As a bi-racial man who has lived all over Canada and speaks both its official languages, Stephen Dorsey has a unique view of the country.
He grew up in largely white surroundings, but his black skin colour meant he was subjected to racial discrimination while growing up, even from his own white stepfather.
“I was reminded by others from a very young age that I was different, and of course (there was) the slurs.”
Dorsey, who is now based in the Toronto area, spent his teen years in Victoria after being abandoned at 14. In that time, he had to learn what it meant to be Black, aside from what he saw in pop-culture and media.
His education never included the story of Black people in Canada, and instead, he has just presented the colonial and whitewashed view of how Canada has come to be. It wasn’t until his 40s that he’d learn about the existence of slavery in Canada and the many injustices to Indigenous people. He then watched as the Black Lives Matter movement called for more just social reforms and George Floyd’s murder spurred a global reckoning on race.
All of his lived experiences, his thoughts on the change needed to address systemic racism, and his background as a professional communicator led him to pour all that into a book entitled Black and White: An Intimate, Multicultural Perspective on “White Advantage” and the Paths to Change.
“I think I’m helping to bridge the divides of understanding and I hope that’s what my book is going to do,” he said in an interview following the book’s release last month.
Dorsey hopes he can share a thorough look at truths of the past with white people who may have been withheld a fulsome view of history. People who have faced non-race-based hardships have expressed concern about the term white privilege to him. That’s why Dorsey uses the term white advantage, which his book explains by acknowledging the dark chapters of Canada’s past and the reality of systemic racism that continues to affect the country.
Canada has long touted itself as a multicultural country of equality, but hiding historical truths means work still needs to be done for it to live up to its own ideals, Dorsey said.
“Many people are unaware of the past and of the realities that continue to disadvantage members of the BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Colour) community.”
If Canadians open themselves to learning about and hearing some of those hard truths, Dorsey said, they might just “have their own awakening around the issues of systemic racism – and (ask) ‘What can I do?’”
“If we really do that work and we come together, then we will get to a place where we can all live better together in a more equal and just society for all Canadians.”
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