@DesmondCole ’s activism and a double standard

Desmond Cole’s activism and a double standard



The dynamic individual actions of activist and freelance journalist Desmond Cole in standing up as a voice for equity for Black people and his decision to stop writing a bi-monthly column in the Toronto Star are part of the same struggle. In keeping with his activism, it was very much about anti-Black racism. Cole made a principled decision.

He had been advised by the Star that his activism and his journalism were clashing. To reference a written response by feminist activist Michelle Landsberg that appeared in Now Weekly, the Star “blundered”.

It really comes down to this: At a time when privileged White males in the Canadian writers milieu were having fun being glib on Twitter about funding an award for one of their own – ‘the appropriation prize’ – there is stubborn blindness to the equal value of the existence of others. And, whenever a member of one of those otherized (yes it’s a word) groups claims his equal place in the world, there is push back.

We are in the process of waking up somnambulant White-identified masses – and in particular the male power elite – to the fact that they are only human and so is everyone else. They are being challenged to come to the reality that it is not their place to tell any other racially or culturally identified segment of the population how to be. It must feel very peculiar to them.

The prospect of losing the status they have sustained over centuries must be unsettling. Otherwise, why would Star higher-ups want to try to get Cole to white-wash his columns, which by the way had been cut from weekly to twice a month?

With printed news struggling for market share, Cole’s columns were bringing readers to the Star. Clicks online to link to his column meant money to the Star’s bottom line. Yet, even that couldn’t make them see beyond the platform of race hierarchy.

The Star’s explanation, that the journalist should not become the story, has been shown to be empty. Much could be said about the double standard that was in effect in this matter. Landsberg and others writing in support of Cole’s decision have laid out the evidence of vocal activists who were also columnists writing for the Star and heavily supported in their activism. Landsberg goes so far as to note that her editors “in fact, encouraged my activism.”

It’s clear then what it means that Cole was essentially told he could not do what others before him had done while continuing to have their bylines in the Star.

Cole was quickly invited by other media houses including the CBC to have his byline appear there.

If nothing else, this episode with The Star serves to show how even those that consider themselves as champions for equality and fairness across racial lines still feel they own the prerogative to decide how much equality and fairness other identified groups can or should have. After all, this same legacy newspaper did the extensive investigative report on police carding of Black men that helped raise the flag in the mainstream.

Of course, every newspaper editor reserves the decision whether to print a column, but when the Star brought Cole on board, he was already a high-energy activist on behalf of Black people. Therefore, to then imply he should have to make a choice in the matter is foolishness.

Cole’s readers will follow him wherever his goes, so when he left The Star, his readership left with him. Will this then be a learning experience for the Star?

Anyway, their move, their loss.

A note on ransomware…

The cyber attack, WannaCry ransomeware that locked users out of the files on their computer and created chaos in the healthcare system in the United Kingdom is a reminder to regularly save files in a backup offline. Most of us have no clue how to pay a ransom with bitcoins, the common form of ransom payment. Better safe than sorry.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.


The dilemma of the Cosby sex allegations


The dilemma of the Cosby sex allegations


With all his accomplishments and accolades, his doctor of philosophy degree in education, his millions of dollars, who would want to be Bill Cosby today?

The rumour that has dogged the man who became known as ‘America’s Dad’, that he is alleged to be a sexual predator and rapist is tying a lot of Black people in knots precisely because he has had such a long career as a well-meaning father figure in the public eye.

There was Cosby interacting with endearing and clever little children in his “Kids Say the Darndest Things” television series, and then that top-rated “Cosby Show” through which a good portion of America’s Black middle class finally felt some kind of cathartic vindication. Before that, he was moving the colour line back in the 1960s co-starring in “I Spy”. So many of us grew up to the sounds of “Fat Albert” while watching Saturday morning cartoons.

There is that Bill Cosby.

But today, we are hearing that there is another Bill Cosby.

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/the-dilemma-of-the-cosby-sex-allegations/#sthash.ffFKup0d.dpuf

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens, available through Amazon. Twitter@patprose.

Domestic abusers are really addicts of a type – Opinion

Here is the latest Pat Watson column as it appears in Share Newspaper

Although recent focus has been on public exposure of  domestic abuse by professional football player Ray Rice, this kind of addictive behavior occurs throughout society. To attach so-called racial identity to it is to confuse the facts. There are enough studies that domestic violence is almost twice as high in homes of law enforcement officers. Furthermore, sociologist Scott Melzer, a postgraduate researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that that “men in the following occupations have higher rates of violence at home than men in managerial occupations: 
Men in “female-dominated occupations” (i.e., clerical workers), 47% higher;
Men in “physically violent occupations” (i.e. police, military, correctional) 43 percent higher.
Men in “dangerous occupations” (i.e., working with explosives, mining, emergency workers), 23% higher.”

