On December 12, 2016, CBC radio aired this commentary by Jackie Barkley. Jakie is a social worker, long-time anti-racist organizer and a member of Solidarity Halifax.
Once again the African Nova Scotian community has been struck in the past week with multiple deaths of young men, losses to the families of the victims, and to the whole Black family. But this is definitely not a time for White people to stand aside and wring our hands in disingenuous pity. No, this must be a time to own responsibility for the generations of white supremacy that have led to the current devastation.
The way suffering and rage are manifested are sociologically and psychologically complex, but that complexity is not and cannot be the relentless excuse made to sidestep urgent and immediate steps to redress wrongs and provide the resources to move forward. And while “immediate” may sound overly urgent, the fact is that many of the proposals made by African Nova Scotian persons, organizations and communities are in fact decades old. So, acting immediately would only be acting on dusty proposals for action made over 20, 30 and 40 years ago, and actually late, not immediate!
Some ideas are not complex, provision of entry level jobs, summer jobs, and jobs paid at a living wage, not minimum wage (and this would create justice for all low income workers in NS, not just African Nova Scotians); specialized training programs located in the African Nova Scotian communities; the examination of the overrepresentation of persons of African Nova Scotian descent in the criminal justice system, and the immediate start of targeted re-entry programs designed with the assistance of the Black community, to meet the needs of young persons on probation, on parole and upon release from prison; the creation of a position in the Department of Community Services of an African Nova Scotian child welfare specialist (of course outrageously coming after Black social workers appealed to the minister not to ram through legislation last winter that would disproportional impact racially marginalized peoples), review of all the recommendations made in the BLAC report, the immediate implementation of the recommendation of the 2012 mental health strategy’s specific proposals concerning the Black community, and finally the silencing of those politicians who inappropriately intervene in the affairs of the community and sow division, such as Minister of Education Karen Casey did two years ago in the circumstances around the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE).
So, anyone at the deputy minister level, or the ministerial level, or in the legislature who whines about not knowing that “they” want, must stop such preposterous assertions and just start reading and listening. The needs, the requests, the appeals, are all there, just hidden by the collection of dust.
Years of austerity politics, for which those who’ve suffered most become targets first, must be challenged at every level. Nova Scotians – all of us-in unions, in community organizations, in municipal, provincial and federal political locations, in all our life places, need to mobilize to support the rights of African Nova Scotians, not tomorrow, but today. Black lives must matter to all of us!