BOOK REVIEW: "Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present"
I believe this next book in my educational journey will also be an interesting and informative read for other lawyers. I admit I am late reading this book, which was released in 2017. It should not have taken the death of yet another Black man at the hands of police, and the protests that followed, for me to expand my reading library.
Written by Black feminist writer, activist, and educator, Robyn Maynard, “Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present” provides a clear and convincing evidence-based explanation of the origins and continuation of anti-Black racism in Canada.
Like many Canadians, and as a white woman, it has been easy for me to slip into thinking that our country is “better than” our neighbours to the south. Throughout my childhood my school curriculum taught me to be proud of our “multiculturalism” and Canada’s “accepting” immigration policies. I was told about the enslaved people of the United States and their segregated school system, without mention of Canada’s 200 years of slavery and its segregated schools. “Policing Black Lives” takes this education and flips it on its head, revealing a less rosy truth.
Each chapter focuses on a different topic in our country’s history and current systemic anti-Black policies. The topics include the history of slavery and segregation in Canada; racial capitalism and the making of contemporary Black poverty; criminal law and anti-Black racism; law enforcement violence against Black women; ‘misogynoir’ in Canada (punitive state practices and the devaluation of Black women and gender-oppressed people); border regulation; slavery’s afterlife in the child welfare system; anti-Blackness in the school system.
The book is thoroughly well-researched and written with an educational and academic tone. This is not a light quick read, and that is okay. It is not meant to be. It is the type of book you will read for a little bit and then put down to digest the information, and sit with the uncomfortableness for a little while, before you move on to the next topic.
I appreciated the intersectional approach Ms. Maynard took with this book and while it is focused on anti-Black racism, she also acknowledges Indigenous oppression in Canada. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about this topic, especially lawyers who work within Canada’s legal system. Readers will leave with a deeper understanding of systemic racism in Canada.
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Erin C. Cowling is a freelance lawyer, entrepreneur, legal career consultant researcher & writer, and President and Founder of Flex Legal Network Inc., a network of freelance lawyers.