Black Canadian Identity Doesn't Mean Just One Thing, Says Toronto Dad Casey Palmer

He knows his sons will have challenges defining themselves.
Casey Palmer lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.
Casey Palmer lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

Like a lot of parents, Casey Palmer worries about the conversations he'll eventually need to have with his children.

But what's weighing most heavily on the Toronto dad's mind these days are the forthcoming talks about race and identity. Palmer, 35, is a child of Jamaican immigrants. His wife is Caucasian. They have two sons, age three and five. Palmer says he knows his boys will have a lot of challenges when it comes to defining their identity down the road.

"I know a lot of parents worry about having the eventual sex talk and figuring things out with their kids. Personally, I never worry about that. I worry about the race talk, and how it will develop over time," Palmer told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.

"Right now it's, Mommy is white, Daddy is black, and what does that mean — what shade are they? They're really innocent questions. They won't be innocent forever."

Casey Palmer, shown with his wife and sons, is exploring what it means to be black Canadian.
Casey Palmer, shown with his wife and sons, is exploring what it means to be black Canadian.

To prepare himself for the inevitable, Palmer reads, tries to educate himself, and stays aware of what's happening in the world. He's constantly exploring what it means to be black, what it means to be Canadian, and finding ways to distill that information so his sons can figure out who they are.

"They have a little bit of such a small minority group in them, but I am hoping I will be able to use that to show why we celebrate it and don't see it as something to be feared or hated," he said.

Being black Canadian isn't just one thing

Palmer works in IT management by day. By night, he's a content creator who writes about parenting and racial identity. His popular podcast and online project, "Live from the 3.5" is an exploration of what it means to be black in Canada, and how black people only make up 3.5 per cent of the population.

"It leads to a very different way of living and thinking than perhaps you would have otherwise if you were part of a larger subculture."

There's a singularity to being black in Canada, Palmer said, but there's also a diversity to it. Grouping people by the colour of their skin means grouping together multiple religions, languages, and cultures. But at the same time, there's a singular sense of the work that needs to be done to support the community, he explained.

WATCH: What the future holds for black Canadians. Story continues below

Then there's the idea of being Canadian, which Palmer described as belonging to a "mosaic of diversity and opportunity and this huge, diverse tapestry of things going on by race, by the area of the country you live in, by language, and it goes from coast to coast."

"And I think both of those intermingle to make what it is to be black Canadian," he said.

"There's no easy answer, and we're constantly trying to explore and figure out what that means day by day."

There's no 'one face' to what a Canadian family looks like

On top of his job, important podcast and blog work and, you know, that whole parenting thing, Palmer is also an active social media user, where he posts often about his family.

In between posts about blackness, race and identity, his thousands of followers also enjoy photos of his sons drinking chocolate milk, playing with their toy trains, baking cookies; pics of Palmer pushing them in strollers and cuddling them and doing other dad things.

His goal is to normalize his family's experiences and the experiences of any Canadian family.

"I want to show there's no one face to what a Canadian family looks like, and no one face to what a Canadian family will experience. You can have black people who go camping. You can have Japanese people who go mountain climbing. You can have white people who go to a Soca festival."

Casey Palmer hopes to show there's no one face to a Canadian family.
Casey Palmer hopes to show there's no one face to a Canadian family.

Palmer jokes that he can speak "at length" about what Black History Month — which runs during the month of February and honours the legacy of black Canadians — means to him. But his focus now is on preparing to teach his kids about it.

They're not quite old enough to mark the event, but when they are, Palmer wants to be ready. He plans to keep networking, keep researching and educating himself, and keep building bridges with other black Canadians. That way, when February rolls around, he'll have a firm plan of events, celebrations, and speeches to take his children to so they can learn what's out there from a multitude of approaches.

"It simultaneously is and isn't just one thing. It's one large, overarching thing to be black, but being black Canadian isn't just one thing."

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