featured Racism

Raymond Sheppard: Nova Scotia’s much desired ‘I am not a racist’ validation pass

Raymond Sheppard. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In South Africa during apartheid the Pass Laws Act of 1952 repealed the many regional pass laws and instituted one nationwide pass law, which made it compulsory for all black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry the “passbook” at all times when they were within white areas. Pass laws were one of the dominant features of the country’s apartheid system, and it did not end until 1986.

In Nova Scotia a different pass system is much sought after among white people. Many white people seem to feel African Nova Scotians and other racially visible persons should somehow provide them with a non-racist validation pass. 

As soon as a white individual says something right and thoughtful about African Nova Scotians then they often feel they must receive this proverbial pass which magically makes them non-racist. What’s more, this pass must come with a lifetime warranty. 

Equally, if a white person has any African Nova Scotian friends, or ever dated an African Nova Scotian, or even married one, or ever attended a anti-racist protest rally, employs a single African Nova Scotia, lives next door to an African Nova Scotian family, know a few brothers or sisters from Africa, or any other brothers and sisters of African descent they are also entitled to this magical pass. 

If only it was that easy.

White people must realize that to truly go beyond bias and to be really be non-racist is only achieved by one’s honest lifelong actions and commitment to persistently stand up to racism and hate. It’s about , understanding one’s unearned privilege and using it to help those persecuted because of race.  

Yes, people can change and change is possible and actions truly speak louder than words. Camouflage is also possible.

The belief that one inherently deserves a pass speaks to unearned privilege and some kind of special treatment. 

Some African Nova Scotians make the stupid mistake of saying white people are just like us. Of course we are all human. However, 

African Nova Scotians do not gain privilege just because they are friends with a white individual. We cannot become a fish by eating fish, or by hanging around the wharf or swimming a lot. If we were not born a fish we do not have a hope in hell of becoming one. 

Those white individuals with friends from other ethnicities are more likely to be more understanding, but even if they are sympathetic, they will never know our pain and suffering. 

African Nova Scotians should never attempt to give out these so called non-racist passes. To attempt to do so hinders real racial justice. 

We must never forget that during the enslavement of African people and ever since, we African people have always been expected to absolve white people of their crimes against humanity.

Speaking truth to power is all about our true humanity. It’s especially important when others seem to feel we should shut up and suffer in silence while forgiving them and absolving them of their crime. Forgiveness for racial violence has to be earned.

And don’t think you will be rewarded if you buy in and sell out. All benefits will be temporary, and it only serves them to keep tabs on the rest of us by being gatekeepers and letting “Master” know what we are up to. All you gain is an insulting pat on the head.

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  1. Thanks Raymond, I grew up in what was then the rural area of Halifax and had to endure racial name calling from 1st grade right up to high school almost every day. From primary until I was about 8 we were singled out and strapped by the principal of the school. We had to physically fight for our right to be allowed on the schools grounds. You become an adult and have to work in the workforce in order to provide for your family, low and behold, those racist name calling persons are managers, supervisors, or your superiors in those workplaces. What does one do? These racist people become our privileged police officer, lawyer, union representatives and other authoritative positions who’s goal is to strive on in-sighting hatred. They get a pass. I reached out for psychological help and spoke with a doctor who explained to me that systemically, this is the norm in Nova Scotia. I worked for Dalhousie Facilities Management whom one day lured me into a meeting, warned me not to ask questions about a previous workplace accident or there would be consequences. Well, I worked that day and knew I had to see my doctor about the threat I received, but low and behold, the police were at my door trying to entice me to meet with him down a dark pathway behind the house. After five years of fighting for inclusion to get answers from my union, I found out three months ago that management said I threatened to shoot another person the day of the meeting. I was denied the right to grieve through the process of being represented by my union and treated like a criminal or some kind of murder. Coincidentally Nova Scotia Human Rights said they lost my complaint as soon as I filed it. This is classic systemic racism we as black peoples have to endure every day. Talk about anxiety disorder. Mentally, physically and emotionally we need all the support we can get to help us through these troubled times. Why are we always perceived (profiled) as a threat to our society. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get out of bed but we must continue on in our many struggles. I have now obtained a certificate in Occupational Health and Safety in order to protect myself from harm and the under-minding of others who practice racial exclusion. Were crying out for all the help we can get.

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