking perspective) and the third, by Tom XXX in The Tyee, (focus on building monuments and statues to commemorate Indigenous history). In Hegelian terms, think thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

Focussing on the symbolic, while important, can divert attention away from the long and difficult tasks of improving conditions for Indigenous peoples and can be seen as one form of virtue signalling. If there were easy and simple solutions, we wouldn’t be in this space now.

Starting with Regg-Cohn:

The tug of war over public statues keeps exposing our blind spots — not just our blinkered view of history, but of democracy in all its complexity.

Sir John A. Macdonald is merely the latest historical figure to be pulled down and covered up, his head lopped off or layered with painted graffiti. Protestors in Montreal toppled our founding prime minister last weekend, and Macdonald’s visage is visible no more at Queen’s Park — protected and padlocked in a massive wooden shell after demonstrators hurled paint at his statue this summer.

Unpopular statues, like unpopular governments, ought not to be toppled in a democracy — just put in their place, placed in context, or put in storage.

Controversies over politicians of the past — like those of the present — are as old as history itself, and rarely as simple as they appear on protest placards. How we deal with them, how we heal over them, also matters in the crusade to right historical wrongs.

Sometimes the decision is obvious — like removing Confederate statues that celebrate those who lost the civil war but still succeeded in keeping Blacks down. More often it’s complicated.

Shall we remove the monument to Mahatma Gandhi at Carleton University, given latter-day criticisms of the Indian independence leader for harbouring anti-Black views? What about the monument in Toronto’s Riverdale Park to Sun Yat-sen, the revered leader who brought China into the modern era?

“Other monuments, such as to Sir Winston Churchill, to Sun Yat-sen, have also been called into question,” Wayne Reeves, chief curator of Toronto’s culture division, told the city’s Aboriginal affairs advisory committee last month.

Which raises the question of who decides. Protestors deserve to be heard but not automatically heeded. A representative democracy defined by pluralism, mindful of minority rights and majority sentiments, requires consultation and conciliation, debate and deliberation.

A statue of Edward Cornwallis, founder of Halifax was a festering sore given his infamous Scalping Proclamation of 1749 offering a bounty for any Mi’kmaq adult or child. Ultimately, the statue was removed when elected representatives took a vote in 2018 (they voted again last month to erase his name from city streets and relocate the statue in a new museum of Mi’kmaq history).

That may not be as satisfying as spray painting, or as gratifying as graffiti. But the decision is more enduring.

The controversy over Macdonald is complicated — and in many ways intertwined with the debate over Egerton Ryerson, whose statue at Ryerson University was covered in pink paint by the same protestors this summer. As one scholar looking into Ryerson’s relationship with residential schools noted, his name is “incorrectly linked to the ‘architect’ label;” instead, wrote Sean Carleton, “Macdonald must be understood as its architect.”

(Full disclosure: as a visiting practitioner at Ryerson’s Faculty of Arts, I walk by his statue on campus; I see his visage again inside the legislature when I walk by the Ryerson bust perched just outside NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s office).

Perhaps that’s why Ryerson University added a plaque in 2018 introducing more context: “As Chief Superintendent of Education, Ryerson’s recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian Residential School System,” it reads.

That he also pioneered the modernization of Ontario’s educational system remains beyond dispute. The question is how to reconcile conflicting legacies for people like Ryerson, Macdonald, Churchill, Gandhi, and others.

At Queen’s Park, Macdonald lies boarded up. What’s interesting is that few other statues, such as one honouring Queen Victoria — who presided over so much of our complicated colonial history — get much attention.

A few steps away, a monument honours the “memory of the officers and men who fell on the battlefields of the North-West in 1885,” which surely invites historical context and Indigenous input. The previous speaker of the legislature, Dave Levac, campaigned for years to erect a new to monument to the Métis leader Louis Riel, who led the Northwest Rebellion and was later executed during Macdonald’s time as PM.

