In a previous article, UNAVSA talked about the dangers of omitting historical context from school textbooks and curriculum. The misconception that Canada faces little to no racial and cultural tensions, especially in comparison to its neighboring country the U.S., is a result of this intentional exclusion. Canada often totes the fact that it was a safe haven for African American slaves escaping from the U.S. through the Underground Railroad in the 19th century. The fact that Canada also exploited Black and Indigenous lives and did not abolish slavery until 1833 is overshadowed by this savior image. Hiding one aspect of history while embracing another has silenced the cultural and political voices of Black folks for the past four-hundred years. The narrative of multiculturalism and tolerance in Canada has allowed the state to continuously criminalize and punish Black lives without public backlash or even awareness. Arguably state-sanctioned violence poses a greater threat than individual acts of prejudice and discrimination because it remains invisible to the public and rationalized by government officials who hold power.
Breaking this silence requires the Vietnamese community to stand as allies for Black lives. As an organization that bolsters Canadian and U.S. constituents, we must understand, “unlike in the United States, systematic collection of publicly available race-based data is rare at the national, provincial, or municipal level and at most universities [in Canada]” (Maynard 2017). The covert structural inequalities that Black lives have faced in Canada juxtaposes the often times more conspicuous accounts of racism in the U.S., such as segregated schools and other Jim Crow laws. This has made it easy to hide the scale and magnitude at which the policing of Black lives in Canada occurs. According to Scot Wortley (2006), one-third of those killed by the police are Black people despite only making up 3% of the Canadian population. The school to prison pipeline is just as real in Canada as it is in the U.S. yet not talked about in current events. The lack of conversation around the policing of Black lives creates an incomplete North American history. By educating ourselves and standing in solidarity with other marginalized groups, we can be a part of a more equitable future.
UNAVSA, with the goals of advocating for social justice issues and promoting cultural consciousness among North American Vietnamese people, stands as an ally for Black lives. UNAVSA wants its constituents to be aware of and understand both the rich and dark history of Canada as it hosts its Leadership Conference in Vancouver, Canada, for the first time this summer. We honor Black History Month not just through the progress and accomplishments that have been made, but also through the recognition of the voices and narratives that have gone unheard. Beyond this acknowledgement is our crucial role as allies and advocates that must not falter, especially when the state system attempts to silence or pit minority voices against each other. It is our responsibility to be aware, critical, and open-minded community members if we are to be an organization that seeks to achieve inclusiveness and equality in the Greater Vietnamese community.