Anti-Black Racism & Social Movements: From Ferguson to Vancouver

These two proposed classes hope to sustain a conversation about the implications of the “2014-15 Black uprising” in North America (centred in the U.S.) for an antidisplacement movement in British Columbia. Readings include Black authors writing with movements that predate events in Ferguson as well as recent articles and posts by organizers from Ferguson and nationwide. A major challenge in this class series is to think about institutions of whiteness in Western Canada, where systems of white supremacy have historically excluded Black communities from settling, and from being imagined or discussed as part of society.

Readings also include Black authors from Canada who grapple with the questions of Canadian racism, and some news articles that highlight manifestations of anti-Black racism in Canada. Class series discussion questions: American racism can appear as a specifically national problem. Racism, as philosopher Charles W. Mills says, is the historic foundation and currency of social relations in the USA, and white supremacy is its structure. Through these readings and materials, we would like to consider three questions:

1) Does (anti-black) racism have a specific home? Is it local? Global? More? What are the implications of this local/global question for an analysis of white supremacy and for the fight against it?

2) What does this mean in a Canadian (and specifically Vancouver) context? American racism is structured between the “binaries” of white and Black racialization, with white power wielding the power of defining the race hierarchy. In the way race is structured in Western Canada, Black people and communities are less visible, disappeared from history and denied in present-day society. Does whiteness in Vancouver exist without Blackness? Consider especially the “2014-15 U.S. Black uprising” articles and the multiple meanings of support for Black struggle in the U.S. by whites in Vancouver. Think about the uncomfortable possibility that distant support for Black struggle in the U.S. might also position white (and nonBlack people of colour) Vancouverites as “better” than U.S. whites regarding anti-Black racism.

3) Kristin Braswell writes, “Since the moment Michael Brown was murdered on August 9, women in Ferguson have played a critical role in mobilizing their communities to convict officer Darren Wilson.” And yet, the media covering Ferguson and resistance in other cities seems to focus primarily on leadership by Black men. Related to this, a disturbing and factual refrain has emerged in popular media that every 28 hours, an unarmed Black man is shot in the U.S. However, no numbers are offered or seem to be recorded for Black women, or Black trans women. For the mainstream (coded white) U.S. media and consciousness, Black men are variously portrayed as victims, criminals, and sometimes feared militant leaders. Why do Black men seem to be hyper-visible in both life and death? Are we aware of the roles of Black women in movements and in struggle? And what does white supremacy got to do with it?

Class One: World Systems of White Supremacy

  • Angela Davis, “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex,” Colorlines
  • Sean Fine, “Black inmates face second-class status in Canadian prisons, ombudsman warns,” Globe & Mail
  • Vancouver Observer, “B.C. tree planters found living in squalor still waiting for wages”
  • Sarah Jane Mathieu, “Drawing the Line: Race and Canadian Immigration Policy” from North of the Color Line
Class 1 Reading Package

Class Two & Three: From Ferguson to Vancouver

  • Frank Wilderson, “We’re trying to destroy the world”: AntiBlackness and police violence after Ferguson
  • Sherene Razack, Unmapping Canada: Starting with Bodies and Repressed Truths.
  • Audre Lorde, Power (a poem)
  • James Baldwin, Black Boy looks at the White Boy
  • Audre Lorde, An open letter to Mary Daly
  • A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement
  • Brittney Cooper, In Defence of Black Rage
  • Kristen Braswell, Not all the Black Freedom Fighters are Men
Class 2-3 Reading Package