I once watched an interview with actor Morgan Freeman on 60 Minutes, who described Black History Month as “ridiculous.”
He elaborated as such: “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? Which month is life history month? Come on, tell me.”
The interviewer replied, “I’m Jewish.”
Without missing a beat, Freeman said, “And which month is Jewish history month?”
“There isn’t one.”
After a bit more back and forth, Freeman said, “I don’t want a Black History month. Black history is American history.” In order to get rid of racism, he said we should stop talking about it. Freeman said that we should stop distinguishing each other in groups according to ethnicity and skin colour.
I found that a unique and yet daringly accurate description of the month. With Thursday celebrations of the annual National Aboriginal Day, it got me thinking of how Freeman’s description could apply to that day as well.
June 21 was declared National Aboriginal Day by the federal government in 1996. According to the Canadian government’s website, that date was chosen to coincide with the summer solstice.
Aboriginal peoples are an integral part of our culture. They have played their part in shaping the Canada we live in today.
I’m very proud to say that we live in a place where many ethnicities have played their part in creating this culture.
I have absolutely nothing against celebrating that culture. In fact, I’m all for it. I think we should recognize all the different cultures and their roles and customs.
But to delegate only a single day out of 365 to celebrate their culture doesn’t seem good enough. Considering the number of centuries they have been here — long before Canada was declared a country — to put all of that into one day is insufficient. They deserve more than a day or a month.
To use Freeman’s example, if he were in this position, I suspect he’d ask the question: “Which day is national Caucasian day?” There is no such thing. We live that every day. The same principle should apply to First Nations, Métis and any member of the more than 600 bands across Canada.
It’s bad enough that European settlers tried to repress native culture. Adding to that, it took way, way too many years for an apology to be made by the federal government for the horrendous things done through residential schools. That apology wasn’t issued until 2008.
There are better ways to recognize their culture than just having a day to learn more. For instance, there could be more cultural dinners, dancers, entertainment, more of their cultures taught in schools and who knows what else for them and for all the other cultures.
That may not be the only solution, but at least then there would be more than one day alone.
I believe the motives behind declaring June 21 National Aboriginal Day are for the right reasons — to have a day to celebrate and recognize native culture. I think that’s something we need to do and by all means, we should participate or at least take note of the day.
But we are all Canadians. We are comprised of a multitude of cultures, far too many to name.
I don’t think any one of those cultures should be limited to one day for their culture to be recognized. I think we should all strive to celebrate all of those cultures 365 days a year.