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Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally: Hantz' Story (INC1-V12)


This video features Hantz Prosper, who shares his personal story and lived experience with racism.

Duration: 00:07:47
Published: July 14, 2020
Type: Video

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Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally: Hantz' Story

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Transcript: Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally: Hantz' Story

[A white and purple background appears with the title "Understanding Anti-Black Racism & How to Be an Ally — Hantz' Story"]

[Hantz Prosper, Senior Director, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada appears on screen]

So, today as we said, it will be a very uncomfortable conversation for me. I have to admit, it's the first time I'm talking about this in such a large forum, so it won't be easy for me. But, I think it has to be uncomfortable, and it may be uncomfortable for some to admit or to hear this, but I've been uncomfortable as a Black Canadian for many years and I think now we all have to accept to have that conversation,

[A purple background with white text appears with the text "Racism hurts on many levels" appears on screen. Additional text appears on screen "Mental health, sense of belonging, in terms of work, in terms of learning]
because racism hurt me on many levels from my mental health, my sense of belonging, even in terms of my work and learning.

[A picture of 3 young children of colour appears on screen]

Racism starts at a very young age, and not everyone understands the impact of racism. So, for me it started

[A class picture of young school-age children appears on screen. Hantz Prosper is in the top row]
when I started school. So I was basically five and if you look at the picture here, you can see me on the top row, third person, that's me. You'll notice the class is all white, teachers are white and that was my reality for most of my education. I always felt like I wasn't fitting in, I always felt like I didn't have representation, that people looked down on me and then there's also those questions. Because racism is not only...I was called ugly names from five-year olds. It stole my childhood, like my innocence.

I got asked lots of questions, like if I was an alien. It's difficult for a Black child to understand why they are being asked these questions and nobody else is.  It tormented me for a long time and it was continuous,

[Hantz Prosper appears on screen with English language subtitles]

you know, questions that didn't just come from one person. They really came from different people in different places. So, it really wasn't something unique—it was widespread. From that point on, as I grew up with all those thoughts, I went through my teenage years, and my teenage years, I have to say, were really difficult for me.

[A picture of Hantz Prosper as a young man appears on screen]

The period from 15 to 22 years old was very very sad. I began to better understand the dynamics of what was going on with racism, in terms of police brutality. I better understood people's comments towards me and what was going on in the system,

[Hantz Prosper appears on screen with English language subtitles]

and I wasn't able to digest that well, to associate the whole thing well. For example, when there was police brutality in Canada, it's true that the United States has a lot of police brutality, but we also have some in Canada, there was nobody to comfort me and tell me that I was going to be okay. The authorities didn't say, "Don't worry, everything will be fine and it wasn't appropriate."

And I started to feel very dark with the ongoing slurs that was happening me. Inside, I had some raging feelings and I felt bad about who I was. I started losing self-esteem and really went down towards a depression

[A purple background with white text appears with the text "I felt like there was a disconnect between me and the society" appears on screen.]

and I felt like there was a disconnect between me and the society. You know, and it's just as simple example, history,

[Hantz Prosper appears on screen]

so when you think of history they teach, from a Black perspective, they focus on slavery which is important to teach, but they don't teach anything else about what Blacks have accomplished. It would be easy to insert in the classroom what Haitians have accomplished, for example, when they became the first slave nation to be independent in 1804. We talk about the U.S. independence or the French Revolution, but not Haitian independence and I think it's very unfortunate.

And through that depression, I always enjoyed hip-hop and rap and the lyrics, and I started to write poetry. So I wrote a lot of poetry and that's what helped me to come out of that depression, because I could not bear the burden of not understanding why people didn't like me, why people are so hard on me or not wanting to see my success. It really really affected my self-esteem and it took me a few years to rebuild that love. So, I managed to graduate, to graduate as a mechanical engineer in university and then trying to get into a job. I used to have a nice afro, well, that's back in the days. So, the afro for me was something that I really liked and it's interesting because, I went to a first interview, and the reaction of the person who saw my name.

I said, "Hi, I'm Hantz Prosper, I'm here for the interview." They looked at me as if I was an alien and then they asked me to confirm my name and I said, "Yes, it's Hantz Prosper, I have an interview now." You know what they did? They took me to the plant, gave me a five-minute tour and told me to go. They said, "Thank you, we'll be in touch." They didn't ask me a single question. Even when entering the government, it was difficult because sometimes people always ask questions and these are innocent questions?' "What are you eating? What kind of food is that? Why this? Why that?"

[A picture of Hantz Prosper as a young man appears on screen]

One time, a woman who I didn't know at work came up to me and at that time I had a little more hair on my head, and she thought my hair was interesting. She said, "I'd like to touch your hair. Is that okay?" At that point I realized, I understand that people are curious. I started educating people instead of always opposing them, so I replied with a question of my own, and I said, "Yes, you can touch my hair, but on one condition." The woman looked at me a little surprised and said, "Okay, on what condition?" I said, "As long as I can touch your hair." She was surprised, she didn't understand why I wanted to touch her hair.

[Hantz Prosper appears on screen with English language subtitles]

So that's the kind of dynamic we deal with, that affects us every time people ask to touch our hair. Things like that are really difficult and we feel annoyed over time. Also at work, I must admit that, first of all, I've always been the only Black person on the majority of the teams. I've always been the only Black person, on committees, wherever I go, when I'm replacing my managers, I'm always the only Black person. So all of this means that, as you can see, there is a lack of representation, there are many obstacles and it's difficult for me to have this network and opportunities to be able to advance. It took a lot of effort and work to get where I am. It's possible, but I'm telling you today when I look at my journey,

[A purple background with white text appears with the text "It's not that I'm exceptional, it's really that I am the exception" appears on screen.]

where I am now, it's not that I'm exceptional, it's really that I am the exception.

[Hantz Prosper appears on screen]

I'm very happy to see that there's a lot happening right now to support Black people within the federal government and the campaign against racism. I think that's very important and I'm encouraged to see that anti-Black racism is now a priority and we really need to go from conversation to action.

[Hantz Prosper finishes speaking and a purple background with an animated icon of a book with a maple leaf in the middle appears and then disappears, text appears on screen for the website and then disappears and the Government of Canada logo appears.]

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