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.

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@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.