Surely the answer to our complicated historical record is to clarify and contextualize it, rather than censor it — which is why the recent addition of anonymous historical plaques adding context to some of Toronto’s most problematic landmarks and street names is so interesting and educational. Far better to fill in the gaps of history rather than create new historical vacuums in a country where few of us have taken the time to learn it.

“The problem I have with the overall approach to tearing down statues and buildings is that is counterproductive,” said Sen. Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating the Residential Schools disaster. “We are trying to create more balance in the relationship.”

That’s similar to the approach taken by Nelson Mandela, who launched a pioneering truth and reconciliation commission when he became the first president of post-apartheid South Africa. As president, he avoided reflexively razing the statues of his racist predecessors, opting for a more deliberative approach (some came down, others remained).

Mandela, like Gandhi, understood the frailty and flaws of all humans, not least our leaders. Let he who is without sin cast the first bronze.

Ifill:
In a classic example of what the late John Lewis called “good trouble,”Montreal demonstrators removed the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from a public space without injury at a protest to defund the police last Saturday. And the outrage from the white Canadian men in whose image Canadian history is taught was swift.

But context has been missing from so many pearl-clutching responses. In this second civil rights movement, where Black Lives Matter has brought global attention to police violence and death wrought on Black people, the traditional framing of criminality is being challenged. Even our current Prime Minister has engaged in at least the pageantry of it; just months earlier, Justin Trudeau attended an anti-police brutality march in Ottawa, going so far as to take a knee reminiscent of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s years-long protest over the same issue.

Fast forward to his response to the statue toppling, and his tone has changed. Much like his reaction to the protests in support of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Mr. Trudeau has morphed from white ally to condescending white settler colonialist. “We are a country of laws, and we are a country that needs to respect those laws even as we seek to improve and change them,” he said on Monday. “Those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country.”

With allyship like this, who needs enemies?

In doing this, Mr. Trudeau was eager to show off his law-and-order bona fides. But if he is still seeking to advance “greater justice and equality,” he undermines his own allegedly progressive message by vaunting the very laws that underpin many of the problems being protested – including laws Macdonald helped establish at the start of Confederation. (And imagine having the temerity to scold Canadians about respecting the law after proroguing Parliament to avoid judgement from those same laws, in your second ethics scandal in as many years.)

It’s not as if this issue came out of nowhere for Mr. Trudeau, either. The removal of monuments exalting the father of Confederation has been in the national discourse for years. However, Canadians like to engage in the vanity exercise of cherry-picking the history we’re comfortable with, leaving out the icky bits that don’t uphold our worldview of being “good people.” The reality, though, is that Canada’s first prime minister was an oppressive colonist whose deployment of state violence was instrumental in the formation of the nation. These aren’t “mistakes made by previous generations who built this country,”as Mr. Trudeau falsely characterized them; rather, this was a man who committed real atrocities that formed and informed how the Canadian state interacts with Black, Indigenous and people of colour, to this day.

Here are just a few achievements on his résumé: The creation of the federal residential school system, which was used as a form of genocide against Indigenous peoples; the creation of the pass system, a program of social control requiring Indigenous people to attain permission to leave the reserve (and which was then exported to South Africa, where it was used to control Black South Africans during apartheid); the execution of Louis Riel; a starvation policy to clear Indigenous people off their lands and make way for the Canadian Pacific Railway; the largest mass execution in Canadian history, when eight Indigenous men fighting that starvation policy were hanged in what is known as the Frog Lake Massacre; the implementation of the Chinese Head Tax; and the passage of the Electoral Franchise Act, which denied Black and Indigenous people the vote.

Those same racialized groups targeted by MacDonald in the formation and dominion of Canada continue to be the targets of systemic racism and oppression today.

Ignoring inconvenient truths makes for bad leadership. And the paucity of leadership from Mr. Trudeau is evident, or else there wouldn’t have needed to be a protest in Montreal in the first place. Five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, we are still waiting on this government to implement its recommendations. Nearly three months after Mr. Trudeau took the knee, we are no closer to systemic reforms, despite the credible plans on the table. And in June, the Parliamentary Black Caucus called on the federal government to dedicate real resources toward ending anti-Black systemic racism: “This is not a time for further discussion – the Afro-Canadian community has spoken for many years and is no longer interested in continued consultation or study. Extensive reports and serious proposals already exist.” That call appears to have gone unheeded.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, his ability to deliver on promises of transformational change has long been in dispute. Now, he has condemned protesters on the destruction of property more than he has the RCMP, for the gratuitous violence against Black and Indigenous people.

