1. The week we just had
On Monday, I wake up sick. A cold coming on, I think.
And I get to work and I see that Black Lives Matter stopped the Pride Parade in Toronto while they read out a list of demands. The headlines say the protestors “disrupted” the march. That they “held the march hostage.” Even though the women leading the protest are queer Black women, the organizers back down on the demands they agree to and say they have to consult with “their community.” Because Black LGBTQ people don’t exist, and don’t count. The police say they are being discriminated against, the same police force that took two weeks to respond to protestors outside police headquarters demanding some justice for the shooting of Andrew Loku. Nobody posts headlines about how the police “disrupt” the lives of Black people. Ironically, it is this protest that gets Black Lives Matter invited as honoured guests to the parade. Now those organizers turn on Black Lives Matter once they’re the ones being challenged. Pride turns into a disgrace, the headlines say, and they’re talking about the Black protestors.
I am supposed to perform at an event for the city. On Monday I get a call uninviting me because the program is “full.” I wonder if I were white if they would have made that call. I wonder if it might have been thought rude to invite an artist to write a piece, confirm the booking, and then uninvite me three days before the event. But I think if I were white I would be seen as an artist, and not just as some Black woman. If I were white, I wonder if they would think how disrespectful they were being – but I think if I were white they would imagine me differently. You see, as a Black woman I am not supposed to be anywhere anyway, so any crumb people throw me is something I should be grateful for. I don’t have a right to that invitation, so in their minds they’re not being rude by rescinding, it’s okay because they were doing me a favour by “including” me.
On Monday, I talk to the men and women inside Burnside. One of the women protests the conditions the women are living with – some women are being put in segregation simply because there is no other place to put them. We don’t have mattresses she said. We are being locked down because there aren’t enough staff.
Tuesday Morning I wake up with a fever. I open my email to find a message from the lawyer who is handling the appeal of a Black man I know. They can’t reach him in the prison, so can I read him an affidavit over the phone, and make sure he understands it? They are trying to get his funding restored for legal representation. Otherwise, he will have to represent himself on his appeal. “I cannot read full length books,” the affidavit says. “I do not know how to conduct legal research and I wouldn’t know how to find cases online.” “I do not understand the legal terms used in my trial.” Imagine him representing himself on a serious appeal, and tell me that this is justice.
And on Wednesday I wake up, and Alton Sterling has been shot. I don’t watch the video, but the descriptions are everywhere. He was only selling Cds. The police have already seized the footage but they are claiming he had a gun, that he was threatening people. He had a criminal record. The store owner says he knew him, he gave him permission to sell Cds, he had a gun to protect himself because there were robberies in the area. They pin him to the ground and shoot him point blank.
On Wednesday we have Black Power Hour on CKDU, a show started by request of Black prisoners. But this week, before we start our topics, we have to address the complaints we have received, because people don’t like the music requested by the prisoners. I am upset, and I say so. I think it’s obscene, I say, that people are held in solitary confinement. Why don’t you call the jail and complain about that? If you listen to the show, you must hear what they talk about – doesn’t that bother you more than the music? You can listen to anything any time you want, I say. Can’t you imagine what it’s like to have no freedom at all? We can’t do anything as Black people. Can’t even listen to music without people complaining about us. Can’t sell Cds. Can’t live without being threatening or a problem or something to be fixed.
On Wednesday, I talk to an Indigenous student who tells me she was kicked out of school for failing some courses. She was struggling with trauma and addiction. I tell her that’s not right, that she should get a doctor’s note, that she can apply for accommodations. Nobody told me that, she says. They didn’t tell me anything. Don’t worry, I tell her, most of the Black people I know have been kicked out at some point. You’re not stupid, and you do belong there. It will be okay, I say, we’ll get you through this. Maybe if I’m still teaching you can take one of my classes. If I’m here.
Wednesday night, I go to meet a friend at a mentorship event for Black students considering the health professions. I’m doing a research project for work about racism in the health professions, I tell her. What are your experiences of racism? And she tells me about how when she was in school and students did a presentation and the before image before the woman was fixed was an old, broken Black woman. And then they fixed her and the image after was a young, blond, white woman. And I had to sit there, she said, and feel assaulted. And she introduces me around the room, and I meet doctors and nurses and home care workers, and they all have stories. We should get together and talk about this, they say. There’s so few of us, we never get to. There’s an old joke, you know. What do you call a Black person with a medical degree? I’ll let you figure out the punch line.
