I am a recent university graduate, and I noticed that the racism you experience in academic spaces as a Black student in Montreal is very different from what most people think about when they think of racism. Racist microaggressions in universities are more subtle and sinister, and often than not leave you questioning whether you just experienced racism or if you are imagining things even when what happened to you was clearly driven by racist biases. I was really lucky to have amazing professors who made my learning experience very positive, but they’re also a few who made it uncomfortable and hurtful, whether it be through disparaging, lazy and stereotypical comments they would make about African countries or just straight out passive aggressive behavior towards me, from these professors for calling out such comments.
Though I have lived in Quebec longer than I have lived anywhere else in the world, I feel more like I am a Montrealer than I feel like I am part of Quebec society. This is because of the lack of representation of people who look like me in Quebec media, politics, and history books. Only Quebecois white culture/politics is ever represented in Quebec media. If i did not live in a multicultural city like Montreal and solely relied on the images that i saw and the stories that i read in Quebecois media, i would think that POC had no significant history in Quebec. I love history and I have been reading a lot about the history of Black Canadians and Black Quebecois people, it is so rich and beautiful and spans over a period of four hundred years. There is also Indigenous history that is really an important and significant part of Canadian history, but unless you take specific classes, chances are you will never hear anything about it. I find this so sad and unfortunate. I will never forget the way everyone kept on asking who Viola Desmond was when it was announced she would be on the $10 bill. She is literally the mother of the Canadian civil rights movement. How can people not know her? I think because there is this constant need to protect Quebecois culture, which I understand and sympathize with, people who are not White Quebecois and Francophone are constantly made to feel like they don’t really belong here.
There have been instances where I was asked to open my bag for a theft check in front of Jean Coutu/Pharmaprix “because my backpack looked heavy” and managers were not really understanding when I told them it was just my books and laptop. Experiences like that happen a lot to Black Quebecois people, and I don’t think shop owners/managers understand how dehumanizing and embarrassing it is for us.