Black History Month is important to acknowledge. It allows us the time to reflect on the progress we have made and the long way we have left to go in achieving an equitable society. Black Canadians make up 3% of Canada's population, yet account for a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population. At the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), we acknowledge that this reality doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by design.
It is no secret that system failures which underlie an increased risk of homelessness continue to disproportionately affect Black communities. For example:
- Black youth are 3 times more likely to be suspended and/or expelled from school than their white counterparts
- Black individuals experience additional challenges in accessing affordable and effective healthcare services
- On any given day, Black individuals account for between 11-15% of the inmate population in Canadian prisons
Interactions between these structural failures contribute to a disproportionate number of Black individuals experiencing homelessness because Black Canadians experience inordinate barriers to accessing the appropriate supports.
Anti-Black racism doesn't end there - Black individuals experience more barriers in trying to exit homelessness. For example they are evicted more frequently and are less likely to receive long-term housing support.
Educating others and moving conversations forward about Anti-Black racism are both essential in achieving equitable housing and ending homelessness in our society. A couple actionable steps to consider when approaching conversations as an ally are the the following:
- Read books/articles on Anti-Black racism - it is important to approach conversations from an informed perspective
- Don’t expect Black people to put in the ‘emotional labour’ for you - explaining and challenging racism should not always fall upon the shoulders of Black people. It is a collective responsibility!
- Sometimes it is important to practice active listening and allow other voices to be heard- this can be equally powerful in moving conversations forward.
It is also crucial to understand that these challenges don’t vanish once Black History Month is over —Anti-Black Racism persists all-year-round. Therefore, we must constantly work toward reversing structural inequities.