The powerful effect of Black people’s hair

PamGreer

By PAT WATSON

‘Nasty.’ That is a remark commonly heard in my culture to characterize mostly children, mostly girl children when they react to the pain they feel from having their hair tugged from the root – otherwise known as having it combed. 

The whole process is carried out daily across the planet as a grooming practice to be presentable to the public. The very person who should be an empathetic supporter for the child often performs the pain-inducing process. 

Instead, that may be the first person to label the child as ‘nasty’ for not wanting to be tortured daily by having her hair pulled. It may even be that person went through the same abuse at an earlier age.

The obsession with hair as it presents on the heads of Black people, especially Black women and girls, is pathetic and deplorable.

The obsession has given rise to any number of industries. All manner of hair ‘care’ products are making millions (billions?) of dollars to placate the shame that has been internalized about a genetic normality. 

Have there been as many books and heartfelt documentaries about any other hair type?

When we finally assign the term ‘good hair’ to the history books, it will be a massive victory.  

It seemed as if that had been happening during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s in the United States, which then spread across the African Diaspora. Remember the Afro? Remember all those Blaxploitation movies that featured actors like Pam Greer sporting a supersized Afro?

The good news is that the current young generation of Black folks is, as it were, finding their roots. Out on the streets of Toronto, it is beautiful to see this. The creativity is also beautiful. 

This is not about being against styling that includes straightening the hair, for instance. Every person should feel free to groom his or her own hair according to personal self-expression. 

It is instead about a forced expectation about what the hair of Black people is supposed to look like. It is about how Black people internalize these notions such that they despise their own God-given being. 

It is also about how people who are not Black feel they have the right to tell Black people how to be in their appearance in order to make those people feel safe and comfortable.

Another person’s discomfort with the appearance of the natural hair of a Black person should be understood as a personal problem specific to that individual; an issue to work through with a spiritual leader or psychological counselor.

The same goes for those who decide that another person’s sensitivity to pain should be characterized as ‘nasty’. Who gets to decide how any person experiences pain in the body besides the person feeling the pain?

The larger point is this: There is a strong tendency to cast our internal discomfort onto others around us. This would be similar to taking your bag of garbage and dumping it at your neighbour’s front door. We all know that kind of behavior is socially unacceptable. Yet, it is often the way with personal prejudice or emotional discomfort. 

Ironically, projecting these aggravations onto other persons gives them an appearance of power over our feelings. Disliking what someone else chooses to do with his or her external appearance may be a matter of personal taste, but it’s not okay to decide for that person how he or she should be. 

If the discomfort moves to wanting an entire segment of society to conform one’s preference, that should be seen as the call to do the internal work to recover from a misguided belief system.   

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. This opinion column is in the September 27, 2018 issue of Share Newspaper – http://www.sharenews.com

Twitter @patprose

Advertisements

Police trained as if for warfare killing increasing number of persons who are mentally ill, Black, and Indigenous

By Pat Watson

Posted April 5, 2018

CBC’s The Current did a segment on the how police killings of people – in particular people with mental illness and Black and Indigenous people – have increased. The statistics were collected beginning in 2000. The Current audio includes a segment on how Hamilton Ontario police are doing a better job of not hastily shooting people in distress because of a special new program designed to better respond to persons in mental distress. Yet, just 2 days ago, according to another CBC report a 19-year-old who had called the police for help was shot and killed by police in his own neighbourhood. (That’s the second link.)
The concerning information in the Current audio is the explanation of how police train. They work from the premise that whoever they encounter is dangerous and hostile. And, according to this report, they are presented with computer-generated scenarios that create that kind of stressful, life-threatening situation to prepare them for their response to the public.
The question that no one seems to have asked in this Current report is regarding the actual perception police have of the world such that they are trained to see everyone as a dangerous threat to their life.
Furthermore, because certain segments of society have become accustomed to the police as a threat, they reflexively become hostile when police make themselves present.
So which is it? Is it the person in crisis who is a threat or do the police present as a threat to the person in crisis?
The police show up and are already trained to assume life-threatening danger. This model is so damaging. Actually, deadly. Police are being trained in such a way that they are ready to shoot first, and to do so within seconds of presenting themselves at the scene of an incident. The killing of Andrew Loku is a prime example. And, let’s not forget that a new officer in training accompanied the one who took Loku’s life.
The presence of men and women who are being trained for warfare against civilians actually inflame crises because of the way they go into a situation. This is an unholy mess.
How many more people are going to be shot and killed reflexively because of the way police are trained before the public reaches the tipping point of rejecting this type of “public safety” practice?
Here are the links:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/as-police-involved-deaths-climb-in-canada-mother-of-man-shot-by-police-says-little-has-changed-1.4605396