Domestic abusers are really addicts

The recent video airing of the knockout punch from professional football player Ray Rice to his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer, that occurred in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February of this year, has again put the disturbing matter of spousal abuse at the forefront. Back in March 2009, the public was presented with photographic evidence of Barbadian singer Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face following her being assaulted by her then boyfriend, rapper Chris Brown.

These are the public faces of spousal abuse; this type of domestic violence is sickening. We fear for the lives of those who remain with their abusers while also wondering what is inside the heart and mind of a person who would perpetrate such cruelty on the person that would otherwise be his love partner.

The broad public response in the face of this type of unhealthy relationship shows unawareness of the dynamics.

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/domestic-abusers-are-really-addicts/#sthash.ApowsqgP.dpuf

We may laugh, but Rob Ford is a monster we created

We may laugh, but Ford is a monster we created


Television, it’s been said, is the medium that allows you to have in your living room people you would not otherwise invite into your home. Thus it is with Rob Ford, current mayor of Toronto, and his eldest brother Councillor Doug Ford, two politicians who are currently in the spotlight because of behavior deemed for the most part socially offensive.

But this troubling set of circumstances – evidence of a video of the mayor of Toronto consorting with criminals, spending his leisure time in what appears to be a crack den, blackmail, extortion, obscene language, and just plain spectacle, along with his enabling brother – involves not just these individuals, but all spectators.

We may allow ourselves to gawk at this show in disgust, amazement or amusement, but prudence requires some context and perspective, otherwise we may be surprised at where our participating in this whole mess will take us.

First, we have all become part of a scenario that can best be described as an alternate reality. Or if you will, some form of insanity, because soundness of mind is not what is operating at the source – that source being the Fords.

The Ford Circus creates psychic and emotional dissonance. Normally, when someone in a position of public trust breaches that agreement he resigns from that position. This has so far not been the case with Rob Ford. This leaves pundits with no formulaic answer for what is happening and what will happen next.

Part of the confusion is that Ford retains loyalty among his supporters in the face of undeniable antisocial behavior. But it bears remembering that other politicians who have been in the spotlight for scandals have seen their popularity ratings also go up, former U.S. president Bill Clinton being a prime example.

Another matter is the politics of the dollar has taken primacy. Ford repeats after just about every apology that he is keeping spending down, that he is ‘looking after the little guy’ and that he’s saved Toronto a billion dollars. All of these claims can reliably be refuted, but as the saying goes, if you repeat a lie often enough it comes to be believed as the truth. Even the liar believes it.

Politicians have made hay with economic insecurity to the extent that a significant enough portion of voters will make allowances for all kinds of oversights as long as politicians can convince them that they are looking after “taxpayers’’ money. This reaction has not happened in a vacuum.   There has long been dissatisfaction with the way money given up by everyday people to various levels of government has been mishandles or wasted.

The votes that brought the Harper Conservatives to power a decade ago came after revelations about funding improprieties by the Chrétien Liberals, the so-called sponsorship scandal in which monies were paid out to Quebec advertising agencies for work that was not done or overpayments were made. It was a $2-million debacle that eventually put the Liberals in third place in Parliament. The current Senate scandal involving inappropriate travel expense claims that saw three senators censured is also about money.

Spending baggage is also haunting Ontario’s Liberal government. By now we should all be familiar with the litany of fiscal waste attached to the current provincial Liberal legacy. Add to that the outrage fueled by right-wing media reporting on retiring municipal politician Kyle Rae’s $14,000 send-off party and we begin to see why and how an outlier like Rob Ford won through. Ford had, after all, made a reputation of railing against pretty much any government spending. No one likes having his or her trust abused. When government leaders do that at the most base level of concern – money – they are stepping deep into the public’s vested interest. So if a person with political ambitions comes along with a message that he will “stop the gravy” train, desperate people will cling to it like a life raft.

We may laugh or be aghast at Ford, but he’s not the only one creating this dystopian drama. He is but a nick-nack from our collective focus on the ‘almighty dollar’. This then is what happens when we make money our god; it turns around and makes a mockery of us all.

The preceding article is a modified version of my column in the November 21 issue of Share newspaper. Share is Canada’s largest ethnic newspaper. Visit sharenews.com

Image by Theo Moudakis  taken from the Toronto Star

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens available at amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk.


Oct. 25, 2005

 A True (Scary) Halloween Story

If it weren’t for coincidence you might not read what you are about to. This story begins one late rush hour afternoon a few days before Halloween on one of many travels around this city. Waiting at a bus stop, I let a number of crowded buses pass me by before giving up on the idea that there would be one vacant seat for a tired body. After three or four buses passed, I finally boarded one.

Straight away, the bus driver, a tall gentleman with a calm, restrained voice, recognizing me as a Share columnist, greeted me by name. Oddly, he even seemed to know where I lived. Just before driving off, he handed me a sheaf of papers. As the bus lurched forward, he urged me to look at the package of photocopied newspaper articles. It included a column I had written on the difficult economic conditions immigrants to Canada face. The package was a meticulously organized set of documentation that may serve as clues or answers to what is happening in this post- modern world — if you use mysticism and the Book of Revelations as a reference point.

