There has been a lot written about this protest already, but it seems every article falls neatly into one of two categories – either the author is calling BLM Toronto a bunch of wanton criminals or unquestionable heroes. To be honest, I think most people actually fall somewhere in the middle, and don’t really know what to think.
It seems like every week we now see a new article, or an old one making the rounds again, telling us that the end is near, because millennials are doing [insert your preferred activity]. The most common one that comes up is that Kids These Days are so obsessed with their smellfies and their instergramers that they are literally destroying the world with their obsession to capture and shares their lives online.
Full disclosure – while a millennial, I almost never take selfies of any kind. When I do, I post maybe 1% of them, usually because my dog is involved and not to share him with the world is basically a crime.
I do not have a flickr account, instagram, snapchat, and whatever else Kids These Days are using.
The argument seems to go that our generation is somehow more vain that previous generations, more coddled, more needy, and every other pedantic way of saying that this generation, by virtue of nothing but its birth into a world created by the previous generation, makes it the Worst Generation.
But is narcissism something new? Definitively, no. While many of my compatriots would take this opportunity to take a jab at our favorite villain, this was absolutely also not invented by Baby Boomers.
Humans are just narcissists. How else would we have grown as we have, from a few hundred thousand smart monkeys to the most powerful species on the planet? We did it because we figured we were better, straight from the caves. What is art if not an attempt to rationalize our minds, to express ourselves, to leave something of who we are behind – assuming that this would of course be of value to someone down the line.
Before there were cell phone selfies, people took selfies on their desktops, like savages. Before that, people took them with their film cameras. We’ve been taking selfies since the invention of the camera, and before that we commissioned artists to paint our portraits, stared at mirrors, our reflection in glass or lakes, or drew stick figures with coal inside a cave of us catching that deer like a badass.
Then what has actually changed? Simple. Cameras cost money. Computers, back in the day, were quite expensive. Commissioned paintings were only available to the wealthy. We used to only see the remains of the upper classes because only they got to make anything that lasted. At most, we would see the bones of the poor. Even their homes, made of poop and hey (true story), didn’t last long enough for us to know them.
Now, everyone has a voice. Everyone gets to commission a painting of themselves and hang it in their digital castle to be admired by… Probably the same number of people, really.
If this is end of humanity, then it is an end millennia in the making. But maybe this is just the next stage for us, one where people learn that they don’t have to have money or come from money to matter. I’ll happily take the blame for that.
With the drama around the Oscars controversy and the pretty terrible things some have said about it, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post to help people who do not see the effects of racial inequality understand why it matters, even to you.
So, if you’d like to know why, dear white reader with zero personal stake in racial equality, you should still really really care about it nonetheless, read on!
As a devoted TV lover, I consume immensely unhealthy amounts of TV. In the past couple of years, I’ve been thrilled to see interracial couples appear on TV, especially when not even ten years ago Will Smith couldn’t bang a white woman on the silver screen because apparently audiences weren’t ready for it.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the awakening I’ve been hoping for. With a precious few exceptions, the majority of interracial couplings on TV are a stepping stone, temps, or ways of showing off how totally not racist a character is by introducing an ex that isn’t white.
Is that progress? Well, at least they’re showing up at all now, so that’s something. There are now couples like Captain Holt and Kevin on Brooklyn 99, Jane and Brad from Happy Endings, Jasmine and Crosby from Parenthood, even Ricky and Lucy from I Love Lucy.
Meanwhile, the majority still fall into the former category. People are fawning over Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (who make an awesome duo), but with Cage getting his own show, we know there is nothing long term in store for those 2. Then there are shows like Scandal and Community that will just rotate love interests as often as a pair of socks, so any pairing is temporary. Unsurprisingly, shows featuring people of colour prominently seem better able to manage the mind blowing possibility of people of different heritages finding common ground.
I guess my issue with this is the implicit insinuation that interracial relationships are a phase. The white girl brings home a black man to scare her parents type thing. As if it can never be the end game, just a stepping stone to the real deal when she grows up and marries an accountant of the same faith and skin colour.
I think this is what people mean about not seeing themselves on the screen. It’s a bit like being told by a close family member (and who doesn’t feel that way about TV?) that your choices are invalid, that who they are is invalid.
When I moved to Canada, some 14 years ago, it was the first time I heard racism as a word. Growing up in Israel, I had plenty of black friends and never thought of them as even remotely different, so I was pleased that I could check racism off as a non-issue for me.
Then I met an Arab student and was stunned that he wasn’t throwing rocks at me and my family. So, you know, probably not a non-issue after all. As a spent more time in Canada, something else started happening. I could feel it, but I couldn’t quite work out what it was. I would feel guarded if a black man walked by, watch my stuff more closely, even cross the street. It wasn’t even conscious. I definitely didn’t think I was being racist. I was being pragmatic.
Fast forward to today, I’ve attended a #blacklivesmatter protest, I’ve spent literally hours trying to undo the racist knot in the minds of even people close to me, and looking out for institutional racism has become almost second nature to me.
As I think about how to move forward though, I think back to that 13 year old girl. That girl who believed that the only solution to the conflict in the middle east was the elimination of all Arabs (I grew into my sense of irony). That girl, who was changed one day, by the realization that she was a work in progress.
So now, as I try to be a better ally, I realize that it starts with taking a page out of 13 year-old-me’s notebook and calling myself out.
I’m a racist, still. It’s probably mostly in the stuff I don’t notice. Crap I see today as pragmatic that in yet another dozen years will seem completely idiotic. I learn every day of things I thought nothing of that are hurtful to people of colour.
We are born into a world that infects us with this condition and lever lets up, but all it takes is for us to be brave enough to seek out the treatment. It might involve invasive surgery into your psyche, daily doses of brain food, and external help, but it can be beaten.
All of that though, has to start with an honest conversation about who we are.
My name is Tali, and I am a racist, but I am trying really hard to be a bit less so every day.
If you have some time, this article walks you through the evolution of racism and its place in history through the lens of a diagnosis and it’s a terrific read.
If you’d like to learn about the history of the N word and how it has come to carry the meaning it does, this is an excellent (and heartbreaking) essay to read. It helps to know why words matter.
If you’re interested in becoming active in combating white supremacy, check out some information about what the community is seeking in their allies. This is a decent place to start, but there is lots out there. Then find a local group, and ask them specifically what they’d like from you.
They say money is the greatest equalizer. I think that’s barely even half right. Unfortunately, being rich really doesn’t insulate marginalized communities from discrimination. Really, even poverty isn’t a total equalizer, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get.
That’s why I think everyone should, even if you can afford a “nicer” place, spend some time living in a neighbourhood that people cringe about.
There are so many excellent articles out there about the significance of the murder of young Michael Brown and how his case was handled by the authorities.
Here is a very thorough and impartial summary of the court’s findings provided by the CBC. Warning, it’s still pretty infuriating.
The BBC featured some very interesting reactions to the shooting and protests from other nations Here.
The Globe and Mail featured a hopeful article discussing ways in which people have come together to get momentum building to cause meaningful change here.
Even Cracked has done a bit of investigative journalism on the matter, and their results are also pretty infuriating.
There are many many more and now with Tamir Rice things continue to escalate, but that isn’t actually what I’d like to talk about, because black people are much much more than their involvement with police.