Someone recently asked me in a comment if I consider myself African American or Afro-Canadian. I cheekily replied ‘no’, because the option is not so binary as that. However, in light of this morning’s post, I suppose the question deserves a more detailed response. As I have laid out before, I call myself ‘black’ despite having one white parent. I tend to use that label when I am talking to a white audience – among other black folks where the racial signifier is superfluous, I identify as ‘Caribbean’ or ‘Guyanese’ when discussing my background. That being said, more than being a black Canadian or a Caribbean Canadian or a Guyanese Canadian, I am a Canadian.
As we can conclude from our discussion this morning, ‘black Canadian’ is not a particularly useful term. While it is true that all groups enjoy an important amount of internal diversity, this is particularly true of black Canadians, who are from radically different cultural backgrounds. This can be contrasted against African-Americans who, overwhelmingly, descended from slaves and can thereby claim a domestic pedigree far more than the majority of black Canadians.
The great shame of this reality is, for black Canadians at least, that the majority of black scholarship on race and race issues happens within the United States. Those of you who have paid particular attention to my posts about race will notice that most of the journal articles and peer-reviewed studies are from the USA, with very few from Canada. While I do try my best to feature Canadian race stories, it is somewhat slim pickings to find authoritative and compelling items to feature. This flies directly in the face of the fact that black Canadians are very different, historically speaking, from black Americans. [Read more…]