Chelby’s Alternative Canadian Playlist: Wavin’ Flag by K’Naan

Trigger Warning: Violent Anti-Black Racism, Torture, Murder…inconvenient episodes in recent Canadian history

“When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag.”

Check out my introduction to the series here if you want to know what this is all about.

Originally written about Somalia by Somali Canadian artist K’naan Warsame, Wavin’ Flag, became an international hit, the 2010 FIFA Anthem, and was also recorded by a number of Canadian artists as part of a fundraiser for Haiti…kind of like a Canadian version of We are The World.

July 1st also marks the independance day of Somalia and here in Ottawa, where there is a large Somali community, it is pretty common to see both Somali and Canadian flags raised today.

Whenever I hear Wavin Flag I think about The Somalia Inquiry. No, I think about Shidane Arone, the 16 year old Somali teenager who was tortured and killed by Canadian peacekeepers after he was caught sneaking into a Canadian compound. They even took photos of it all. These “peacekeepers” were part of a UN peacekeeping mission aimed at addressing famine and political instability in the region.

When news broke of the murder and attempted cover up, footage of other messed creepy racist Canadian peacekeeper antics was broadcast on CBC. I watched it because my mom raised me on CBC. In the footage you see Canadian military officials dropping the N-Word and basically being totally scary creepy racists and some even partook in weirdo hazing rituals….all proud enough of this stuff to record it on film for posterity.

I had been raised to idealize Canada’s role as a peacekeeping nation, the legacy of Lester B. Pearson. And then I saw this footage. And then I saw the photo of Shidane, taken by his captors…like some kind of trophy.

I was not only disillusioned, I was scared as a Black person. These were peacekeepers, they were Canadians, they were supposed to be the good guys. And they hated people like me because we were Black and they tortured and killed a kid…and took photos of it because Black Lives DON’T Matter. And this life wouldn’t have matter if there hadn’t been a whistleblower.

I have never really felt entirely safe in this country after that. And the more I realize how few Canadians remember this story, the more fearful I become.

I had already experienced Heritage Days, when Canadian White Supremacists, members of Heritage Front, had tried to recruit followers from low-income neighbourhoods like mine. This eventually all culminated in a riot on Parliament Hill in 1993.

It is important that we don’t forget Shidane Arone, who never got to “get older” and “stronger” and play a role in the rebuilding of his nation because exported Canadian anti-Black racism killed him. And as Canadians we cannot forget the conclusions of the “damning report” which came out of the inquiry. If you have never heard of it well, you want to get on that. Because if we don’t learn from history…we will repeat it.

So if you are surprised at hate crimes against Muslims now that says more about your obliviousness to Canada’s relatively recent history of racism than that racist violence is unusual in Canada.

If you can remember Alanis Morissette singing “Too Hot To Hold”, you can remember scary White Supremacists going around beating up immigrants and only being taken down via a CSIS mole and you can remember that racist Canadian peacekeepers beat a Somali kid to death and took selfies of it before cellphones made it super easy to take selfies.

And the only hope we have of actually doing something about our present racism problem is if we remember this recent history.

More to come this week for this post….

To find more song’s on Chelby’s Alternative Canadian playlist visit here.

Further Reading:

Rex Murphy on the Somalia Affair: ‘Bloody and contemptuous images’ (CBC) Warning these images are horrifying.

Somalia Affair (CBC Archives)

Somalia Inquiry’s Damning Report (Macleans)

20 years after Somalia affair of tortured teen (Metro)

Experts wonder if military remembers lessons from Somalia affair (Canadian Press)

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