Carl James, David Este, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Akua Benjamin, Bethan Lloyd, and Tana Turner. Race and Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians

By Brigham, Susan | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Carl James, David Este, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Akua Benjamin, Bethan Lloyd, and Tana Turner. Race and Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians


Brigham, Susan, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


Carl James, David Este, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Akua Benjamin, Bethan Lloyd, and Tana Turner. Race and Well-being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians. Halifax: Fernwood Books, 2010. 205 pp. Index. Bibliography. $22.95 sc.

This book fills a gap in research that focuses specifically on one of the largest racialized groups in Canada, African Canadians. The authors define the term "African Canadian" as a diverse group which includes Canadian-born Blacks (i.e., third generation and more), first- or second-generation Blacks of Caribbean descent, and first- or second-generation Black immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The research data were gathered in three cities: Halifax, Calgary, and Toronto, a small, medium, and large city, respectively. The key research questions addressed in the book are:

   How do African Canadian boys, girls, men, women, and elders
   experience racism and violence in their lives? How do racism and
   violence affect the health and well-being of individuals, families,
   and communities? What actions do these people take to counteract
   the effects of racism and violence in their lives? What other
   actions can individuals, families, and communities take to increase
   their understanding of the root causes and effects of racism and
   violence? (3)

The authors draw on a large data set derived from community forums involving 300 African Canadians, a questionnaire administered to 900 people who self-identified as African Canadian and were over the age of 18, as well as 120 interviews with key informants (both Black and White) and Black community members. The authors candidly acknowledge that the book represents a "first culling through of the research data" (vii). The book consists of an introduction, seven chapters, an index, and select bibliography. The writing style is engaging and free of academic jargon.

The introductory chapter provides a historical and contemporary context for each research site, research methodology, and an overview of the main theories and concepts: Afrocentrism, Critical Race Theory, Anti-Black Racism and Critical Hope. This is a place where it would be helpful to talk about how these theories inform the research methodology.

In chapter 2 the authors endeavor to summarize the Canadian historical scene from "slavery to the present day" (36). While this is a mighty task, the authors manage to highlight several key events within 30 pages. They begin with a brief historical account of slavery and end with an overview of the Black population in Canada. Unfortunately, the census data used are from 2001, even though the 2006 data were available before this book was published.

Chapter 3 examines the multiple manifestations of racism by looking at four sub-scales of experiences: 1) exoticization: being constructed as the Other; 2) dehumanization: terrorism at every turn; 3) marginalization: being considered inferior; and 4) alienation: the immigrant experience. …

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