The time for double-talk is over. The time for action is now – and it’s not being well used in defending Canadian history’s leading man.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-in-rebuking-john-a-macdonald-protesters-trudeau-undermines-his-own/

Lastly, and I think most useful, Tom McMahon:

Every so often, the removal of a statue or place name causes a minor media moment in Canada. Like this weekend, when protesters in Montreal pulled down a statue of the country’s first prime minister, the notorious racist John A. Macdonald, and beheaded him.

The media dove in. “Trudeau ‘deeply disappointed’ after demonstrators topple John A. Macdonald statue” read one headline. The prime minister’s thoughts on this “act of vandalism” filled papers across the country.

Rarely does news coverage of such stories place the topic of statues in a broader context. And political parties are usually completely silent about it too.

What is the broader context? It’s that while we can seemingly talk forever about whether a statue or place name should exist, we never seem able to discuss what does not exist. And why that might be.

What doesn’t exist in Canada, for the most part, are statues and monuments highlighting great Indigenous leaders, or highlighting exactly which Indigenous groups live in a particular place and their contributions to Canadian life. What doesn’t exist is any effort to create these monuments.

Justin Trudeau is deeply disappointed that a headless John A. Macdonald was put on the ground? Well, I’m disappointed that Trudeau has not lived up to his promise to implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Specifically, Call to Action #81:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with [Residential School] Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools National Monument in the city of Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

I see that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, responsible for Parks Canada, has announced that the residential school system is an event of national historical significance and that two residential school buildings in relatively remote, unpopulated areas will be designated national historic sites.

Not in the capital cities. Not particularly publicly accessible or highly visible.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney volunteered to bring the statue of the headless racist to his province. But who will ask Kenney what he is doing to implement TRC Call to Action #82?

We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

In Winnipeg, we have a monument to the Holodomor in the Ukraine in front of our city hall. A monument to the Winnipeg Rifles who were sent to put down the Riel Rebellion in Saskatchewan in 1885 is across the street.

Or for a more exhaustive example, look at Manitoba. On its legislative grounds alone you’ll find a massive monument to Queen Victoria and a smaller one to Queen Elizabeth II; one for General Wolfe who led England’s takeover of New France from France; two to Lord Douglas, to whom the London governing committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company gave a huge grant of land to settle Scots in Manitoba; one to Scottish poet Robert Burns; one to the Sieur de La Verendrye, the first European to travel to Manitoba from Lake Superior; one to Father Ritchot, Louis Riel, Marc-Amable Girard and John Norquay as early Manitobans who got the province included in Canada through the Manitoba Act (and a monument to George-Étienne Cartier who worked with them); several memorials to Manitoba soldiers killed in wars and to others who served the war efforts; one to the internment during the First World War of Ukrainian and other eastern Europeans as potential enemies of Canada; one to Taras Shevchenko, a Ukrainian poet and symbol of the important contributions of Ukrainians to the Canadian West; one to Jewish victims of the Holocaust; one to Jon Sigurdsson who led the country of Iceland to be independent from Denmark, symbolizing the important contributions of Icelandic immigrants to Manitoba; a B.C. totem pole to commemorate the 100th anniversary of B.C.’s entry into Confederation; and a commemoration of the tenth year of an exchange program between Manitoba and Japanese students.

Plus, there’s a monument to the controversial Famous Five, who won the right for propertied, well-connected women to be appointed to the Senate. Some of the five were also famous for their racism, support of eugenics and advocacy of racist drug laws.

The Famous Five should be controversial because support for being appointed to the Senate did almost nothing for women’s equality generally, and Indigenous women and children in particular are still fighting for equality in various ways nearly 100 years on.

