Have you filled out your census form? I hope so! I’ve been thinking about consensus today, and how easy it is for others to dismiss a single point of view. Clearly, the way I feel about multiculturalism in Canada is based on my personal experiences and the limited reading I’ve done on the subject. Recently I found this essay delivered by scholar Rinaldo Walcott at a conference held last fall at York University in Toronto: MULTI-CULTURALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS. I first met Rinaldo when I was a visiting professor at Ohio University; back then, I was still complaining about Toronto, but he was raving about the city and I had to admit I didn’t know Toronto the way he did…I was never too optimistic about Black Studies thriving within the Canadian academy, and it seems Rinaldo now feels the same way despite his strenuous efforts to make it work. When asked, “What Have We Learned about the Pitfalls and Success of Multiculturalism?” Rinaldo (Associate Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto) had this to say:
Multiculturalism in Canada from a black scholarly perspective has been a dismal failure. In making such a claim I want to stress that I am particularly speaking to the humanities and the social sciences. In my view from that vantage point the Canadian academic scene is racist to the core. I make this claim not as a comparative claim, but as one that I believe stands the test in relation to the Canadian academic environment itself. I have been a full-time academic for fifteen years working in the area of Black cultural studies and over that period black Canadian studies has remained a nascent field of inquiry and the future looks much the same.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this short essay (read the whole thing here), but this quote really spoke to me:
However, one of the central problems with some of these efforts is that they continue to act from a place that imagines black people as only recent arrivals in Canada, undermining and attempting to unwrite black peoples much longer presence in both colonial Canada and post-confederation Canada. Such approaches also seem to have no idea of how to account for the children born of the post-world war two black migrants to this place, who can by no stretch of the imagination be merely considered Caribbean or African or immigrant for that matter (not withstanding notions
of flexible citizenship and such). Many of these efforts seek to continually only think about black Canadians within a logic of immigration and thus leave [out] a crucial aspect of Canada’s long
narrative of disciplining blackness in this nation.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be books for children that are set in the Caribbean or in Africa. I’m just looking for YA literature that reflects the full *range* of experiences and histories belonging to black people in Canada. I think we need to question why so many books being published in Canada depict black people living “over there” and not (fully) “here.” And since those statistics don’t yet exist—how many books are published each year by and about black people—it looks like I’ll have to compile the data myself (ugh, math).