The St. Thomas University Black Student Association prepared a series of webinars to bring awareness to racial issues and empower Black students by showing Black talent and beauty for Black History Month.
Felomena Deogratsias, a fourth-year student at St. Thomas University, hosted the first of these webinars on Feb. 11 with “Breaking the Stereotypes: A Series of Conversations.” She talked about her own experiences living as a Black woman in Canada.
“You can’t define Blackness,” said Deogratsias.
She talked about living in predominately white communities like Montreal and Fredericton where she struggled to understand the discrimination towards her and her brother from a young age.
The webinar featured a news segment where Deogratsias and her family spoke about the discrimination she and her siblings experienced at school. In the video, she said, “I’m a person. I’m human.”
Deogratsias defined stereotypes as “false and racist ideas.” She said young Black people carry those stereotypes subconsciously, emphasizing on how the negative connotations given to the word Black in society influence the perspective of being Black.
These stereotypes lead to what Deogratsias called “social categories.” She said this is the way Black people are perceived by close friends and family and how it differs from the eyes of society.
Deogratsias spoke about “double consciousness,” a term originally coined by W.E.B. Du Bois to explain social categories. Du Bois was a sociologist and a prominent civil rights activist. The term refers to how Black people’s identity is divided into multiple facets and how they have to water down their identity to fit with the white societal norms.
“Black history is world history,” said Deogratsias. “In Canada, we have done a disservice to ourselves [and] to not be honest with ourselves.”
She explained white supremacy as a system and asked viewers to understand where they lie in the spectrum and to educate themselves on these stereotypes imposed on minority groups. These include microaggressions, tokenization and knowing how to be an ally without speaking over Black voices.
She touched on the subject of intersectionality and the advantages and disadvantages of being a Black woman and how these overlap. This is a subject that will be further explained in the second part of the webinar.
Deogratsias finished her webinar stating that not all people go through the same things, informing and educating others about societal issues using her own experiences as a reference.