At the University of Minnesota football stadium in Minneapolis there is a marvellous plaza showing the names, maps and a summary of information about each Tribal Nation that is in Minnesota. I have never seen a similar plaza in Canada.

Go to any provincial capital city and see what monuments there are, especially on legislative grounds. How are Indigenous peoples included in those monuments? Are they there at all?

Now go ask your premier what is happening with Call to Action #82.

Every time there’s a news article about monuments to John A. Macdonald, Cornwallis, Amherst, Langevin, Wolseley, Osborne, Douglas, Begbie, Vancouver, etc., do the media show any awareness of what monuments are not there?

Do the media have any awareness of TRC Calls to Action #81 and #82? Do the media ask the first ministers and leaders of the opposition about those Calls to Action?

Did the media ask the federal government: thanks for the announcement about the new Portage la Prairie and Shubenacadie residential school sites, but what is happening with Call to Action #81 for the capital cities?

Let’s get on with building a publicly accessible, highly visible, residential schools monument in each capital city to honour survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

Let’s get on with building prominent public monuments that show exactly which Indigenous peoples live in a specific region, showing the extent of their traditional territories and the dates and contents of the treaties that we signed with them.

Let’s get on with building prominent public monuments to Indigenous contributions to our lives and to Indigenous heroes.

It’s history by addition.  [Tyee]

 

Royson James: Be careful who gets the honour of a memorial

Good reflections by Royson James on the need for reflection before erecting or removing monuments:

Be slow to tear down; slower to erect.

Heroes and villains are too often aligned — in the same body. So beware the memorials and monuments we construct.

That should be a direct lesson from the mound of past sins now being excavated and tossed on the sculpted images of our once shining heroes.

Once a hero, always a hero — in somebody’s mind. But the conquering coloniser is a miserable picture of pain and suffering to the victims of imperial conquests.

So, rip ‘em down. Tear down that statue. Remove the monument. Behead that statue that causes us so much pain. But be willing to square off against a phalanx of counter-protesters brandishing “Hands off our heritage” placards. America is Exhibit A — raw, extreme, seemingly irreconcilable, attempting to confront the past and a study in how not to get there in the first place.

It doesn’t have to be so, of course. Reasonable human beings can study the lives and contributions of the people our forebears honoured with monuments and memorials and reconsider their place of honour in light of modern norms and practices.

We learn. We grow. We listen to our neighbour. We may have to change our minds.

A tear-down doesn’t have to be a whitewash or a blackout. It can be an opportunity to present an era or person or people in wider context. Still, in real life, on the street, it doesn’t play out that neatly.

Toronto is not a city of statues and monuments. There are a few at Queen’s Park and along University Avenue and on university campuses, but nothing like the affinity found in Europe or the American south.

Maybe it’s because we are so young, compared to ancient cities. Maybe the paucity of public statues serve as a natural inhibitor to erecting new ones. After all, who are you to tower over us when so many before you have not been awarded that honour? Why this hero when we can name another 10 or 20 worthy competitors?

Count me among those who have advocated for more piazzas, grand boulevards, fountains and statues. Maybe we are fortunate not to have a proliferation because it is so difficult to install perfect human beings. Prime Ministers and presidents owned slaves. The British monarchy sponsored slave-ship expeditions. The Anglican Church owned slaves and branded them on the Codrington estate in Barbados.

In the midst of this tangled time stamp, affirming the victims, confronting the ugly truths and moving towards reconciliation and reparations is no easy feat. Denial is the worst option. So is a blanket erasure of evidence of the past.

We could be Richmond, Virginia, where the mother of all statues — the 21-foot high horse and rider General Robert E. Lee, head of the pro-slavery Southern Confederate states in the U.S. civil war — is coming down after years of protest that it is a symbol of white supremacy and racism. Opponents see it as symbol of southern heritage. The work, completed in Paris in 1890 is considered an artistic “masterpiece.” It took 10,000 people to transport the pieces from port to platform. Dismantling it and its granite base that’s almost twice as high as the stature itself, is a feat.

