Anti-Black Racism and the CHA

Published on February 25, 2021

The decision of the Black Canadian Studies Association earlier this month to withdraw from participating in Congress 2021 has made it abundantly clear to us in the CHA that there is still much to do in confronting racism and colonialism in the association, in the academy, in the Federation, and beyond. 

The start we have made in identifying inequities through our departmental survey, in broadening the constitution of our prizes and committees, and in engaging in open and honest discussions surrounding race, precarity and decolonization in our webinar series, is insufficient, but remains ongoing.

We must all be attentive to the need to write more inclusive histories, from more different perspectives, and in ways that confront racism and colonialism rather than perpetuating them.   We need to be aware of who is included – and who we are excluding – in conversations about the discipline.  We need to acknowledge our shared responsibility to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, and to do so more consciously than we have in the past.

Congress this year will be different.  In some ways, those differences – like the online format and the use of the video conferencing platform – will make the event less accessible, less attractive, and certainly less intimate.  In other ways, it offers some opportunities for building a more inclusive association and more diverse understanding of history.   Registration fees for CHA participants who are students or unwaged have been waived; all participants who were on the 2020 program and who wish to participate in Congress 2021 have been guaranteed a spot on the program; we have made funds available to graduate students, and to Black and Indigenous scholars, to support research and facilitate conference participation; the program committee has prepared a conference that highlights Black and Indigenous histories, Black and Indigenous scholars, and Black and Indigenous approaches to history. 

The research and scholarship presented at Congress 2021 will find a lasting place in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, in the work that will be inspired by the conversations that occur at Congress, and in the video legacy that is possible with the online format.  And our commitment at the CHA to continuing to explore better ways to include, represent and amplify diverse voices will continue long after the close of Congress 2021.

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