“The daycare operator told me, 'I don’t know how it is in Canada, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed… but this is a Black daycare…'” recalled Prof. Mery Martinez Garcia in a recent interview. “I asked her, 'is there an issue with my child being white?' Then the operator responded, 'No! No! No, no, no! Normally white people don’t put their children into a black daycare!'” Martinez Garcia, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, states that this is a shocking yet common encounter she experienced during her time living in the southern United States.
“I don’t want my children growing up thinking that Blacks belong over here, and whites belong over there, or that white people are better than black people,” she says, adding that she believes the fight against racism must start early in life. To her, children need to be taught to respect and defend each other; they need to grow up knowing that the colour of their skin will not limit their opportunities to succeed in life.
“It’s not just Blacks, it’s Indigenous people, Indians (from India who are also dark skinned), Latinos, and mixed people too who also got abused,” she emphasized.
Despite the fact that great strides have been made to tackle the complex legacies of slavery and colonialism, reduce discrimination, and uphold equal rights, there is still a long way to go. The progress of the past 50 years should not suppress the present story of racism. Many people believe further progress has stalled because “our society denies the existence of racism and discrimination“ said Dr. Garcia. “We need to accept that there is a problem.” She believes that only through acceptance and recognition can we then work collectively to encourage reconciliation and equity in our society.
“Black History Month is one of the times in the year when the Black community’s contribution counts for something,” said Dr. Garcia. She stressed the importance of showcasing the great contributions Black people have made to art, science, and little every-day-things.
“We are present.”
Authored by Vanessa Klemm, Laurentian University Communication Studies alumni, with thanks to Professor Mery Martinez Garcia for sharing her knowledge, perspectives, and experiences for this article.