Here, we worry about spray paint on the King Edward VII statue at Queen’s Park.

Here, the city of Vaughan is embarrassed when a citizen pointed out that by changing the name of its August civic holiday in 2013 to Benjamin Vaughan Day, the city was celebrating a man of who not only owned hundreds of slaves in Jamaica but fought against the abolition of slavery. (Educated, Vaughan city council dropped the holiday name this year, returning to Simcoe Day.) There’s no word on the fate of the city’s name itself, cut from the same cloth.

Clearly, we pay scant attention to the names we give our streets. So many streets to name in so many subdivisions. Developers name your street address after their girlfriends. Architects throw in ninny names to satisfy whatever fantasy overcame them. Who’s to know?

Maybe Toronto city planners were a bit more fastidious when they laid out the old city by name. You can’t go wrong with Front or Lakeshore, er Lake Shore, or King, Queen, Princess, John and Jane. Who would suspect Mr. Bathurst or Mrs. Dufferin of having damaging secrets that might render them unfit to adorn our boulevards? Dundas? Harmless.

Oops. Apparently, only as harmless as Ryerson and Macdonald — names and esteemed people now under scrutiny for questionable racial history.

Toronto’s city manager has issued a brief committing to “broadly understand and respond to how systematic racism and discrimination are embedded in city assets, commemorative programs and naming policies.”

Chris Murray says “this might ultimately touch all named city streets, parks and facilities, public monuments, and civic awards and honours, potentially leading to a variety of actions (e.g., renaming streets, removing monuments, revoking awards or reinterpreting any of these).

“Addressing the historical legacy of Dundas Street is one of these steps” necessary in challenging systemic institutionalized racism and build a more inclusive Toronto,” Murray writes.

If these are more than just words — and if city council next month adopts the philosophy and true intent — we are in for a turbulent period that will test our maturity as a city. If the effort doesn’t get messy, it’s a sure sign it isn’t real.

We honour people who touch us and move us to dream and aspire to greatness. When the very visage of our “heroes” evoke the image of “villains” in our neighbour, this clash of vision can only crash at our feet — assuming we are equally invested and rooted and valued.

How we clean up the mess will define our future. It will also remind us: Be slow to tear down; slower to erect.

We Don’t Have to Like Them. We Just Need to Understand Them.

Good commentary on historic statues in a way that understands the differences between historical figures, their contexts, and the need for case-by-case consideration of whether to remove or relocate:

Some sights are so searing that you can’t unsee them. And, like it or not, you end up seeing the world through them. Reality hasn’t changed; you have, which makes you want to change reality. Right now.

That pretty much describes the cause-and-effect physics surrounding the release, on May 25, of the cellphone video of George Floyd pinned to the ground and having the life squeezed out of him, second by second, by a Minneapolis policeman.

In the protests that followed, white supremacist images of all kinds — Confederate memorials, statues of slave-owners, tributes to colonizers — have come under attack. Some have been destroyed; others forklifted into storage; still others left in place to await an uncertain fate.

More recently, the anti-monument movement appears to be spreading beyond a focused demand for racial justice. Earlier this week in Madison, Wis., protesters toppled a statue of Hans Christian Heg, an abolitionist who died trying to end slavery.

Among a number of racially charged images in New York City, one of the most contested, the equestrian statue of Theodore Rooseveltat the entrance the American Museum of Natural History, has finally had its day of reckoning. Last week the museum itself asked the city for permission to remove the statue, and got the O.K.

In a press statement, the museum was careful to explain the reason behind its request for removal. Roosevelt himself — whose father was a founder of the museum — was not the main problem. The monument’s optics were.

Roosevelt is a complicated historical figure, an unstable ethical compound of bad and good. As an ardent conservationist, he put vast stretches of American land under federal protection, but took much of that land from Native Americans. He was internationalist in his thinking, but largely because he considered the resources of the world, particularly parts of the world with dark-skinned populations, to be ripe for the taking.

A Smithsonian Institution website describes him bluntly as “a racist whose beliefs reflected those of the elite of his day. Roosevelt thought African Americans to be inferior to white citizens.”