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-children-witness-shooting-1.4607433

http://www.cbc.ca/news/investigates/what-an-examination-of-every-canadian-police-involved-fatality-since-2000-tells-us-1.4602916

Legislation on wage transparency a nice try, but…

By PAT WATSON

Until we can find an economic system that assures every human being that we live in a world of sufficiency and not scarcity, the best we may hope for is a patchwork of fixes to the current capitalist model in which we all navigate.

The latest effort patch here in Ontario is the Liberal government’s anticipated legislation aimed at transparency on wages in order to close the gender pay gap.

Women in the workforce across Canada earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men. But, when factoring other aspects of identity, the gap is even greater. Consider too, that full-time, stable employment is beyond the reach of many women in our emerging precarious and temporary work culture, so that women have fewer hours of wage earning work than men.

The comparative statistics on that dollar average for a working man is 57 percent less for Indigenous women, 39 percent less for immigrant women, 32 percent less for racialized women, and 42 percent less for women with disabilities.

I’m still waiting for someone to explain why we should be celebrating a $14-per-hour minimum wage.

It has to be repeated that $14 per hour, which lags behind the actual cost of living, still leaves minimum wage earners living below the poverty line.

It would be nice to be able to celebrate this new wage transparency legislation, which is set to be passed a month before provincial elections in June, but like the new minimum wage it is a half-measure, meaning that it leaves a lot of workers still unaccounted for.

The change in making salaries transparent will most directly affect Ontario Public Service jobs, which are unionized jobs that already have to make salaries public anyway. Also affected are companies with 500 or more employees.

This transparency legislation does not draw in smaller companies or people who work through temporary employment agencies, for example

There is no information so far regarding what penalties there might be for companies that do not adhere to the legislation, and there should be since the responsibility has been sidestepped for decades.

This legislation is long overdue considering that there have been rules in place on equal pay for equal work for over 50 year in this province.

In addition, this new legislation aims to also put an end to rules prohibiting workers from speaking about their salaries. Imposed secrecy through coercion has been a very effective method for keeping control of gender-biased wages.

Even outside the workplace, we have a culture of secrecy when it comes to speaking about our incomes. This makes it much easier to maintain the practice among co-workers but it does not serve the interest of fair wages across the board.

The Liberal government has received some criticism from workers’ rights advocates as well as the Ontario New Democrats, who have questioned why it took so long to come forward with this type of legislation.

Optimistically, it is better late than never. But realistically, it still doesn’t go far enough. If it is in an effort to secure votes, since it will be passed in May but not come into effect until January 2019, then it is a limp attempt.

That’s been one of the problems with this government all along. If only they had the courage to do anything in full measure for the benefit of those who most need the strong backing of government legislation.

There are far more poor people in this province than rich people, meaning, a larger potential share of votes, should any political party care to support those voters.

A note on the march toward justice …

The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is Wednesday, March 21. This year’s theme is “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination”. May we all be one with this grand intention toward justice.

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

A young child’s falsehood generates big news

By PAT WATSON

You know when you get that funny feeling that something about a news story is not right? It was the feeling that came with the report during the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when American swimmer Ryan Loche said he was robbed. Something about his story did not feel right.

Eventually, Loche admitted that he “over exaggerated”. In fact, he had lied about what happened at a Rio gas station in the early hours one morning. Loche and his friends got into some bad behavior and then tried to cover it with a fantastical fabrication.

Which beings us to the events of a few days ago in this city in which an 11-year-old girl made news headlines for telling a story about being approached by “an Asian man” of about “age 25” who approached her with scissors in hand twice as she was on her way to school and attempted to cut of her hijab – a head covering worn by women and girls in observance of their Muslim faith practices.

Now, there may be any number of reasons a young child might make up a story like this. And, it may be going too far to speculate what her real reasons may have been. Yet in the larger picture, the type of hostility that has been directed toward people of Muslim faith in the Western world at least since the deadly terror attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. in September 2001 has to be considered. That is longer than this girl has been alive. She was born into this hostility.