And Wednesday night Philando Castile is shot with his daughter in the backseat and his girlfriend live streams it. And his daughter says “It’s okay mommy, I’m right here with you.” He was reaching for his licence. And then there are reports of how many traffic violations and stops he had, as if Black people aren’t pulled over just for driving while Black. And apparently the police call said they looked like people who might be wanted for robbery, because he had a “wide-set nose.”
On Thursday, I open my mailbox and there is a letter from a Black man, a prisoner, waiting in jail for his trial. He thanks me for my letter. He speaks about Black Power Hour, thanks us for the knowledge. Will I write him back. He thanks us over and over and over. This is as little as Black lives matter, that one hour or one letter is so unexpected that it can seem like a miracle.
It’s okay, I’m here with you.
Thursday night, a Black Muslim man calls me from jail to say they’re locked down, he can’t talk long. I ask how he’s feeling and he says, it’s the end of Ramadan. But they didn’t have anything special, and there’s no Imam that comes, and he’s been asking. But the Muslim guys get together and teach each other, he says. Eid Mubarak, I say, and let me see what I can do.
I am sick all week and I am in bed watching the US Olympic Track and Field Trials. A Black woman wins the 100m and falls to the track praising Jesus. A Black woman falls in the 800m, and kneels on the track sobbing. She runs to the finish, collapsing in grief. The running message board I read for results is scornful of them both. We can’t praise, and we can’t cry. We can’t do anything.
And Friday, I am invited to go on CBC and talk about the shootings. I am still feverish, but I go, because somehow we have to speak. It’s not just in the U.S. I say. You have to look at Canada too. Remember Andrew Loku. I know people who were beaten when they were arrested. Africville. Shelburne. I start to explain the history of enslavement and surveillance and policing of Black bodies. I say that structural violence is still violence, and the fact that some listeners will hear this and if they can leave comments they will leave vicious ones, that this is why racism is a Canadian problem too.
“I had to block people from Facebook because they kept saying I was racist for supporting Black Lives Matter.” “Is there anywhere we can go to grieve? We don’t have any space to just be.” “Please don’t show me the video of his daughter, or I’ll cry.” “Mama, says my five-year-old, I thought police were good.” “Please God don’t let me or mine end up as a hashtag.” “It could be me.”
How does it feel, we are asked? And part of me thinks, that’s funny, because y’all didn’t care how we felt a week ago when we were trying to tell you about police shootings at the parade. Then we were disruptive. But now there’s shootings in the U.S., and suddenly our feelings matter.
Are you going to write about this week, people ask me. They want to understand, they say, they need someone to help them make sense of this, to put it into perspective. What do Black people have to say about this? They say, I know I can’t imagine what this feels like for Black people. What a terrible week, they say.
And I think, which week? Because in some ways, they’re all terrible weeks. Because there’s always going to be some injustice, some tragedy, some grief. It’s just, most of our weeks don’t make the news. Because whether you’re a doctor or you’re in prison, there’s going to be some bullshit you have to deal with just because you’re Black. And you’re going to have to deal with it. You have to swallow it, be polite on the phone, don’t burn your bridges, keep ya head up, shake it off. If you want to watch TV, then you’re going to have to deal with it. And if you want to go on Facebook it’s going to be there, so you’re going to have to deal with it. And you have a job to go to, you know. So you’re going to have to work around it. Like 2Pac said, life goes on.
So which week isn’t terrible?
And there’s nothing new to say about it. Nothing that wasn’t said when N.W.A. came out with “Fuck the Police” and they called a senate hearing, not into police brutality, but into obscenity in music. Or when Rodney King was beaten and the officers were acquitted and then everyone talked about how Black people were “rioting.” Nothing new to say when we know the names of more Black shooting victims than we know of Black inventors. Hell, we practically know the names of more Black shooting victims now than we know the names of athletes in the Hall of Fame.
And the parade is always going on around us, and we’re trying to stop it just for one minute, for half an hour, just to take a moment. I know you’re having fun, but can we just pause for a second to see our pain? I know you brought balloons, but we’re always having to plan funerals, so can you maybe just stop walking around us for a moment and listen?
But most of the time it’s not news. Most of our weeks we just negotiate living in bodies that can’t be on the ground, or have our hands up, or run, or reach, or stop. It doesn’t ever stop.
It could be any week, really.
2. White person experiences discrimination. Is news.
In shocking news, a rich white man went somewhere, and he wasn’t made totally welcome.
Glynn Williams remembers the wariness and distrust he faced 11 years ago when he started buying properties in Guysborough, N.S.
