Charles Alexander and his wife, Nancy, were some of the first Black pioneers to come to B.C. in 1858. Together they had 12 children and helped build Victoria through carpentry and farming. (City of Victoria Archives)

EDITORIAL: Take time to ask questions during Black History Month

Racism still lurks even in Canadian society

In Canada, we pride ourselves in not being a part of the rampant racist attitudes increasingly displayed south of the border.

We can be a bit smug about our culture of acceptance and inclusion of minorities, but it’s a dangerous assumption. Just this week Black Press wrote about a Victoria resident looking into buying a property in Esquimalt, who was shocked to find a racist clause on the land title.

Anna King, who vied for a seat on Victoria city council in the 2018 municipal election, posted a photo to Twitter Tuesday showing a land title clause that forbade East Indian or Asiatic people from occupying the property.

“I was shocked. It made me feel very unwelcome and reminded me of the trials and discrimination my people faced and continue to face,” King said.

While racist actions don’t often hit mainstream media here, they do still occur with some regularity.

During Black History Month (February), we would do well to recall that. While Victorians were generally accepting of the “Black Migration” of 1858, there was racism then as well. When the steamship Commodore arrived that spring and Bishop Edward Cridge welcomed some of the migrants into his church, he faced backlash.

This month we shared the story of the Alexander family. Among the first Black pioneers in B.C., Charles Alexander and his wife Nancy had 12 children and owned farmland in Central Saanich and businesses in Victoria that grew to be prosperous. Nancy helped form the Lakehill Women’s Institute and was very active in the church community.

Racism is a complex issue and a single cure for the fear, ignorance and hatred embodied in that term has yet to be found.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make Black History Month a time to start to learn about other cultures and people, and extend your knowledge about the broad tapestry that is our region’s population.

The BC Black History Awareness Society (bcblackhistory.ca) hosts a number of events this month and year-round to help us do just that.

There’s no shame in not knowing, but there is in letting ignorance breed discrimination.


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