But even if you didn’t know any of this, one look at the monument tells you that it’s a problem, one that no extenuating information can make right.

Twenty-four feet tall, including an eight-foot high base, the 1940 sculpture by James Earle Fraser depicts Roosevelt, armed with pistols and perched on a spirited charger. Below him, walking on either side of the horse, their heads reaching barely higher than its back, are two other male figures, one Native American, one African, both in “native” attire. Each carries a rifle. Are they meant to be Roosevelt’s gun-bearers? His guides? His security detail? Whatever, he doesn’t look like he needs them. His face is alert, resolute, forward-directed; theirs, passive, withdrawn, cast down.

The image is, of course, a fantasy, one that can, and has been, interpreted in varying ways. One historian reads the standing figures as allegorical embodiments of Africa and America. To Fraser himself they represented “Roosevelt’s friendliness to all races.” But to contemporary eyes, the white supremacist import of its composition is unmistakable, and unacceptable: heroic white man on top of the world. No question, the thing has to go. And in the vaunted “great awakening” to racial injustice underway in the country now (how long will it last? How deep does it run?) the museum, and the city, figured that out.

But here comes a question. What do we do with other monuments that have similar compositions but more complex images and histories, and are, in addition, works of aesthetic distinction (a claim rarely made for the Roosevelt statue)? I’m thinking of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment in Boston — a monument that got graffiti-tagged during protests in May.

This bronze bas-relief by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, installed on the Boston Common in 1897, also centers on a dominant white equestrian figure, in this case surrounded by black men in military uniforms. It commemorates Shaw as the leader of the first all-black volunteer Union army brigade that formed in Boston in 1863, and marched to a battle in South Carolina, where many soldiers, including Shaw, died, and where they were all buried together.

The visuals here say “white supremacist,” too: the racially hierarchical composition, the single-name dedication, the suggestion of the Union army’s enforced segregation.

At the same time, does a narrative of interracial loyalties between leader and troops add a mitigating factor to a judgment of the work? Or the fact that Frederick Douglass came to Boston to attend the 1897 unveiling? (Two of his sons were in the 54th Regiment.) Or even the fact that the Saint-Gaudens relief is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American public art?

To fully weigh such factors requires some knowledge of history, a discipline that has long been shunted aside in education. The story of Shaw and the 54th Regiment, or at least a highly romanticized version of it, has had the advantage of popular exposure: It was the subject of the 1989 film, “Glory. ” But even so, the monument was targeted by protesters. And the real question is, what’s the correct — meaning useful — response to the monument’s image of an egregious racial power dynamic? Eliminate or obscure it, or explain it?

All to say that the disposal of monuments should be approached case by case. Public political images are never innocent. But some are complex, with questions to ask and lessons to teach, while others — so-called “Lost Cause” Confederate monuments, created long after the Civil War to reassert white power — are, and were intended to be, racist assault weapons, plain and simple. In the current, healthy drive to neutralize assaultive images, it’s necessary, for history’s sake, that we first stand back, look hard, sort them out.

As for the disposition of the Roosevelt monument, which has not been officially announced, I have an idea. Clearly a racist artifact, the work cannot continue to serve as the visual introduction to an institution that, through its modern department of ethnology, is deeply devoted to the study of human culture.

I suggest that the museum retain the sculpture but display it for what it is: an outsize ethnological specimen, the product of a specific era and culture (the piece was unveiled in 1940, a year after the release of the “Lost Cause” film “Gone With the Wind”), now subject to critical evaluation in a different, Black Lives Matter era and culture. This conceptual change in use and value would require moving it, minus its base, into a gallery — and an apt context for display already exists.

In 2019, in response to earlier protests around the sculpture, the museum organized a small, ongoing documentary show called “Addressing the Statue,” which details the work’s history and includes commentary by contemporary ethnologists, social historians, art historians and artists.