“There were some vocal people … who said, ‘Who’s this guy from Toronto, and who does he think he is buying up the town?”‘ said Williams, who spent 20 years running a Bay Street equity firm before bringing his entrepreneurial zeal to the economically depressed community.
They called him a CFA — a “come from away.”
SPOILER ALERT: the white man is fine.
I don’t know, sounds like he’s pulling the discrimination card. Does he have video evidence that this so-called hostility happened? What did he do to provoke people? Maybe they were just calling him a chartered financial analyst. Sounds like he has a chip on his shoulder and he’s too sensitive.
Well anyway, since a white man got called something kind of mean like once in his life, apparently it’s really important that we “ban” calling people CFAs now.
It’s an enduring slight that — to some — speaks volumes about Atlantic Canada’s apprehensive attitude toward newcomers and its legendary cliquishness.
Now, Nova Scotia’s senior federal cabinet minister is on a mission to change that.
In recent weeks, Scott Brison has provoked debate by suggesting the phrase should be banned from the Atlantic Canadian vocabulary.
Not banned: Confederate flags, nooses in schools, calling people nigger since Black people say it in hip hop so they deserve it, the use of the word “Oriental” to refer to Asian people, “the gays,” asking Black and brown people where they’re from and refusing to take Canada as an answer, calling things “ghetto,” using “urban” as a euphemism for Black, saying “Got-a-gun Street,” saying “what about Black on Black crime?” every time Black people talk about police brutality, calling the police on people speaking Arabic…
Brison made a point of wagging his finger at those who still speak ill of CFAs.
3. Peggys Cove, Thailand
According to this story on CBC:
“The owner of a theme resort in Thailand fashioned after Peggys Cove, N.S., is asking for Nova Scotians to help teach him and his staff about the tourism icon.”
Well, that’s a good start, but basically, you need more dead bodies of tourists whirled from the slippery black rocks by the cold grasping ever-hungry hands of the frothing waves into the dark reaches of the demon sea.
“Sahachok hopes residents of the original Peggys Cove aren’t offended by the reproduction.”
Nah, we cool.
4. Summer news
YAY! Puppies will be allowed into stores on Quinpool!
More than 50 businesses and shops on Quinpool Road are going to the dogs.
The Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association officially launched its new Paws Here on Quinpool campaign Thursday.
Designed to allow four-legged friends to accompany their people into numerous shops and services, the initiative includes 42 businesses that welcome dogs inside.
Can you guess where I’m going with this?
Wait for it….wait for it…
NOW WE JUST NEED A CAMPAIGN TO WELCOME BLACK PEOPLE IN STORES.
NOT A GOOD LOGO. DO NOT USE.
5. Authentic Nova Scotian story. Thailand take note.
You really just have to read this story.
My favourite parts are the Dickensian names (the villain Arthur Pugsley and the big city lawyer John Shanks,) the shocking plot twist where the road maintenance contract is offered to Pugsley, the snowshoes, and this photo:
How, even? Where did he get the sign? How is it all professional?
Maybe he’s just a CFA:
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Thanks, El. I have nothing to say after this Saturday’s words from El Jones. Well, almost nothing – except, please keep doing this. Your words are important. And thank you Tim, for giving El this platform.
Your usual hostile sarcasm aside, I can’t disagree with much of what you wrote. I assumed this dreadful week would arouse your return to these Saturday pages. One item I must have missed was the shooting of 11 cops including the murder of 5 by a black sniper in Dallas this week. That also made big headlines, although in reverse – black man shoots cops – lots of them. Strange you missed it.
Did the death of many (white?) cops attract more attention than the several separate instances of black guys being killed by white cops under questionable circumstances this week? It came last, so maybe there was a ‘bandwagon’ effect, but I don’t think so. All of them were shocking. From what I could see, none of them were justified. All of them attracted pretty much big headlines – as well they should have.
I cannot believe the guts and presence of mind of Diamond Reynolds live streaming the death of her boyfriend in front of her (and a small child) at the hands of an agitated cop while she literally narrated. All that for a broken tail light. Her calmness under fire (literally) recalls the cool, taking-charge-in-a-crisis Captain Sullenberger as his dead Airbus plunged out of the Manhattan sky – “We’ll be in the Hudson”. What a remarkable woman, black, white or otherwise! I can only hope I would hold up half as well in such a horrific crisis.
