Comedian Whoopi Goldberg is throwing a little shade at black Canadians. The co-host of ‘The View’ was recently discussing Justin Bieber’s N-word laced videos, when she told viewers the N-word doesn’t have the same meaning in Canada. She was kind of insinuating Bieber should get a pass because of it. Um, what?! Whoopi said she spent time north of the border making a movie, and black Canadians told her things were different. Sure, some things do differ. We’ll get to that. But Whoopi needs to hold up! The N-word still packs the same punch in the great white north! The word doesn’t lose meaning when it clears customs. The intent of the word in our lexicon is the same in Canada, as it is in the U.S.
The main voice behind things here at HotMessFolder just happens to be a black Canadian, who lives in the U.S. Whoopi does have a point to some degree. The black Canadian experience is unique from the black American experience. In America, things are extremely black and white. A history of slavery and the Jim Crow era will do that.
In Canada, there are several shades in between. It’s historically been viewed as a safe haven for blacks. Canada is a complex mosaic of black people. Many “original” black Canadians got there on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman — remember her? Yes, some black Canadians descend from those who escaped from slavery in the American south to freedom. But, throughout much of the last century, most black Canadians have immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean or Africa. The black Canadian experience is not as singular as it is for diaspora in the states. Black Canadians don’t come from a common culture.They come from a diverse set of global cultures. Sure there are Caribbean and African blacks in the U.S. too. But it’s the traditional American black culture that dominates what it means to be a black-skinned person in the U.S. This is not the case in Canada.
With that said, the same issues of white versus black racism aren’t as deeply woven into Canadian society. Think this is what Whoopi was trying to get at. But racism and discrimination still exists. Canada is still a country with a white Anglo-Saxon and white Francophone history. Little black kids are called the N-word at school growing up, especially if you live outside a major urban area like Toronto or Montreal. The N-word is international, just like xenophobia. It’s said to demean you. Devalue you. It has the same purpose it has in the U.S. Just because it’s coming out of the mouth of a Canadian doesn’t change it’s meaning or context. People in Canada still want to touch a black woman’s braids with amazement and wonder (not that anyone here is speaking from experience or anything). Canadian cities have pockets of poor community housing disproportionately populated by blacks. The racial issues are still there. They’re just served up on a different platter, because it’s a different country, with a different history.
The N-word’s roots may be American, but just like America’s other cultural exports, it too, has seeped into Canada. Most aspects of American culture make their way north. Unfortunately, racially charged words are no exception. Canadians get American food, movies, music, news, television, and language. All with a little side serving of race relations every now and then. Is NAFTA to blame for this? All this free trade has somehow allowed the N-word slip into Canadian culture. Did it need a passport? Seriously though, Whoopi, black Canadians probably wish Americans could’ve keep this one cultural nugget to themselves. It’s really not that cool. How about this — Canada takes Bieber back for good, with a promise from the U.S. to keep the N-word on the American side of the border. Sounds like a fair exchange!