In a recent podcast, we had a heated discussion about Acadians and the idea that other minorities should be helping others with their sufferings. At the time of the discussion I went to bat for the Acadians because I understand the years of suffering they went through. I have spent five of my seven year post-secondary education studying Acadians. Not only is my mom Acadian, but as an Anglophone attending Université de Moncton it was required to take a certain number of French courses which often featured Acadian history, Acadian culture research and I also took an Acadian History course. I feel like I know how much they deserve the seat at the table they worked so hard to earn from their Anglophone counterparts. The diaspora of Acadians was horrific and those traumas and prejudices still run rampant through the east coast today. At what point, as a minority do you feel you have enough security in your community to start helping others? At what point as Acadians can we turn around and help the Indigenous, Black, Asian, Immigrant and other visible minority community members who are oppressed by the same oppressor as we Acadians are?
I get the sense that the Acadians fought a harder battle many years ago to get to such a secure place now – where they have a university, museums, a national day. Maybe there is something to say about such a small knit community with such collective pride. I know that Black people have pride, but until this year I was unaware of slavery in my own province. The pride that comes from the patriotism of being Acadians who have suffered the same fight is only similarly seen in Black History Month, since Black people have come from far and wide and can’t all trace where they have been brought to Canada from. In listing my vast Acadian history above, I could not help contrast it to my lack of knowledge and education on Black Canadian History. I’m sure that the white people in power would rather such a large group stay uneducated about all the atrocities done to them. Maybe there is something to be said about how much smaller the Acadian group is? Maybe the white Anglophones at the time deemed them as less of a threat, and slowly gave them an inch, gave them the power of language laws, and the ability to educate others on what happened on that land in 1755. Maybe there is something to be said about how organized such a small group can be. But again, at what point does this small group, who from an inch has gained a mile in comparison to other minorities, help the other minorities get their inch?
I first saw it when the First Nation fisherman in Nova Scotia were facing terrorist attacks from white supremacists in that industry. I saw friends of mine calling upon other Acadians to stand with their Indigenous friends. I had never thought of it much before, how the First Nations were there and suffered during the diaspora in 1755 with us. Until I saw my friends saying, “we’re with you” I hadn’t wondered why we weren’t with them before. Why Acadians weren’t leading the helm begging for clean water for reserves, why we weren’t participating in the Black Lives Matter marches, why we weren’t speaking out against Anti-Asian racism. This blog isn’t completely dunking on Acadians. I think there is an older generation of baby boomer Acadians who remember how hard they worked to earn the rights they have to ask for services in their preferred language. I think that older generation remembers what it was like when they were seen as lesser than the English and are too afraid that helping other minorities to a seat at the table will make them lose their seat. I see a younger generation, the Black Acadians, the Queer Acadians, my friends, and peers who are coming together in this community and trying to make waves and changes.
I think to generalize all Acadians as greedy is unfair. As my mom has always said, there are assholes in every bunch. I’m sure there are Acadians who are racist, who don’t want to share the rights they’ve earned and the policies made to benefit them, who don’t want immigrants to be able to vote and don’t want Black Canadian History to be taught in the same way Acadian History is. But I am a Black Acadian, and I want change. My best friend is a white Acadian who wants the same changes. We know queer Acadians demanding visibility. We know BIPOC artists trying to change the conversation in theatre and steer it toward telling a new story, and not always the story of the Sagouine (though that is a good story). I believe in this new generation of people and I believe they can evenly cut the pie we are all eating from.