Have I had any instances of racial profiling or racism in Victoria? I would say, rather than it being an instance, it’s more of an everyday lived experience. It’s not so much, “one time something happened.” The type of racialization that I experience is historical and it’s systemic in nature. What I find affects me most on a day-to-day basis is an erasure of blackness, and the presence and importance of blackness. As an example that’s really small, but significant in some ways, with the signage at Cadboro Bay, they go through the names of the different First People’s that were there before Europeans, but I do remember hearing stories about there also being a market that took place there on Saturdays. When Africans that were leaving the US and first came to BC, Cadboro Bay was one of the gathering spots. The same way you would have Moss Street Market or Oaklands Market, people that had come up from the US that were African descent also had markets in this place. I was thinking how important that would be to me and to my children, and to other people to have that recognition, that presence, and it’s not really there. I think as I talk through quite a few stories about how, yes black people were invited to BC, but the reasons weren’t completely benevolent. The reasons were part of a colonial project, of bringing settlers in that would serve as a buffer between European settlers and indigenous peoples whose land this was. Because Europeans were colonizing the area at the time, it is almost like we were used as a part of that project, and then serving as a means to take away from other people, not just “I want to extend this to you because I understand the atrocities of slavery and what’s been suffered elsewhere.”
I grew up between the mountains in North Carolina and the foothills of South Carolina. So, those territories are the Catawba territories and Cherokee territories and I think there I definitely experienced more of what people would understand as, “oh, this is a racist act that I can readily identify even if I’m not generally able to speak to systems of oppression.” The klan still marched, people still had crosses burned in their yards, even when I was in high school. But moving here, I almost found the day-to-day experience of being a person of African descent more challenging in the sense that I didn’t have a larger African descent community that I could really call on as a support network. We were kind of spread out, the numbers were, and still are, quite small, and I think because of the story in Canada that gets perpetuated, “oh, Canadians are so polite, we always say sorry, we didn’t have racism here the way that you had it in the States,” because that story happens, I think you feel more isolated because you feel silenced. Your stories kind of get denied. So, I don’t think I could give you a specific incident of, “I walked across the street and…” I mean, I could, technically. I do remember an incident, but I think what has affected me more has been that larger experience, of the laws that are in place that make it so that there aren’t as many people of African ancestry here, or that places where we would have gathered were broken up by the government, like the Georgia viaduct that came along. That area was kind of an area where there was a larger community of people of African ancestry in Vancouver, but it was broken up by the Georgia viaduct and never really recovered. I think similarly in Victoria at one point there were 700-800 black families in the 1800’s, early 1900’s, and then as soon as the laws in the US changed around slavery and not taking African Americans back to the South, families left, they wanted to be reunited, but also I think what they were dealing with here that kind of goes unnamed, that daily experience of just meeting your neighbors, I don’t really know how to articulate it. I don’t think they actually felt accepted here, and I know that I have really struggled too. It’s not so much that I don’t feel accepted, it’s that I don’t feel supported here almost. I’ve lived here since 2002, and I don’t know that I’ll ever feel comfortable and feel like this is home.