Almost everyone says, in different ways, that the monument’s not a good thing and never was. And it would be useful for present and future audiences to be able to learn why it’s not a good thing, and why this not-good-thing — as big and bullying as a Tyrannosaurus — stood where it stood in this city for so long.

As for what might replace it out front, at the entrance: Something should. Why let an empty stone base the size of a small stage go to waste when we have so many politically savvy artists, young and old, who need a platform for their ideas?

As least one has already had a say about the Roosevelt monument: David Hammons, in a 1991 group show called “Dislocations” at the Museum of Modern Art. For his installation there, titled “Public Enemy,” he surrounded photomurals of the sculpture with sandbags and, police barriers. Who was being protected? It — or us? Way back then he wanted it gone, and now the deal’s done. The museum should ask him over for a victory lap.

And the museum could commission new work, keep it impermanent and have it change often, even daily. Mr. Hammons’s “Public Enemy” was ephemeral. When the MoMA show ended, his installation disappeared, perhaps into closets, studios, dumpsters; I don’t know where. More and more right now, impermanence makes sense. Losses from Covid-19, the flood of violent deaths and a new political art that seems to exist entirely on plywood and pavement contribute to this perception.

We’re at an inflection point in this country, potentially the most significant one in generations. Black Lives Matter brought us here. Now it’s everyone’s job to sustain the momentum. New art certainly has a contribution to make. So do our historical public images.

Some examples, like the Roosevelt and Shaw monuments, are eye-and-mind grabbers, dense packages of information and emotion. We should study them as closely and critically as we do the monuments of any age and culture. We don’t have to like them; we just need to understand them, examine their mechanics, what made them persuasive in their time, and how that persuasion works, or doesn’t, now.

By comparison, most of the commemorative statues now under attack across the land — and there are more and more each day — have little visual charisma. They’re generic period images of white male power. You’re tempted to think: If they go, small loss. Let’s move on.

Then you remember that each of those images comes with a name and a history, and some of those names belong to murderers, enslavers and genocidists. And their history is our history. It’s good to keep reminders of that visible, somewhere. Sometimes the most effective way to push yourself into the future is by reviewing the record of how bad the past has been.

Holland Cotter is the co-chief art critic. He writes on a wide range of art, old and new, and he has made extended trips to Africa and China. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2009.

Canada has a long, documented history of racism and racial discrimination. Don’t look away

Good reminder by Mark O’Neill, president and chief executive of the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum.

In the 1980s, as a young program officer in what was then called the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, I worked in the race-relations unit of the department’s multiculturalism program. Several events, in particular, were formative in my understanding of the state of social cohesion and the institutional response to the diversity of Canadian society at that time. These included the fatal shootings of young Black men in Mississauga (Michael Wade Lawson, in 1988) and Montreal (Anthony Griffin, in 1987) by police officers, and the final report of the Marshall Inquiry, released in 1990, which concluded that Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq man in Nova Scotia, had been wrongly prosecuted and convicted of murder in 1971.

A critical milestone during this period was the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement of 1988, the first time a Canadian government had formally acknowledged and apologized for a historic injustice against a group of Canadians – in this case, the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Collectively, these experiences formed the beginning of what has essentially been my lifelong learning of Canada’s history of systemic and institutional racism and racial discrimination.

The entire concept of Canada as a racist society is antithetical to the mainstream notion of Canadian identity and values (as expressed, most fundamentally, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). In an interview with the Canadian Press, journalist and activist Desmond Cole talks about the need to overcome Canada’s self-mythology as a country that doesn’t have the same forms of racism as the United States.

Recently, and in previous decades, Canadian politicians have quipped that a point of distinction between our country and the United States is Canada’s lack of a history of slavery, which has exposed an unawareness of, or unwillingness to acknowledge, the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade that benefited pre-Confederation Canada.

The late Gord Downie was inspired to create his Secret Path multimedia project when, as an adult, he learned of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died of hunger and exposure in 1966 after fleeing a residential school in Ontario. Mr. Downie made it his purpose to bring the story to Canadians because, like him, there were so many people in Canada who didn’t know the dark history of the schools.

