“I like Blacks, but I hate n***rs”

While working seasonally out of province, I was at a local tavern with my co-workers. We worked in a bush camp, and all of us would periodically go into town together on days off. In our camp there were people from across the country and from all backgrounds. In the bar we met two other seasonal labourers, both white working a different industry than ours, working in non precarious, and dare I say manufactured positions.

Me and some co-workers struck up a brief conversation with them, during which the younger of the two mentioned quite candidly and explicitly to me that he liked me, because I was a black but he hated the guy over there, because he was a nigger. As a mixed African Nova Scotian I found this particularly uncomfortable because the man he was pointing to was the only full blood black person in this bar if not in this town. The man then expressed a desire to beat this ‘nigger’ as he put it, and wanted me to join him because he liked me.

It is one of the few moments where racism has shocked me in my short life. It shocked me because it was so natural to him to hate this man he didn’t know for only his skin colour. It shocked me that he justified his disgusting behaviour by trying to co-opt me, another ‘black,’ into fucked up desires. It shocked me, that he was so comfortable with his hatred, and spoke of it so freely. So I walked away from that worthless privileged racist, and walked to this other man with whom I share a tone of skin, and he turned out to be a nice guy. A trucker and new to Canada, he was trying to do what I was trying to do in that small northern town far from my home. Get through his day.

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White Women Can Be Racist Too

Last year, I worked in a bar where there were only two employees working per shift-a bartender and a racist-I mean waitress. This particular day I was bartending and this girl was waiting tables. She made a comment about waiting on a group of Canadians and how they tipped poorly and she let slip ‘at least they weren’t niggers’.

Her eyes immediately got big as she realized what she said. The next day I told my boss and was told to sweep it under the rug and that this incident couldn’t prevent me from working shifts with her. She then went to the boss later and told him that me ‘telling’ on her made her uncomfortable and she didn’t want to work with me anymore. I was fired a few weeks later for ‘being on my phone’ aka plugging my music into the sound system. I told them I would file a wrongful termination suit and my boss, who owned multiple establishments around town, said he would bury me with lawyers- so I dropped it.

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Disrespect for a guest

A long time ago when I was a student at Dalhousie, one of my professors brought in a guest lecturer for one of his classes. He was a graduate student and he was Black. He gave a great lecture and he acted very friendly and cool with the students.

A week or so later I had to go see my professor about something, so I went to his office. When I went in to his building the professor wasn’t there, but the graduate student was. I smiled when I saw him and said “hey, what’s up?” as though I was speaking to a friend. He gave me a cold stare and said “can I help you.” I mumbled I was looking for my professor but I’d come back later.

He made me feel a bit stupid, but good on him. I thought about it after and realized I probably wouldn’t have talked to him like that if he hadn’t been Black. When I talked to other lecturers I was more polite without even really thinking about it.

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Contract staff intimidated after hours by different contractor

My team member, a tech who is Black, was working at an office after hours–in uniform and with company identified equipment. The janitor came in to clean, and when he saw my Black employee he dodged around and refused to respond to a “hello.”

When my crew was leaving 15 minutes later 3 cars with 8 guys came into the parking lot and a voice called out, “hey you, we want to talk to you.” My tech was by himself in a dark business park and afraid for his safety. He left his equipment on the curb, jumped in the car and drove to the police department and made a report. The police did not follow up with me or the client office.

I reported this to the client by voicemail and email immediately and called the next morning. They called the janitorial company and it was discovered as a “misunderstanding”–the janitor had been surprised and called his boss, and a gang came over to rescue him.

I asked to meet with them to talk about it and to get an apology but they wanted to sweep it under the carpet and wouldn’t meet. My tech was angry and felt vulnerable. People didn’t see the uniform or the company equipment. They didn’t ask the basic question of how he got the security access to be there. All they saw was a big Black man, although no one would use the words.

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Constant harassment

I worked for a government agency for 10 years from 1989-1999. I was met daily with racial slurs, anti-Black literature on the hallway walls. Accosted by a co-worker in front of the manager and ended up with a bloody nose. Threats of violence towards me daily and this caused the ruination of my family.

