International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – What March 21 means for me
By Kadé Rémy, Communications Advisor for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation
March 21 is recognized by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Kadé Rémy is the Communications Advisor for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. UCTE thanks her for sharing her perspective with us.
As far I can remember being a minority, as in a very brown girl, was part of a typical marginal Canadian identity. I never see myself as fully Canadian – but more like a Canadian with immigrant roots It stuck to my skin as something normal until the birth of my son. It made me aware of how little I knew. My Canadian identity is not that simple.
See, my little one is biracial, with a Caucasian father and a Black mummy. That reality hit me: he will live as a fourth generation with the pressure of what a Canadian-colored person should be. I became more aware of the many invisible and unintentional biases of my skin color. My son will start having the same experiences, which was not something I desired for him, for his future, or even if God willing, for his children.
We decided to raise him as him. Not as a full Quebecois, Canadian or Haitianbut as the little one who came into our lives with all the strength we could give him, so he becomes the name he was born with it.
In the light of the past years, with more and more evidence uncovered by the means of social media, an inherent tool of mass destruction, about how cruel and denaturing racism is, protecting our ‘’black and browns’’ kids, matters most.
I become more conscious. Read more on the state of being Black in Canada. I wore my Black lens – every second of my life. This might sound like a burden – it is because I should be able to live like a normal person, right? – I wasn’t shy anymore to be proud of who I am: A Black Canadian born in the heart of Montreal. I did all of it without creating confrontation. Just letting those around me know that I was aware. My attitude was the mirror that my son could look up to.
Today, I have the privilege to work for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation which is the proud organizer of the National Black Canadians Summit, which will be hosted in Halifax, NS in July 2022. It is a summit calling for a real change in the eradication of racial discrimination. And this year, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination focuses on “Voices for action against racism” which is” highlighting the importance of strengthening meaningful and safe public participation and representation in all areas of decision-making to prevent and combat racial discrimination”.
We would think that the world changed since George Floyd’s death. Well, we are still waiting on the world to change. Looking at the situation in Ukraine demonstrates how the word ‘’refugees’’ is only applied to people of color, which is proof that we are in a constant struggle. We are just not defeatists. Our expectations are commitments to change the narrative.
We are all Canadians. As such, we share the responsibility to act against exclusion, the effects of which have a devastating and damaging impact on the whole of society. It is not only on the marginalized to bear the burden.
This year, there could not be any better moment than the Halifax Summit. This major mobilization calls for all the Black Voices to be heard and act in a peaceful and brave space. These movements are needed and must exist for these marginalized communities and individuals to be able to live their identities without prejudice. These movements should be extended in a world we all wish to live in.
We have ways, as a Canadian society, to enable resources and means in encouraging people to intensify and unite voices against racism, to mobilize against all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination and injustice. To reinforce a brave and safe space for those who speak up.
It is my wish for my son who bores the name of Ezekiel which means God is strong. Be strong, stay strong.
I asked myself what March 21 is for me. It is an everyday Day.
To know more about the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, see background at United Nations’ website.
Contribute to the Accessibility Fund for those who want to speak up. Donate is to help as many as possible to have their voices heard and participate in the Halifax Summit 2022