I don’t lay a lot of store in much of this, but as noted, the power of coincidence suggested that “Richard” had to have his due. Besides, the questions are being raised in churches, in bars and points in-between about the meaning behind all the recent natural disasters, devastating earthquakes and record number of category five hurricanes.

The articles  — many which appeared in the Toronto Star — revealed that technology exists to create some scarier-than-Halloween developments including biometric technology. His notes pointed to Revelations 13:16, a reference to “the mark of the beast”. And as I scanned a March 14, 2005 Toronto Star article on U.S. supermarkets using fingerprint scanning to pay for purchases, Richard proffered that the technology exists to create weather disasters. It was his explanation for the recent spate of killer hurricanes.

His file contained a March 25, 2005 article from the subway paper, Metro, on “Africa’s bloody war for cellphones” about how “the growing demand for cellphones and other high tech devices” meant industrialized countries exploited the war in Congo that killed 4.7 million. Congo has a wealth of coltan, the ore from which tantalum — “a rare, highly conductive and heat resistant metal” used in electronic components — is derived.

Richard’s file contained information on genetically modified (GM) foods. He cautioned against fruits and vegetables that contain no seeds. He noted that rich countries are trying to avoid GM foods, but poor countries are advancing their use.

There was information showing that in 2004, Canadians spent more than $18 billion on prescription drugs. Star feature writer Judy Gerstel wrote in a September 2, 2005 article, “Pushing pills down our throats”, that most Canadian adults are likely taking some prescription drug, whether it’s to lower bad cholesterol or for depression or high blood pressure, etc.

Then Richard’s file got even more interesting. Next came an article that ran in the January 21-23, 2005 24 Hours on U.S. president George W. Bush’s inauguration in which Bush is photographed making a hand gesture that Richard labeled “Black Magic Devil’s Horn”. He also extrapolated on the significance of certain numbers mentioned in the article including, “39 tradition-hallowed words that every president since George Washington has uttered” and the U.S. nation’s 55th inauguration.

His file wrapped up with articles about preparations for the flu pandemic, which he stressed officials say will occur. One Star article (Aug. 26, 2005, “GTA gets ready for the flu pandemic”) notes that a 2004 pandemic report form Health Canada estimated that “up to one-third of the population could fall ill and more than 50,000 could die as a result of a pandemic.” And, a Star article from Oct. 5, 2005 says the U.S. military would be called in to maintain quarantines to control the spread of the avian flu pandemic.

Finally, back to those biometrics and other tracking devices, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Department is planning a $6.5 million trial project to digitize photos and fingerprints of new immigrants. Biometrics will be collected from applicants to the GTA refugee claimant centre and visa offices in Seattle and Hong Kong. And, microchips on radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags will track products in a pilot project being run by Bell Canada at Staples Business Depot. The idea is that it will “reduce costs and increase productivity.”

It is difficult to make sense of the times. Some will frame the facts of the day using Revelations as their reference point. Richard did. As I got off the bus and it headed west into the darkening evening, I felt an otherworldly sensation, disoriented by the coincidence of choosing that bus over any of the others, but sure that because of it, Richard’s insights had to be shared.          ~~~~~~

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of In Through A Coloured Lens, available for Kindle, tablet or PC at Amazon.com.

Black males being traumatized by police stops in Toronto

Black males being traumatized by police stops in Toronto

Here is the lead-in from my October 3 opinion column in Share newspaper:

The Toronto Star has been reporting again on the actions of Toronto police officers regarding the over documenting of Black males in this city.   This is a grievous issue, and there does not appear to be any intention on the part of the police to put a stop to it.

The best the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has been able to offer so far is that they will give a receipt to those men that they stop. Not sure what that is supposed to do. This is at best an empty gesture.

The news media do a particular effective job of regularly reminding everyone about what terrible lives Black people live. And, if someone didn’t know any Black people, just their portrayal in the mainstream media alone would make readers wary about getting to know any.

Thankfully, the very core of Share’s purpose is to counter the narrow presentation of the lives of Black people that permeates the mainstream.

Frankly, I do not know any Black people who have committed the kinds of serious crimes that are presented with regularity in the mainstream media. I do not know any individuals who are members of gangs.   I do know a lot of hard working, God-fearing Black people who go about each day trying their best to live respectful lives. I know a lot of Black people who would like to spend more time away from being preoccupied with how they are maligned in the public mind.

See more at: http://sharenews.com/police-stops-of-black-males-like-an-undeclared-war/#sthash.mJZqpw0z.dpuf

Share is Canada’s largest ethnic newspaper and is now in its 36th year of publication.

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of In Through A Coloured Lens, available for Kindle, tablet or PC at Amazon.com