featured Racism

Pick up the phone, it’s your conscience ringing!

Angela Bowden. Photo contributed

I wish the people on the other end of this line would pick up. I remain on hold on this racism call and I wish someone would answer!

As the background music of oppression news plays on every radio station I recall more childhood memories from school, and I wonder if the white kids ever reflected upon the racism they witnessed and participated in while they were growing up. 

I wonder if anyone ever thought, “hey, I remember being in school with those Black students and I remember feeling like I was better than them. I remember teachers and principals treating me better than them. I remember coaches and parents treating me better than them. I remember other students treating me better than them and in fact I wasn’t very nice to them either.”

I wonder if they ever acknowledge that, even to themselves, or if they continue on, blissful in their privilege, without a second thought?! 

I would love to open up Facebook or Twitter and see a former classmate share a flashback memory of sitting in class and witnessing the mistreatment of their fellow Black classmates, watching as the teacher takes the two Black girls’ names and blends them together to make one and then to call them both by that blended name, Tangie, even though both Tanya and Angie asked her not to. I would love to see them so offended by the historical mistreatment of children of colour in these spaces and speak out against the systems that oppressed and marginalized them.

Surely to goodness by now some are processing their parents’ adamant and threatening directive to stay away from the Black boys, aka the N-word, and surely they remember using or hearing that word to describe our young Black boys and the strict punishments they received for being caught with one. And somebody besides me must remember how their parents did not allow Black boys and Black girls into their homes, so we had to sneak in and sneak out of their homes and their parties. 

Am I to believe that not one single teacher remembers favouring all things white and frowning down on us even a little bit? You mean to tell me no one remembers the cliques and the teachers pets or the ethnic demographics of those “dummy” classes?

What about the man who yelled the N-word driving by and threw a cup of ice out his window hitting the little girl in the leg? I wonder if he ever has nightmares about his racist actions towards this young girl walking home minding her business? Does he feel bad? Does the memory creep up like it does for her with every racist reminder?

Come on! Not everyone can have a case of amnesia! What about the co-workers who went out of their way to isolate the only Black employee they worked with so she ate alone in the lunchroom? Or the ones doing it now?  Do they have any thoughts of their behaviour?  Do they reflect on the trauma that is damaging their co-workers self esteem, sense of inclusion and belonging? Is there any remorse for how they confidently dole out this abuse to Black moms, working hard  just to feed their families? 

What about the employers? There isn’t one out there feeling the guilt of breaking our grandfathers and father’s day after day, calling them boy, Toby and the like. They must remember these star employees doing the work no one wanted, carrying out their duties with a smile and gratitude, never giving them any trouble?

Do white families ever think of their Black nanny who made their successful career and work-home balance possible at the expense of her own children? Do they ever recall fondly how she never complained and was all too happy to make meager wages so her babies could simply eat that week. Her career goals were non-existent because society made servitude her career by default. 

Does it ever occur to anyone that we didn’t choose this life of oppression, and question how we remain on the bottom despite being the hardest working members of society? Surely we’re not still spewing the “hard work”, “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” narrative that somehow erases our hard work, while forgetting about the 400 years of hard and free labour from sunup till sundown by my foremothers and forefathers. What about the manual labour of our grandfathers, who built our foundation post slavery while fighting segregation laws and pure hate? We can’t possibly ignore the hard earned successes that Black folk continue to achieve, even with that deficit still intact. It’s unrealistic to believe that one can not see the truth behind the achievement gaps in education or under-employment in our communities. When it comes to work ethic we have one hell of a resume, but that is ignored and replaced with victim shaming and blaming for conditions not of our making.

Is there even one person out there who remembers not liking that little Black boy or Black girl on their team, or what about the Black lady on the bus they held in contempt for reasons they couldn’t quite pinpoint but just the sight of them was enough to upset their day? 

With everything going on today in this anti-Black racist world, do they reflect and at least acknowledge their biased opinions, stereotypes  and privileges and perhaps secretly wish to do better from their guilty and burdened soul?

Is there anyone, anyone at all who just wants to acknowledge that they were wrong in the past, but now they see the light and just want to do better? Does anyone want redemption or simply to free their soul for the role they played in our oppression?

How come no one is picking up on the other end of this racism? I know you hear your conscience ringing….pick up the phone!

See also: Angela Bowden: Africa – On growing up Black in Nova Scotia

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  1. What a powerful read wow I hope someone somewhere is thinking about this and remembered the hurt they saw in our faces back than and realize today how wrong their silence was than and still is today. If you feel the need to clear your mind we are listening, God is listening, may God hear you heart and give you peace. God bless

  2. Such eloquence, courage and truth. You are the hope and dream of those who were enslaved.

  3. Angee Bee, this is the most intellectual piece of the Race Relations narrative that I have ever read. You are so gifted! Flesh and blood did not resurrect this memoir of truth back to your memory. This is a testament of life growing up in the education system and life itself in #NewGlasgow. Well written. Well expressed. Did any one pick up the phone on the other end yet? #callwaiting
    No educators spoke up or came to defend us.

  4. WOW, Angee that was so on point my arms are tired from waiting to be answered due to being on hold so long. It’s so weird that even at my age the hurts still remain and are just as deep. Thank you for this great thought provoking article that is long over due. #stillwaiting

  5. I am sorry you suffered like this.
    I went to a school in India where the year I left we had 26 nationalities represented in the school and 13 different religions. As a white student I was pretty much in the minority. Everyone was treated equal there (it being a residential school I was frequently roommate with a person of different colour – and we were close friends). But, I do hear your pain! You are a person of great worth – do not let anything that anyone says or does or has said or done make you feel less!!! You are child of the Creator whose love for you is genuine and true!!!!! Just love the wonderful person you are!!!!!!

  6. Thank you for writing this. I witness your experience. I have picked up the phone and I’m actively doing personal anti-racism work and have committed to this work as a focal point in my life. My heart extends to yours…please know I will walk with you in any way that I can.

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