Why Whoopi Was Wrong: The Myth of a Post-Racial Canada – Huffington Post Canada

The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg annotated Justin Bieber’s videotaped use of the N-word. Ms. Goldberg attributed the then-pubescent Biebs’ gaffe to his “youthful ignorance” and Canadian upbringing.

“You know — Canadian words…N—r doesn’t mean anything in Canada.”

Goldberg bases her assessment of Canadian history and societal racism on the weeks she spent last year filming a movie in Toronto. Apparently, the N-word came up in the script. When Goldberg questioned it, the director pulled the wool over her eyes. Ms. Goldberg reached the absurd conclusion that the racial slur is “not a word that [Canadians] have associated with people of colour.”

I’m on my way to Canada
That cold and distant land
The dire effects of slavery
I can no longer stand.
Farewell, old master,
Don’t come after me.
I’m on my way to Canada
Where coloured men are free
~ Negro spiritual

Ms. Goldberg is just the latest African-American duped into believing the analogical “promised land” tale. In the eternal navel-gazing exercise of re-counting American history, Canada is relegated to a utopia where fairness and freedom reigned for black slaves — a deceptive narrative the Canadian establishment is all too happy to assume.

Even as blatant racial segregation and discrimination in housing, employment and legal justice permeated the quotidian in Canada’s largest cities, Martin Luther King marched into Toronto in 1967 with a familiar falsehood:

“Canada is not merely a neighbor to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave could find freedom. The legendary Underground Railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. […] Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the Underground Railroad would carry him there.”

Even the greatest of Americans did not bother to scrutinize the fictitious Garden of Eden. Had they done so, they would have uncovered state-sanctioned racism bearing a strange resemblance to that which plagued their own nation.

After all, the foetation of both the United States and Canada is inextricably linked to the enslavement of non-whites in some form or another.

McGill University Prof. Charmaine Nelson writes:

Slavery was practiced in Canada for over two centuries. Although ignorant about Canadian slavery, [we all] have been schooled in the Underground Railroad, which positioned white Canadians as liberators of African-American slaves. By the way, the Underground Railroad lasted from 1834 until 1865. How is it that we know about a three-decade window when enslaved Africans fled north from the U.S.A., but we know nothing about a two hundred plus year expanse of time when Canadians were slaving?

Most Americans don’t know that enslaved blacks fled Canada southwards — to the USA:

Beyond the 1833 abolition of slavery which Britain imposed on the Canadian colony, “free blacks” graduated from slaves to indentured servants. Lawrence Hill’s opus, “The Book of Negroes”, gives a grim description of life as a black person in 18th-century Canada. It is no coincidence that so many blacks deserted Canada as soon as U.S. President Lincoln declared emancipation.

It’s been 20 years since the Canadian government certified Black History Month, yet the myth of white-gloved, post-racial Canadians persists. Black Canadians’ struggle is sidelined by consistent distortions (or outright expunctions) on both sides of the border.

Even recent books, such as the Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream biography perpetuate falsehoods:

“In an initial conversation with Montreal manager Clay Hopper, who came from Mississippi, Rickey told Hopper he thought Robinson was ‘superhuman.’ Hopper replied, ‘Do you really think a n—r’s a human being?’
Once the season started, Robinson found himself free of America’s racism while playing at home in Montreal, a city that had little prejudice because it was located in Canada, a land that had never known slavery, the Confederacy, or separate white and black drinking fountains. Montreal, moreover, was spiritually connected to France, the chosen home of such black expatriates as Josephine Baker.”

The recent Oscar-winning film “12 Years a Slave” further inflated Canada’s ego and deepened its selective historical amnesia. The “white saviour” role, played by Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt, fortified Canadians’ false sense of moral superiority on race.

Just as African-Americans risked their lives and livelihoods to claim their civil rights, so did black Canadians. A decade before Rosa Parks, Viola Desmond sat in an whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946. Before the Greensboro Four, Jamaican-Canadian Bromley Armstrong and Chinese-Canadian Ruth Lor sat at lunch counters to joist judicial operatives into prosecuting the white-only businesses in 1954. The rainbow coalition which inaugurated civil rights in Canada remain unknown and unsung, their feats are just as noteworthy as their much-feted American counterparts.

The U.S. benefits from a general willingness to acknowledge and face the ugliest chapters of its past to gauge progress. As long as Canada hides behind the cloak of compassionate caricature, Canadians will remain, as Whoopi Goldberg puts it, “youthfully ignorant.”

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  • March 2011

    Justin had his first, very public, run in with the paps when he <a href=”http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2011/03/justin-bieber-to-paparazzi-eff-you/” target=”_blank”>stuck his middle finger up to their cameras</a> (and thus the world).

  • November 2011

    Justin felt the effect of his first paternity suit. He was accused of being the father of a 4-month-old baby boy with Mariah Yeater, but complied with a paternity test and proved his ‘innocence’.

  • May 2012

    It may not sound like a big deal, but in May 2012 a definitely-not-21-year-old Justin confessed to “having a beer” for the first time. Two years later, and he’s pretty much a regular in nightclubs (and stripclubs) around the world.

    In the same month, he also got into an altercation with a tabloid snapper, who reportedly blocked his car in when he left a cinema with Selena.

  • July 2012

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    <a href=”http://hollywoodlife.com/2012/07/06/justin-bieber-speeding-ticket-pulled-over-cops-driving-fisker-karma-paparrazi/” target=”_blank”>“Bieber was driving like a maniac. He was weaving in and out of traffic. There was hardly any space between cars as he weaved from lane to lane,”</a> an eyewitness, who just happens to be L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine, said.