Children are living with the awareness that the faith of their families puts then under suspicion and under attack. It would not be a stretch to see how frightening news reports of other attacks on Muslim women especially could give rise to imaginative expressions of fear from the young ones.

By the way, if this were “not how we behave in Canada”, that little girl would not have the raw material from which to make up such a story. So let’s stop dragging up that nonsensical expression and instead acknowledge the presence of a significant element in Canada that either harbours or acts on racism and hostility towards so-called others.

It might not even be coincidental that the girl’s story came close to the January 29 anniversary of the worst terror killing of Muslims in this country. For, it was just one year ago that one radicalized young man walked into the Islamic Culture Centre in Quebec City during the prayer hour and proceeded to shoot six people to death and injure 19 others.

The other matter that this story raises has to do with the seeming haste with which some stories land in news media. Social media can set fire to any goings-on and sometimes news media seeking to keep pace will jump the gun. This seems to be yet another one of those stories.

Finally, this will most likely be an unforgettable lesson for one young child about the heavy consequences of falsely crying wolf.

A note on s#*/@#…

It was fascinating to observe how major news media handled reporting the top offensive remark last week from the United States’ iconoclastic president. It must have been an interesting time in editorial newsrooms as decisions were taken on how to report accurately on the derogatory comments Donald Trump made about countries including Haiti, El Salvador and pretty much the entire African continent. In reporting what Trump said, (and it won’t be repeated here) some gave a pre-emptive warning about the “vulgar” language they were about to quote, so that children would not be unnecessarily exposed. If it’s not clear yet, American politics has definitely fallen down the rabbit hole into a nether world reality. Oh, and, Trump is racist.

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

NO vacancy

Cole's Notes

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 9.30.55 AM

According to Mayor John Tory and his spokespeople, Toronto’s shelters may be crowded but they are not at capacity. Yet in recent evenings, during one of the coldest weather periods in recent local memory, city staff have told several people calling the shelter intake system that no beds were available.

There is ample proof, and has been for years, that Toronto’s shelters are indeed full, and that the city’s definition of shelter availability has little connection to the practical ability to access a bed. Through a calculated blend of wordplay, distraction, and a failure to provide meaningful data, Tory is misleading the public about the desperate state of emergency shelters.

Real capacity vs. stated capacity

Shelter availability impacts people on an individual and family basis. If a person or family needing a shelter calls 311 or central intake to ask for a bed, and is told a bed is not…

View original post 1,740 more words

Some suggestions for St. Nick’s naughty and nice lists

 

NautyNice

By PAT WATSON

We do love receiving gifts at Christmastime, don’t we? The big feature at Christmas for almost everyone is the exchange of beautifully wrapped packages as expressions of our consideration for one another. But, there is another tradition that is frequently overlooked, yet should not be since it functions is as a motivator to ensure good and decent behavior throughout the rest of the year.

That’s right, not everyone is deserving of a reward at the end of the year. Saint Nicholas had quite the job until more recently deciding who should and should get the proverbial lump of coal. It used to be that he would spend the better part of the year compiling two lists: one for those who managed to maintain good habits and social responsibility – the nice list; the other with the names of those who did the opposite – the naughty list.

It is indeed a big task. So, to help old Saint Nick along, here are a few suggestions for the nice and the naughty lists.

On the nice list is African American Tarana Burke. Actually, Burke’s name would have to have been on this list going back a decade to when she first started the movement to support Black women and girls who faced sexual abuse, the #MeToo movement. It has brought the discussion of gendered abuse to the front and given rise to millions of conversations and hopefully real soul searching among men in particular who participate in this form of violence or among those who have witnessed it without stopping it.

Also on the nice list is Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole. Cole just received the 2017 PEN Canada award that recognizes “work that advances freedom of expression”. Cole remains a strong voice against social injustice especially as it affects the Black population. Lately he has been considering whether he will run for mayor of Toronto in next year’s election.

Federal Liberal Member of Parliament for Whitby, Celina Caesar-Chavannes is on the nice list for taking a stand on raising awareness of racism on Parliament Hill, as well as mental health. Earlier in the year, Caesar-Chavannes spoke publicly about her experience with depression, which would have to have been a strengthening moment for other Black women or anyone having a similar challenge. Speaking publicly on this matter is no easy task because of the stigma that often threatens to silence those who live with mental illness.

