SLĀV BACKLASH HIGHLIGHTS CANADA’S HISTORY OF DENYING RACISM, SAYS POET GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE

Quebecois Nationalist intellectuals have tried to identify with African-American struggle, says Clarke

0
Betty Bonifassi was the lead singer and co-creator of SLĀV, a Robert Lepage production based on slave songs that was cancelled after protests. (Radio-Canada)

The uproar about SLĀV — a Montreal show about slavery with a predominantly white cast – is rooted in some Quebecois’ view that their national identity has much in common with the African-American civil rights movement, according to poet George Elliot Clarke.

Quebecois Nationalists view the African-American struggle as “a kind of preface to their own struggle to achieve greater sovereignty — greater respect — vis-à-vis English Canada,” said Clarke, an English professor at the University of Toronto and former parliamentary poet laureate.

But that identification can be used to ignore racism within Canada, he said, pointing to arguments made in Nègres blancs d’Amérique, a 1968 book by Pierre Vallières.

“[Vallières argues] that Quebecois working-class white citizens suffered as great an oppression as African-American slaves, viz-a-viz English Canada,” Clarke told The Current’s guest host Mike Finnerty.

LEAVE A REPLY