Monday, September 05, 2005

Black And White On Gottingen Street

The feds just spent a pile of money on a focus group report whose conclusions should have been obvious to anyone who's ever lived in Halifax: they don't much like black people there!

Visible minority persons working in the civil service in Halifax were much more likely than their counterparts in any other region to feel that being a visible minority is a negative factor in the workplace," says the report, which was obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

"Many in Halifax felt that 'it is just the way it is here,' that the issue is part of being in Halifax, and not systemic to the public service across Canada."


Said one black participant in the city: "When I started in this job, I found that people were surprised I could do it. I think they thought because I'm black, I was going to be 'lazy and shiftless and full of slang'."

A walk through Uniacke Square or Mulgrave Park would tell you where they got that impression. The city bulldozed Africville back in the sixties to make way for the MacKay bridge and a container pier that never got built, and dumped its residents in Halifax's own version of the projects.

As much as Africville was a dump, it was a functioning community, and nothing was wrong it that running city services out there couldn't have fixed.

Now the city has a park that few use, and Gottingen Street looking like a scene out of Detroit.

I remember from my high school days a major crackdown on prostitution rings run by black pimps out of Halifax. After a few days of announcing arrests of men from North Preston, Cherry Brook, and Lake Loon, CBC suddenly began referring to them all as Metro-area men.

This politically correct circumlocution did not fool anyone who knew how to identify their race and residence by their surnames; anyone from Nova Scotia could tell you what colour someone named States, Colley, Provo, Upshaw or Carvery is.

To say nothing of how the national media blew up a snowball fight at Cole Harbour High School and a bar brawl that spilled out into the street as full-out race riots.

Etc., etc., etc.,

That's just how race relations get viewed in Halifax. And the locals are especially prickly about come-from-aways lecturing us about how to change our attitudes, like they did after the Cole Harbour snowball fight.

Bad as they are, I just don't see them changing anytime soon. There's 200 years of history to overcome.

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