Archive for February, 2018

February 20, 2018

Black history gets short shrift in new Quebec textbooks

Published Feb 15, 2018 in the Montreal Gazette

By Robert Green

It seems a year doesn’t pass where we are not painfully reminded of the ignorance that large segments of our population have with respect to the history of black people living in the territory we now know as Quebec. From opposition to changing racist place names, to the public defence of the all too frequent donning of blackface, to the denials of the need to address systemic racism, in each case we hear a familiar refrain: Quebecers are not racist, and to suggest otherwise amounts to Quebec bashing.

As a teacher of Quebec history, I am always saddened by such reactionary sentiments. If we knew the truth about our own history, I believe such insensitive and defensive reactions would be far less frequent. Others might instead open their minds to the perspectives of their black fellow citizens, and in the process, help to create the kind of society where the voices and contributions of all citizens are valued, regardless of ethnicity or skin colour.

Indeed, this very sentiment was expressed in the preamble of the National Assembly’s 2006 proclamation of February as Black History Month in Quebec. It states that raising awareness about black history “helps to encourage the full participation of all in Quebec society, to promote inclusion and openness to pluralism and to strengthen intercultural rapprochement between all Quebecers.”

When the new government-approved Secondary 4 history textbook arrived in November, I was therefore curious to see to what extent it would reflect the National Assembly’s powerful words.

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