@DesmondCole ’s activism and a double standard

Desmond Cole’s activism and a double standard

 

By PAT WATSON

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.

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Waking up for the post racial

whiteMy social circle is multi-ethnic and therefore includes some individuals who would identify as White. They are all, as the saying goes, ‘nice people’. We hang out. We socialize. We talk and text by phone with each other. Yet, every single person in my social circle who is White holds some aspect of the White-way-is-the-right-way (W-w-i-t-r way) mindset that rests on implicit preeminence of White culture and history and conversely imbedded anti-Black perceptions.

How can that be?

The scale and depth of race affectation that constitutes the foundation of modern Western culture means there would hardly be any person who has not been influenced by and inculcated with the W-w-i-t-r way. It pervades our way of life from the standard measurements for off-the-rack clothing to the demographics of prison populations to the quality of healthcare, and education curriculum content. Systemic, as the social scientists like to say.

More intimately, there are configurations of one-to-one racism:

  • There are the overts. Wrong and strong, the overts make other White persons uncomfortable as well.
  • There are the coverts – the subtle ones. The ones who, after an encounter with them, leave you asking yourself, ‘Did what I think just happened actually happen?’
  • Finally, there are the unaware, of which there are basic categories.
  • — Those who never have to give the matter a single thought; perhaps that comes with living in a part of the Western world where one never encounters diverse social groups.
  • — The other group is where I locate my friends. These are people who would earnestly declare themselves anti-racist, march alongside in a protest, agree that policing has to change. Yet, because of the scale and subtle layers of the W-w-i-t-r way, they cannot escape being inadvertent functionaries. Again, multilayered and complex.

So, how do we awaken friends who are asleep to racism by circumstance – having been born into a social-psychological ecosystem that leans away from universal human equity in form and function.

Imagine an everyday situation: You are out in public and the tag of your shirt is sticking out. You can’t see it, but the person next to you can. They say, “Hey buddy, your shirt tag is sticking out.’ You don’t say, ‘No, I don’t even have a shirt tag, get away from me you shirt tag pedant.’

You reach around to the back of the shirt feel the tag and adjust it. Perhaps thank the person for their considerateness. Maybe the next time you wear the shirt, you would check for the tag first. Or, for better freedom of movement, remove it entirely.

As we are indoctrinated with the W-w-i-t-r way and can’t see it (yet engage in actions or words of which observant witnesses are aware), we may reflexively deny any such behavior.

It can be personally alarming and embarrassing to hear, ‘Hey, buddy that thing you just said or that thing you just did is racist.’ Being called to account for actions we are inured to can suddenly feel like a shaming experience.

But, as with the unseen shirt tag scenario, try using, ‘Oh, I didn’t even realize that, I couldn’t see it. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll look into it.’

With any luck, you will then have a keyhole into other previously unaware behavior. Or, ask a ‘Black friend’. If they are as the saying goes ‘woke’, they could provide some insight.

The result is that we will have grown in awareness somewhat, and more comfortably wear the mantle of a person who wants to be in a world where we greet one another more equitably and with healthy human regard.

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

 

Protests in Ferguson, Mo., a rising tide – Opinion Column

Protests in Ferguson, Mo., a rising tide
By PAT WATSON

Given past actions across the United States in bringing to justice White police officers or their proxies who shot and killed African-Americans, it should come as no surprise that officer Darren Wilson, 28, was not indicted for murder or manslaughter, but instead is now free of charges of the August 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a mainly Black suburb. Brown was unarmed and reportedly had his hands held high in the universal sign for surrender when he was shot.

It should also come as no surprise that rioting and public protests followed.

There had been a months-long wait for the grand jury decision and each day of delay increased tension. Little wonder then, that news of the decision not to indict sparked violent reaction. Yet, despite protests, this kind of police related killing will continue.

Racial classification matters very much in the United States. That is why the two-term election of Barack Obama stands out as such a remarkable occurrence. Obama’s election and re-election has been and continues to be a flashpoint for racism in America.

The shooting of Brown and the many shootings of young Black men by police officers across the United States has to be a matter of concern for us here, as there is a similar pattern of tension between Black communities and the police. Only last week, we learned that despite new directions from the Toronto Police Service Board, officers are still carrying out street stops and harassment of young Black males in numbers that exceed the general population.

There are voices that say the police are just doing their job, but the parents of Michael Brown, the parents of Trayvon Martin, and the parents of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot and killed by police in Cleveland just days ago, would disagree.

In the heat of this argument following Brown’s killing, it is a moral offence that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani would use this tragedy to talk about the rate of violence and killing among Black people in the U.S. – so-called Black-on-Black crime. Giuliani, a political conservative, is not the first to raise this argument, but it is sickening that he would add his voice to this ridiculous assertion.

That he would make such an assertion without also pointing out that most Whites are killed by Whites, that most wives are killed by husbands, is one more indication of the kind of character assassination that passes for discourse on race relations in the U.S., and shows how much further that nation must go to heal the stain of racial misunderstanding that is doing so much damage there. In fact, in a still segregated America, most killings occur among people of the same ethnicity.

The United States is home to nations living apart. When people are strangers to each other, and when they follow stories that strip the other of their humanity then these are the results.

Americans need to stop repeating ogre tales about who they are and who other Americans are. There appears to be a lack of awareness of the greater presence of humanity among large segments of that society and that is really what is doing damage.
– See more at: http://sharenews.com/protests-in-ferguson-mo-a-rising-tide/#sthash.lt7jYjty.dpuf

Radio interview & more free e-book download days

Hello All.

Here is the url for the author interview that took place on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15 on Diasporic Music with host Otis Richmond to  further promote In Through A Coloured Lens. It can be heard in the last 30 minutes of the recording, but the entire 2-hour session is good.

http://uhurunews.com/radio/playaudio?resource_name=sly-dunbar-pat-watson

In other promo news, another free download period at amazon.com has been added: Dec 16 to Dec. 18. So catch it while you can. If you don’t have a kindle reader, your copy can be downloaded to tablet, smart phone or computer using features available at amazon.com.

Once you’ve read In Through A Coloured Lens, remember to leave a comment and rating at amazon.com . Please share your opinion there with other readers.

Find it at: http://www.amazon.com/Through-Coloured-Lens-Pat-Watson-ebook/dp/B00F8EODTC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387174867&sr=1-1&keywords=in+through+a+coloured+lens

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