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


“I’m scared for my people”: Minneapolis Black Lives Matter activists on what terrifies them most

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists have demonstrated outside the Fourth Precinct police station in North Minneapolis since Jamar Clark, 24, was shot by an officer on November 15. On November 23, five protesters were shot near the demonstration. The following day, I photographed demonstrators and asked them all one question: What are you afraid of? […]


“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

What About Social and Economic Class in The Black Community – E-book Excerpt

Race and class. It’s an interesting mix. Years ago while working at a job with a predominantly White staff, one of them who was wrestling with her own feelings about the Black/White issue proffered that the misunderstanding and mistrust between these two Canadian communities could be attributed not so much to race as it could be to class distinctions. She suggested that fear and mistrust between the two communities were related to the fact that Black people generally belong to a culture dictated by their low incomes which the White, generally middle-class, Toronto populace cannot relate to. She did not make the connection between Black poverty and systemic racism – as if Black people are just naturally inclined to poverty.

In trying to find the root cause of a Black community in crisis, everyone is looking for explanations. Or looking for someone to blame. It’s race hate, some say. Others are convinced it’s the school system along with its recent ‘zero tolerance’ policy. It’s the parents. It’s the police and their disrespectful and aggressive treatment of youth. It’s because Black youth are not living a godly life. It’s the failure of middle-class Black people to reach out and support or give a helping hand to those still languishing in the despair of poverty.

Last week, on a radio call-in program, a caller who identified herself as Black, voiced objection to a high profile pastor’s reference to the problems in “our community”. The caller went to great lengths to distance herself, and her sons, from the criminal and violent actions of youth in low-income areas. “They are not my community,” she said with restrained anger.

The caller stated further that she and her husband raised two sons, one still a teen, the other in his 20s, who have no inclination to participate in the gang lifestyle. When questioned about what she was doing for the Black community she said she was doing her part by supporting a recently arrived Jamaican family trying to adjust to life in Canada.

Anyone who lived in the Caribbean during the 20th Century knows the insistent role of class status there. While arguably less rigid than the British colonial social system upon which it modeled itself — and progressively less so as the century wound down — there were clear distinctions of class. Those distinctions closely paralleled colour discrimination. In fact, there was clear distancing between the various socioeconomic strata in Caribbean society. Those who pulled themselves out of the slave class were anxious to identify with symbols of success. That anxiety to look away from remnants of life in the underclass gave ambition to many and those who didn’t have a gift for making money to buy their way into the upper strata of society saw education — as we do today —as the gateway out of the slums. Once removed, they refused to look back. Consequently, they left behind those who found neither financial nor educational gain. And so it continues.

Here in Canada, Toronto in particular, similar to the culture of (sometimes) subtle, understated racism, distinctions between social and economic classes tend also to be less obvious. But they exist nonetheless. Hence that voice on the radio show, no doubt representative of the many others nodding in agreement that what is happening in low-income housing project neighbourhoods is not their problem, but that of the denizens of those locales.

It raises the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Many in the Black middle-class do not feel connected to what is making the news these days regarding gang violence, but does it absolve them of responsibility to contribute to solutions in this crisis?

As with many demanding issues in life that are not of one’s making, it is still left to us to deal with them. Assigning blame is useful for knowing the cause or source of the problem, but that is never in and of itself a solution. The problem of Black youth violence, their crippled self-image and the crushing despair that leads them to give life — theirs and ours — so little value is everyone’s problem.