featured Racism

Anti–Black racism in Nova Scotia is white people’s problem

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – For all those people who don’t think anti-Black racism is alive and well in Nova Scotia, consider the following.  

Just over the last couple of weeks we heard about two blatantly racist incidents.

This week El Jones reported on a life size display of a young Black woman with a baby at the Early Childhood Education class at the Yarmouth Community College. The cardboard cutout was coded with negative stereotypes associated with Black women, smoking, drinking, dressing provocatively, being bad mothers, etc. The display was up for a week.

And earlier this month we heard how a young Black man, Nhlanhla Dlamini, was bullied, and ultimately almost killed by a racist co-worker who shot him in the back with a high-velocity nail gun while he ran to escape his torturer.   

It would be convenient if these were incidents perpetrated by two bad apples. Unfortunately, in both cases all the apples in the basket were bad.

How did the instructors walk past this everyday for a week and say nothing about it before it was taken down? Why are these instructors not fired and the students not expelled?” asked Black educator Vanessa Fells in a Facebook post, referring to the Yarmouth incident.

Similarly, in the case of Nhlanhla Dlamini, none of his co-workers felt compelled to speak up and halt the torture. Far from it, they laughed and went along with it, including Nhlanhla’s boss, who could have stopped it just like that.

“I wonder how the story might have turned out had someone on Nhlanhla’s crew said to the person who shot him, “Hey, why don’t you leave the kid alone?” What if they’d come up to Nhlanhla and said, “You know man, you don’t have to accept this kind of treatment. Let’s do something about it together.” What if someone had shown him some compassion or solidarity? Or even in the aftermath, some empathy? This experience would feel different for us,” writes Stacey Dlamini, Nhlanhla’s mother.

The central actions were racist, but so was the silence of the bystanders.

So are these maybe “isolated” incidents, the kind of things that happen, apparently, in backwards rural Nova Scotia?

Good try, but wrong again.

Right here in urbane Halifax, managers and co-workers allowed a Black Halifax Transit transit worker to be bullied and abused by a racist supervisor. Nobody in power did anything. When the supervisor got his job back, he did it again. And again he wasn’t stopped. When it became public Halifax management decided to fight the claims in a Human Rights Tribunal. Now, after they lost the case, they say they’re sorry.

Similarly, a report by an external consultant reveals how Black (and disabled, gay, trans, female, you name it) workers suffered abuse and discrimination by managers of the Halifax Municipal Operations division, for so long that it became habitual and institutionalized. You’ve probably heard about the report, but you really should read it to understand how terribly bad things are.   

Nobody said anything. Councillors claimed they had no idea, but even if councillors didn’t know, which is hard to believe coming from people who live and breathe City Hall. Regardless, they should have known. That’s their job.  

Carding in Halifax, and the larger problem of anti-Black police brutality that it reflects, is yet another example of how racism in Nova Scotia is allowed to fester.

We’ve heard so many stories of anti-Black racist police actions by now, told by so many reputable sources, in the North End, in Lucasville, everywhere forever, that to suggest it isn’t happening is plain silly. We also know the numbers, the famous ones about Black men being three times more likely to be stopped for a police street check as white people. These numbers don’t lie.

Yet when African Nova Scotian community members asked for an immediate moratorium on police street checks, it took Council six months to effectively deny that request and hire an expert from Ontario to then ponder these stats for the next 16 months or so. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission even repeatedly suggested that the inquiry is happening because of that request.

Six months is also what it will take the city bureaucrats to to come up with reasons why we need a CFL stadium here. Do you get a sense of where our priorities lie?

When you have a problem, step one toward a solution is to recognize it. We have a problem, and we don’t even see it. It’s easy and painless to agree that bystanders remaining silent while poor Nhlanhla was taunted is wrong and effectively racist. Now we need to consider our own silence.


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One Comment

  1. I just watched the move, “Selma”, and it made me realize very little has changed since 1963. I find it baffling how so many people, who are apparently Caucasian, believe they are superior to anyone who does not “appear” to be Caucasian. I say apparently, because if so-called white people got a DNA test to reveal their racial background, most would discover they are descendants of many different races, including the very ones they are treating as sub-human. This comment posted by someone who is Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, and German but “appears” Caucasian.

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