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.



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.

Comments sections rife with hate and nastiness




The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has issued a notice that it is suspending comments posted below news reports on matters concerning indigenous people because “over many months these stories draw a disproportionate number of comments that cross the line and violate our guidelines.” The notice posted earlier this week characterized some comments as “clearly hateful”, “vitriolic” and “ignorant”.

The suspension will continue until the middle of January, perhaps longer. We shall see.

This suspension of comments follows a similar suspension decision by the Toronto Sun daily newspaper announced at the end of September.

Well, there is that saying that “haters gotta hate.”

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/comments-sections-rife-with-hate-and-nastiness/#sthash.kRtdgUXu.dpuf


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

Protests in Ferguson, Mo., a rising tide

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

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

“Racist”: Loaded term an indictment of human relations – E-book Excerpt

A person who is called racist will reflexively feel attacked.  “Racist” is a very loaded word.

In North America and Europe’s increasingly diverse population composition, ‘racist’ these days seems to mean negative treatment or reaction to someone who is not from one’s identified racial grouping.

In the old days that was called racial discrimination or racial prejudice.

There is debate regarding the etymology of the term, despite the current connotation which allows for permutations such as ‘reverse racism”. The term is also conflated with antagonism against Diasporic Africans.

Fundamentally, ‘racism’ is a belief system that one racialized group is intrinsically superior to another. Those who subscribe to the belief and related practices are labeled racist.

Among Black people and White people there are distinct existential references to the term that are not surprisingly contrasting – as distinct as black and white, if you will.

So we can see that the term has come to mean different things to different people. One man’s racist is another man’s cultural defender.

When one of the defence attorneys for admitted killer George Zimmerman asked Rachel Jeantel to acknowledge as racist the slur murder victim Trayvon Martin used to describe the man following him on the night the unarmed teen was shot and killed, that attorney was relying on one particular interpretation of the term racist while Jeantel was relying on another.

Jeantel, 19, the last person to have a conversation with the unarmed teen – they were speaking by mobile phone – not long before Zimmerman shot and killed him, stated under questioning by Zimmerman’s defence attorney that Martin told her he was being followed by “a creepy ass cracka.”   In an attempt to draw a characterization of Martin – since the murder victim was apparently on trial – the attorney then asked Jeantel if she thought the description was “racist”. He asked Jeantel the question repeatedly and each time, in her own way, she repeated that she did not think the expression was racist.

So many people had a good ol’ time making fun of how Jeantel presented herself during questioning, but when she correctly stated from a Black worldview that the term Martin used was not racist, there was little recognition of that.

Yet, when Zimmerman’s attorney attempted to use the term, elements of ‘reverse racism’ were in play to allow him to manipulate it.

Here were all the key components: A Black female in a courtroom reluctantly having to bear witness for a young Black male, now long dead. She is questioned by a White male in a position of authority, freely playing on a term linked to strong emotions of superiority and animosity.

In this situation – not lacking in irony – the lawyer asks this Black female if she felt her now deceased friend was using a term that would support her friend’s belief in whose racial superiority and whose racial animosity? His own? The person following him?

Jeantel was absolutely correct that Martin’s expression was not racist. The fact that the attorney was able to get away with such a line of questioning, however, is racist.

The fact that so few can see that, tells us that we are so deep into the miasma of discrimination by one group against another that we are inside-out about what racism actually is anymore.

Racial animosity and discrimination sadly can and do occur among persons and groups of persons of differing racial identifications. But racism as it functions presents in who holds positions of power, has the most wealth, makes the decisions on education focus, housing and employment levels; on how daily news reports are framed; on the balance of power in systemic discrimination and systemic privileging; who gets sent to prison; and who faces the death penalty – whether in an electric chair or on the streets of America as sanctioned by laws grounded in racism.

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of In Through A Coloured Lens, now available at Amazon.com