  • January 2013

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  • March 2013

    The O2 was forced to apologise to young fans after Justin was nearly two hours late on stage for his opening night at the venue.

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  • 7 March 2013

    It all began getting a little ‘Michael Jackson’ when Justin donned a gas mask (natch) to go out for dinner at Mr Chow in London.

    The next day he was rushed to hospital after suffering breathing difficulties on stage at London’s O2 Arena. Surely the two can‘t have been related?

  • April 2013

    Justin shocked monkeys, fans and animal rights activists when he abandoned his adorable monkey, Mally.

    The Capuchin monkey was seized by Munich customs when Bieber arrived in Germany as part of his world tour last month, as he did not have the correct paperwork. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/23/justin-bieber-monkey-mally_n_3139497.html” target=”_blank”>Justin then apparently decided he didn’t want him back.</a>

  • April 2013

    We really started to worry about Justin’s ego when he speculated that teen Holocaust victim Anne Frank could have been a “Belieber” if she had survived the Nazis.

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    “Fans were waiting outside to see a glimpse of him. He stayed more than an hour in the museum.

    “In our guestbook he wrote: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.””

  • April 2013

    Swedish police confirmed that they had found drugs on board Justin’s tour bus.

    <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/25/justin-bieber-drugs-tour-bus-swedish-police_n_3154851.html” target=”_blank”>Police raided the vehicle after an off-duty officer smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle</a> while it was parked outside the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.

    This was just the first of many tour bus raids.

  • 17 July 2013

    An Ohio DJ claimed Justin spat in his face while at a nightclub. According to the story reported by TMZ, the pop singer thought the man was taking photos of him. <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/justin-bieber-spitting_n_3612817.html” target=”_blank”>The DJ who accused Justin of spitting in his face, Addison Ulhaq, filed a police report against the singer, according to TMZ.</a> He claims he got tested for Hepatitis because the incident left him with saliva in his eye, nose and mouth.

  • 5 August 2013

    Justin was filmed climbing over a car during a nightclub brawl in The Hamptons, New York.

    The ‘Baby’ singer came under investigation by the NYPD following the fight at the South Pointe venue in the early hours.

    22-year-old Wayne Rennalls was hospitalised after the altercation and suffered a black eye, bruised ribs and a cut lip. He later filed an assault claim.

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    The bust up is said to have started in the roped-off VIP area – where the 19-year-old was seated with his entourage – but ended up in the club’s car park.

  • 3 November 2013

    Justin was reportedly smuggled out of a brothel in Brazil during some time off from his tour in the country.

    According to New York Post’s Page Six, the 19-year-old singer and a friend spent three hours in the Centauros brothel in Rio de Janeiro.

  • 5 December 2013

    Justin’s potty mouth landed him in a whole load of trouble when his entourage was detained at Brisbane International Airport in Australia on suspicion of smuggling drugs. Beebs was given a <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/06/justin-bieber-drugs-brisbane-australia_n_4396840.html” target=”_blank”>verbal warning for using “inappropriate language” following a conversation with a female customs officer, The Sydney Daily Telegraph report</a>ed.

    He had allegedly refused to remove his hat and sunglasses during an inspection and also used insulting language toward the officer. Police had to threaten to arrest him, the newspaper said.

  • 14 January 2014

    Move over spurned violinist on Britain’s Got Talent, Justin had his own egg-gate when he allegedly egged his neighbour’s house, causing $20,000 worth of damage.

    <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/14/cops-raid-justin-bieber-house-egg-attack_n_4596249.html?just_reloaded=1″ target=”_blank”>Justin was detained in his garage while police with a “felony search warrant” looked for evidence in his home</a>

    They then arrested his friend Lil Za for cocaine possession during the raid. Bieber has not been connected to the cocaine, but he has been neither charged nor exonerated in the egg incident that promoted the search warrant.

  • 23 January 2014

    All of Justin’s troublesome behaviour culminated when he was arrested in Miami Beach for driving under the influence and drag racing.

    The Miami Beach Police released what is possibly the happiest-looking mugshot in Hollywood’s Hall of Shame.

  • 24 January 2014

    Justin didn’t forget his admiring teenage fans as he left jail following his arrest for DUI and drag racing.

    The 19-year-old, wearing a black hoody and dark shades, climbed on top of a waiting black SUV outside the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami to greet his fans before being driven away. And in the process angered a whole load more people.

  • 30 January 2014

    Justin landed himself in even MORE trouble after being charged with assaulting a limo driver.

    The singer handed himself in at a Toronto police station, where he was mobbed by fans and TV crews.

    According to the Toronto Police service, <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/30/justin-bieber-charged-assault-limo-driver_n_4693256.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-justin-bieber” target=”_blank”>he will now appear in court on 11 March in connection with the incident, which saw him hit the driver in the back of the head several times last December.</a>

  • 5 February 2014

    Pilots hired by Justin Bieber <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/05/justin-bieber-plane-jet-smoking-weed-oxygen-masks_n_4729451.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-justin-bieber” target=”_blank”>to fly him to the Super Bowl have revealed they had to wear oxygen masks to overcome marijuana fumes on the flight.</a>

    An official report into the incident also revealed how the troubled teen and his father were “extremely abusive” to a flight attendant.

  • 27 February 2014

    After his arrest footage then emerged of <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/27/justin-bieber-arrest-video-singer-stumbles-sobriety-test-pushups-cell-_n_4864217.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-justin-bieber” target=”_blank”>Justin appearing to sway and stumble as he attempted to walk in a straight line for a sobriety test.</a>

    The film was shot at a south Florida police station following his DUI arrest in January and reveals the 19-year-old singer also dropping to the ground to do pushups.

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