Not only has Reynolds held this evidently violent cop to account, she has held up a template for all black folk – in fact anybody – being threatened or abused by police. Live streaming. They can’t confiscate it, they can’t delete it, they can’t edit out the bits they don’t like – it’s already uploaded to the ether for the whole world to see. Of course, once it’s already ‘up there’, they could always smash your device them beat the living crap out of you, but for them the damage is already done and that just adds to the litany of serious questions they may have to answer in short order. I just hope folks who choose to defend themselves this way will be around to see justice served. Of course there is no guarantee. I recall watching graphic video of half a dozen cops kicking one Rodney King on the ground within an inch of his life, claiming later that they were justified out fears for their own safety. Amazingly a court accepted that.
Your one missive with which I do have misgivings is the Black Lives Matter demonstration in the middle of the Pride march. Maybe BLM could not have foreseen the Bad Optics this would generate?
Look, the LBGTQ community (which includes non-White people) and Black Lives Matter both support worthy communities who have truly suffered at the hands of a hostile majority. Both seek equality and fair treatment for whom they represent, and part of the way to that is (that odious term) Public Relations. It’s all about how they appear. Yes El, that is indeed disgracefully superficial, but to an adoring public who recently elected the current Federal government largely because of the clever use of PR by the cute Justin Trudeau, it is sadly a major consideration.
Unfortunately, IMHO Blacks Lives Matter ended up looking like they staged a publicity stunt by trashing then extorting the Pride march. I’m sure that’s not the way they see it, and not the way you see it, but it IS the way a heck of a lot of other people see it. (BTW, no, I’m not LGBT or Q). Yes El, most of those other people are White, but let’s be blunt – WE are the ignorant racist dolts you need to educate. As the source of the inequality, the violence, the prejudice against which you rant, we (the majority) are the constituency you need to impress to get Black and First Nations people, those living in poverty and prisoners of all colours and states of health treated fairly, compassionately, with justice. I can understand it must be damn frustrating, but work with us on this. I’m sorry but it’s going to take time.
You up for that?
Ain’t no mansplainin like some educated white mansplainin.
Hey, whenever someone’s argument makes you uncomfortable, just accuse them of whitesplaining.
I am not a massive El Jones fan, and think that many of her claims only make sense within a questionable philosophical framework but at least she explains her arguments and does truly care. I think this is her best article since Christmas. It would have been very easy to sit on this week’s corpses and write a trite article about how bad black people have it (bad), but instead she wrote something insightful and humane.
Regarding El’s comment about inviting black people into stores (Am I a horrible person for laughing at the related image?), well, it’s no question that those on the bottom of the social ladder (blacks, then aboriginals, then rural whites) have suffered the most under neoliberalism and globalism. How many of the social problems that culminate in disasters like what happened in Dallas have at their roots the despair caused by generations of joblessness and welfare dependency? What about young black men who have no real choices other than scrape by on public assistance or turn to crime? Why is there only outrage when they end up shot to death? What about the number of black people who grew up in fatherless households whose only masculine role models are drug dealers (or people who pretend to be drug dealers on TV)? My point is that perhaps it’s not that blacks aren’t welcome in stores, but they just don’t have any money because they don’t have any decent economic opportunities.
Regarding BLM in Toronto, well, I agree with ausca, it doesn’t look great to shut down a parade and present a list of demands which were primarily about more government funding for their projects and a ban on police participation in Pride. However, the way that the rest of Pride handled it was shameful, it wasn’t OK to sign off on BLM’s demands then immediately renege, they should have had more of a dialogue and both sides should have agreed to talk later.
Keep it up El, although we certainly have different worldviews, well, the most important kind of diversity is intellectual diversity.
Also the Thailand thing is hilarious – we know Nova Scotia is starting to make it now that there’s a fake version of it in Asia.
“Am I a horrible person for laughing at the related image?”
My read of ‘mansplaining’ is of some ignorant white guy talking down to a (usually Black) woman in a condescending way. Is that how you see my response? You’re entitled to your opinion too of course, just like El and me.
You did notice that I agreed with most of what El wrote, except perhaps for one issue.
Was there something in particular that I wrote with which you disagree? All of it? That’s cool. Go ahead, have your say like I did. Your thoughts are no less worthy than mine. Maybe I’ll learn something.
I think it’s sometimes important to point out that white men shouldn’t be exclusively be explaining race and gender relationships. On the other hand, objective facts and reason exist and it doesn’t matter who speaks the truth.
I think a lot of time time, when someone uses the word “whitesplaining” or “mansplaining”, they are justified in reminding us that our perspective isn’t the only important one. And sometimes it means “shut up and uncritically accept what I’m telling you”. I find it telling that in her list of things that should be banned, El Jones put crime statistics alongside KKK symbols. I alluded to that in my post, that only a hard look at the way we’ve sold out our least privileged to benefit the ownership (and middle) class can begin to fix things. But hey, maybe if we do what Toronto and many other cities have done and make statistics about race and crime illegal, we can continue to ignore the root causes of the problem.
