Tag Archives: communal

Eight Things I Learned in Indonesia

A little over a year ago I spent four months in Indonesia. I didn’t really travel across the country, at least not in the way you would expect during that much time abroad. Instead I had the great privilege to live in Indonesia, and see it from the inside. It’s hard to put to words all that I learned, and impossible to do justice to the people I met and the experiences I had. Here is my attempt to share are a few things I learned while I was travelling.

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1) Hospitality

The first notable quality of almost every Indonesian I encountered, and especially of my host family, was their hospitality. Within 12 hours of arriving my concept of generosity and hospitality had been put to shame. My hosts not only shared their home, they shared their family, lives, and friends with me. I was adopted into their social circle, taken for day- or week-long trips by their friends while I was there. I was honoured to be one of the first people to greet the family’s first grandson alongside the immediate family.

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2) Hijabs aren’t scary

This is a fairly potent topic these days so I won’t comment too much. Over half the women on Java wear hijabs, a head covering worn by Muslim women. When I asked why they wore them, all the women I asked answered with “I wear it because I choose to.” I began to recognize beauty and comfort in these headdresses, as well as freedom of expression. These women were neither ashamed nor pious in their religion, it was simply a part of their life.

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Not so Nice After All: 4 Examples of Racist Canadian History That You May Never Have Heard Of

Canadians like to think that we’re a pretty nice bunch.

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Especially now, as Drumpf’s presidential candidacy reveals the racist underbelly of our neighbours to the South, we Canadians pride ourselves on being nothing like the States. We happily disassociate ourselves from the violence and xenophobia that seems to crop up at every Drumpf rally.

It’s just so incredibly convenient to revel in our not-Americanness, as though that in itself makes us not racist. We try to pretend that same kind of racism doesn’t exist here, even though the same fear-baiting tactic was used in our recent election. We try to ignore the recent hateful attack on Syrian refugees, newly arrived in Canada. We try to forget that our country was built upon the exploitation of people of colour.

In case you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, I’ve included a couple examples below.

1. Canada had Legal Slavery

In elementary school the only time I learned about slavery and Canada was when we studied the Underground Railway. Through these stories of escape and hope I, like many Canadians, was led to believe that Canada had offered an escape for Black men and women who were trapped as slaves in the United States.

What I never knew (until recently) was that Canada was not always the beacon of hope that it appeared. As historian Natasha Henry highlights in her article about Slavery in Canada,

“African slavery existed in the colonies of New France and British North America for over 200 years, yet there remains a profound silence in classrooms and teaching resources about Canada’s involvement in the African slave trade. According to available historical documents, least 4,000 Africans were held in bondage for two centuries in the early colonial settlements of New France (Quebec), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Upper Canada (Ontario).”

Luckily, novelists have begun to draw attention to the stories that our history books have overlooked. Afua Cooper’s The Hanging of Angélique, for example, tells the true story of Canadian slave Marie-Joseph Angélique. Meanwhile, Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negros, reminds us that many escaped slaves were actually shipped back to the States by Canadian authorities. He also explores the extreme racism that drove some black Canadians to move to Sierra Leone. Continue reading