Caesar-Chavannes also wrote a Facebook post about the racism she has been confronted with in Ottawa despite being an elected politician. These small everyday acts of discrimination, micro-aggressions will not defeat her she says. In her Facebook post she wrote, “Glass ceilings do not get broken by sitting on the sidelines and watching. They break when you stand up.”

The Toronto Transit Commission receives a qualified place on the nice list because the new Line 1 subway extension has finally opened. Students who attend York University will now have an easier time of getting to classes.

Mayor John Tory’s name has found its way onto the naughty list because hizzoner refused to take the advice of advocates for homeless people on how to respond to the need for more shelter spaces. Tory’s idea of how best to respond to the need for more shelter spaces is to add more mats on the floors of already crowded locations. Shame.

Torstar and Postmedia are on the naughty list for making a trade deal that was immediately followed by shutting down some 40 community newspapers.

Toronto Police Service is on the naughty list for still carding Black people and people of colour while trying to make it appear that this dreadful initiative is no long in play.

Also on the naughty list, real estate dealer turned politician, Donald Trump for more reasons than there is space here to list.

A note of thanks and appreciation…Merry Christmas to Share readers everywhere. Thank you all for making the time to read the musings in this space. Here’s hoping that your Christmas sorrel drink has just the perfect amount of Jamaican ginger.

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

New construction offers hope for affordable housing

By PAT WATSON

In August 2017, the Toronto Real Estate Board pegged the average overall price of a house in Toronto at $732, 292 and in September, the average rose to $775,546. And, there are houses, well mansions, in the downtown to mid-town area of Toronto that are listed in the multi-million-dollar range. They do not fall under the affordable housing heading.

In the face of those realities, the cry continues from the low- and middle-income segment of the population for adequate, affordable shelter. Many still aspire to the great Canadian dream of home ownership. Never mind the annual property tax, water fees, utility payments, property maintenance, homeowners’ insurance and whatever other costs come with having one’s name on the deed.

Home ownership comes with status and, more fundamentally, is considered a solid form of investment security. The message hasn’t taken hold yet that the dream is nearly impossible for a new generation coming into adulthood. The expectation is still there.

The low interest rate that the Bank of Canada held on to for close to a decade along with a surge in arrivals to this city resulted in a rush on real estate transactions that help keep the economy solvent during hard times, but at the same time resulted in ridiculously inflated prices.

Periodically, the opportunity is offered up to allow a few to be blessed with owning the dream. Along those lines, condominium units and townhouses offer better possibilities for home ownership among lower- and middle-income families. Of course, depending on willingness to purchase in the farther reaches of the city and suburban areas.

A recent planned groundbreaking is what brought the affordable shelter issue into focus. Under the Build Toronto plan, construction is going forward for 68 townhouses of one- to three-bedroom units in the Rogers Rd. and Bicknell neighbourhood with the special feature that it is aimed at middle-income earners. The units start at $300,000 and the project is being constructed on lands that had been within the Toronto Transit Commission portfolio.

Move-in is set for October next year, in time for Mayor John Tory and Councillor Frank di Giorgio, representative of Ward 12 York South Weston where the construction is being built, to highlight it going into next year’s municipal election campaigning.

An interesting feature of the purchase plan, which is part of Build Toronto, is people who earn an income below the median – that would be below $78,000 in Toronto – can receive a second mortgage from Trillium Housing that would be repayable at the time of resale. This offers hope for those who can show – whether below the media or not – that they have a stable income.

Adding to possibilities, the province is also freeing up land within the city in the West Don Lands area and at Yonge and College for residential construction for mixed income households. For those who need affordable shelter right now, that massive open space along Yonge St. cannot be completed fast enough.

So, there is room for hope on the horizon for affordable housing for some people in Toronto. The real concern is the slow pace at which these properties come into being. The Build Toronto Loop project has been at least three years in coming. Furthermore, these are projects aimed at home ownership. There are 170,000 other households that cannot afford to purchase a property. Those people just wish to be able to find a place to rent and still be able to afford a reasonably healthy lifestyle.

A note on a tipping point…

As names are revealed in the news of serial abusers, can we begin to hope that the centuries-old norm of using sexual harassment and sexual assault to exert power over women and girls is about to undergo a significant shift?

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

This opinion column ran on page 6 in the November 16, 2017 issue of Share newspaper. http://www.share news.com