By Neil Armstrong
|Photo credit: Francine Buchner Dr. Carl James, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, York University, Toronto, Canada|
A report released in late 2019 says responses and strategies to working poverty need to be rooted in an analysis of anti-Black racism, and be designed to address systemic and structural issues that continue to marginalize the Black community.
Using data from Canada’s long-form census, “The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: A closer look at the increasing numbers” report by John Stapleton with contributions by Dr. Carl James and Dr. Kofi Hope for the Metcalf Foundation describes as troubling the high rates of working poverty persist among second and subsequent generations of the Black community.
In the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), in 2016, working poverty rates were highest (over 10%) for South Asian males, Black males, Black females, and Chinese males.
In a chapter entitled “Working Poverty in Toronto’s Black workforce” penned by Dr. James and Dr. Hope, two well-known African Canadian researchers, they note that the Black community members have the highest rate, at 10.5 per cent.
“And while racialized immigrants are over-represented among the working poor, their numbers tend to decrease in subsequent generations. Yet that number increases for second and third generation Black community members. What accounts for this situation?”
Both men note that a good starting place is to understand that aggregrating communities under the broad category of “visible minority” in Canada, masks the historical and social differences and unique challenges or barriers that Canadians within this category face.
“Understanding the life trajectories of Black Canadians specifically, requires acknowledging their historical and social context, the reality of anti-Black racism, and the reluctance of Canadians to acknowledge that this phenomenon has existed in our nation for hundreds of years,” they said.
“Anti-Black racism refers to stereotypes that are used in pathologizing Black people — for example, stereotypes around Black people having a poor work ethic. Anti-Black racism has been documented in many forms in Canada. We know that Black individuals face some of the highest rates of hate crimes in Canada, including the highest rate of those crimes motivated by race or ethnicity (37% of all hate crimes targeting ethnicity) and 16% of all hate crimes. In regards to employment, the Ontario Public Service — one of Ontario’s largest employers — is currently facing actions in the courts and within the Ontario Human Rights Commission exploring ongoing concerns about anti-Black racism faced by staff,” they write.
James and Hope said there are other specific factors to consider that drive the disproportionate rates of Black working poverty.
They said many of the factors they know to be drivers of working poverty for all citizens in the GTA, are seen in large numbers within Black Canadian populations.
These include being a young worker, having a low level of educational attainment, and residing in areas of Toronto outside of the downtown core -- Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York, and East York.
They note that the report also shows that gender and generational status play a significant role in the occurrence of working poverty within Black communities — a phenomenon which existing research can help contextualize.
The researchers said further research is needed to look more closely at the ways anti-Black racism manifests to produce barriers to Black people’s success in the labour market.
This research is critical to moving forward if we are to get a full picture of what is happening within Black communities, and what policy/community responses are necessary to change this situation, they said.
Dr. James says it is important to disaggregate the “racialized group” category where Blacks, South Asians, Asians and more are included and also to disaggregate the immigrant group.
He said when this is disaggregated it shows how Blacks are in relation to all those other racialized groups.
“It is in our interest to constantly ask for disaggregated information so that we can see how do we really look as a group in the society.
To address anti-Black racism, he said community members have to constantly use data to say how race is operating for Black people and how is it different for Black people compared to South Asians and Asians, noting that it operates very differently compared to the other groups.
He believes the Black community must develop the politics of using data to bring the necessary kind of attention and changes that the community wants.
Dr. James underscored the need to have data in order to have a comprehensive picture of the Black community and to determine where it should place most of its energies.