I think the left has become incredibly intellectually lazy, relying on sophistry, faulty assumptions and a philosophical framework that only allows for certain conclusions to be reached. Objective facts are only allowed if they fit the narrative, and utterly rejected or explained away with questionable logic if they don’t.
There is no moral courage or critical thought necessary to agree with the modern Left in the current year, which maybe is why it’s so popular. Given the late stage of decline that Western civilization is in, disagreeing with the Mob is perhaps risky (as anyone who has been on the receiving end of a Twitter or Facebook witch hunt knows), but I still find it necessary.
My first paragraph should read “I think it’s important …”
Awesome Morning File. Thanks for this.
Thank you for this very poignant article, El. I cannot even understand how a black person can control the anger you must feel daily! When I heard that someone asked how anyone could do what was done to the policemen who were shot, I wanted to scream. “What kind of a person” is someone who has been subjected to everything you describe in your article for every day of their lives. I would be one of the angry young blacks if I were black today. I cried at “Twelve Years A Slave” and told my husband that I don’t know how black people can ever forgive what has been done to them and continues to be done to them today. I certainly do not condone the horrific actions of some black people (and some whites, too, by the way) but to ask why a person would behave like this is to display an alarming ignorance of the history of your people.
Micah Johnson and his actions seem to encapsulate some major themes of today’s America
Contrary to what the Founding Fathers believed America maintains a massive standing army. The US military is often the only way out of poverty for many young folks, and one community that systemically suffers sustained poverty is African-Americans. Although a carpentry specialist (I understand) Johnson would have been trained in the use of firearms. Evidently he learned well.
America promotes the importance of the rights of the individual over those of the collective. IMHO this tends to lead to ‘lone wolves’ in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ society that lauds those who succeed but scorns and buries those who fail to live The Dream. Grab what you can. You’re on your own.
Ever since Americans went to war against each other in 1861 the country is awash with guns. These are very durable – even a 100 year old gun can still kill. I doubt they will ever be free of them until someone devises a personal shield that renders them useless. (That would probably be successfully challenged both by Law Enforcement and the NRA as unconstitutional)
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Bizarre Supreme Court Interpretations of the significance of an obsolete 1796 Constitutional Amendment intended to enlist citizen-soldiers to protect their nascent republic to defend it from a likely re-conquest by colonial England means that today every two bit punk is entitled to pack heat. No wonder the cops are nervous and trigger happy when they pull people over for minor traffic infringements.
Black people may have won the right to be full citizens as a result of Lincoln and The Union having won the Civil War, but they have never been fully treated as equals.
Johnson may have introduced a whole new paradigm for Black men outraged beyond control at the latest police assassinations of other Black men. The sniper attack. This should make the cops even more jumpy.
It’s been quite the week for paradigms. For Black defence there is live streaming. For Black revenge there are snipers. IMHO both are symptoms of a violent, divided society coming apart at the seams.
(I didn’t even get to The Donald).
Oh BTW El you also missed comment on another Black news item this week. Granted it didn’t get the headlines of the usual murders of Black American men by cops or the surprising reverse by black sniper Micah Johnson that may have had the unique effect of seeing more cops killed by Blacks than Blacks killed by cops this week. It involved another gutsy black woman. It was even local. Next time you drop over to Dartmouth, you can even sail across the harbour on her namesake. You even know the guy who suggested her name El. Give up?
Our very home-grown Rosa Parks. Viola Desmond!
You really should mention the Black successes as well as the ongoing setbacks. It’s not all bad, just mostly. No white cop was going to tell this lady where she could sit in a cinema. Not even in 1946.
Thank you El Jones. I look forward to your column each week. The situations and issues you explore have no easy answers. I am sure I am not alone among your readers in feeling powerless to effect any kind of meaningful change. Do you have any suggestions? Would you consider applying to be a Senator? I looked at the criteria and you are an ideal candidate in my opinion – non partisan, leader in the community, distinguished in your field… What a platform from which to effect change! If not yourself, then maybe you have some ideas of others who might apply. In addition to age restrictions, I was surprised to see there is a property ownership requirement -$4000 worth in your home province. (The Senate truly is set up as a chamber of the titled and landed elites!) It’s a low threshold, but would still exclude so many committed activists, artists, and religious leaders. A little crowd funding might remove this obstacle. What do you think?