After going to the Employee Assistance Program counsellor and mediation twice (which cost 20 thousand dollars each time) nothing was solved. One day my wife called to say she was dropping of the kids at work since she worked in the same establishment. I came back from lunch to find an entire month’s supply of stock waiting for me. I went ballistic and said some unsavoury things. This was my demise as someone overheard me and ran to the manager.

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Harassed and blacklisted

I worked for a large employer in Halifax since 1971. In the 1980’s I had this supervisor who was a bully and everyone was afraid of her. She started picking on me and I stood up for my rights. It was so bad that I started nodding of at work and she had co-workers following me to the washroom. I was suspended for sleeping on the job. I then got tested and was diagnosed with narcolepsy.

After the diagnosis the suspension was taken off my employment record and I was given one week’s pay. During that time harassment in the workplace came into being. All employees were given the intro. I stayed behind and asked the people if what I was going through would be considered harassment and they said yes.They took my case and the two supervisors had to write me a letter of apology. My immediate supervisor did not, and she was on sick leave and did not return.

It was like I was blacklisted after that because I was not able to work until my 30 years to receive a full pension. I took my case to federal Human Rights and won, but they were not able to give me financial compensation. I am still suffering from the treatment that was done to me, and no one had to pay for it.

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Those are my students

A student came into my class and told me another teacher had made stereotypical comments about Black students to her whole class. There was only one Black student in the class at the time. The student said she tried to say something but it was hard to know what to say because it was the teacher.

I was so angry. I told our supervisor, even though the other teacher is my colleague. He said he’d deal with it. I don’t really know what he did. I don’t know if the other teacher apologized to the class, or even brought it up again. I imagine not. Now all those other kids will be able to hold those stereotypes about Black students because their teacher validated them.

I think the other teacher suspects that I’m the one who brought the issue to the supervisor. I don’t care.

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Nothing will surprise me / Rien ne me surprendra

[English below] Mon expérience est surtout dans le milieu francophone. Réellement je n’ai pas subi de racisme dans mon milieu de travail récent. Mais si je considère mon expérience personnel, mon parcours à travers le monde, je dois dire que rien ne me surprendra. Je me sens déjà prêt à affronter les éventualités comme ça et aussi savoir si le cas échéant, à qui m’adresser. Pour moi ça c’est très très important. C’est pas parce que c’est un manque de confiance dans les autres. Dans tous les pays, dans toutes les sociétés il y a des bonnes personnes et il y a des mauvaises personnes. Donc pour moi c’est une question de l’attitude à prendre pour ne pas avoir un choc quand ça arrivera.

My experience is mostly in a French-speaking environment. I haven’t really suffered racism in my most recent work experience. But if I consider my personal experience, my experiences across the world, I have to say that nothing would surprise me. I already feel ready to confront those things when they happen and also I know if necessary who I would turn to. For me that’s very, very important. It’s not a lack of trust in others. In all societies there are good people and bad people. But for me it’s a question of the attitude to take so I’m not shocked when it happens.

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An unofficial rule / Une règle qui n’est pas officielle

[English below] Le problème c’est que le racisme, c’est comme un règle, un règle qui n’est pas officiel, dans tous les domaines: académique, le domaine du travail, le domaine du transport, il est dans tous les domaines. Alors ça m’étonne pas que les gens des fois abandonnent, si vous n’avez pas les fibres forts, ils ne travaillent pas officiellement, ils font des choix qui ne sont pas sages. Parce qu’il y a un problème de structure social, politique dans la communauté des immigrants, surtout nous qui venons sans famille, sans fibre ancienne, qu’on puisse s’établir.

The problem is that racism, it’s like a rule, an unofficial rule, in all domains: academics, work, transportation, it’s in every domain. So, it doesn’t surprise me that sometimes people give up, if they’re not strong, they don’t work “officially”, they make choices that are unwise. Because there’s a structural problem, a political problem in immigrant communities, especially those of us who arrive without any family, any “old-stock”, to help us get established.

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