Academic and author Lubomyr Luciuk, instrumental in the long campaign for redress for Ukrainian-Canadians interned as enemy aliens during the First World War, was initially told by government officials, “That never happened.”

Canada’s racism, both past and present, is a well-documented and undeniable fact. But many Canadians, sadly, do not know their history, so it stands to reason that they don’t know the darker chapters of it. It is profoundly important that we learn our history – and be acutely aware of our individual and collective wrongs – if we are to move ahead as a society, let alone judge others.

The Canadian History Hall, unveiled at the Canadian Museum of History in 2017 and developed by content experts in collaboration with community representatives, aims to bring Canadian history to life in a comprehensive, artifact-rich visitor experience grounded in the historical record of the events and people that comprise our history. In many respects, it lays bare our history. Not surprisingly, not everyone approves.

Examples of Canada’s history of racism abound. Our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, when presented in his complex entirety, is the architect of both Confederation and the Indian Act (the two historical realities are inextricably bound – and critical to understanding both him and our country).

McGill University, one of Canada’s most respected postsecondary institutions, has a history of anti-Semitic admissions policies that were not lifted until after the Second World War. The historically Black town of Africville, N.S., was expropriated in the 1960s; homes were torn down without warning or process, and the community was displaced. The Chinese head tax, first introduced in 1885 and increased several times thereafter, discouraged and penalized Chinese immigration to Canada. It was superseded by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, which forbade Chinese immigration altogether.

The persistence of systemic racism and racial discrimination in Canada is a part of our contemporary history. As recently as 2017, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent released a report on its mission to Canada. The Working Group found that “Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation and marginalization of African Canadians has left a legacy of anti-Black racism and had a deleterious impact on people of African descent, which must be addressed in partnership with the affected communities. Across Canada, many people of African descent continue to live in poverty and poor health, have low educational attainment and are overrepresented at all levels of the criminal justice system.”

Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have painstakingly documented Canada’s long and devastating legacy of racist policies and practices against Indigenous people.

In April, an article by poet and columnist El Jones in the Halifax Examinerexplored the serious impact COVID-19 will have on Black communities, noting that “racism and structural inequality shape who is affected by this illness and its economic fallout. Systematically ignoring that reality makes Black people even more vulnerable.” The article goes on to describe the disappearance of “Blackness” from the reporting of the pandemic, despite the fact that many Black people are on the front lines and that, like the U.S., Canada is not keeping race-based data on testing or infection rates.

It has been a long time for me, personally, since the shootings of Mr. Lawson and Mr. Griffin, the Marshall Inquiry’s report and the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement. But along the arc of the moral universe, they are recent events in Canadian history.

The Department of Justice reports that although Indigenous adults represent just 4 per cent of the adult population in Canada, they account for 26 per centof admissions to correctional services.

Political leaders at all levels have acknowledged the existence of anti-Black racism in Canada. In 2016, Abdirahman Abdi died during his arrest in Ottawa, and Dafonte Miller lost an eye after an alleged assault by an off-duty police officer in Toronto. Andrew Loku was killed by Toronto police in 2015 in what was deemed a homicide.

Canadians have much to be proud of in their quest for social justice, including the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the introduction of the Employment Equity Act to guarantee every Canadian equal access to work; the Government of Canada’s apology for the Chinese head tax; and many other stories of leadership on human rights and international aid and development. In 2019, the federal government unveiled its anti-racism strategy, a key pillar of which is the establishment of an Anti-Racism Secretariat that will lead a “whole-of-government” approach in addressing racism and racial discrimination. This is a welcome approach, but there is still much work to be done.

The final panel in the Canadian History Hall at the Canadian Museum of History reminds visitors that “Canadians have inherited a contested past. Like their forebears, they face conflict, struggle and loss alongside success, accomplishment and hope. They steward an acclaimed but imperfect democracy, a beautiful but threatened environment, a revered but relative civility. Their vision and generosity, wisdom and compromise will be their own legacy – for Canada, and the world.”

Source: Canada has a long, documented history of racism and racial discrimination. Don’t look away