How the real issues facing people of colour are struggling to gain election traction

Quite striking that none of the people cited make any reference to the party platforms (Election 2019: Party Platform Immigration Comparison), where there are differences with respect to multiculturalism and anti-racism issues:

Although racism has been a prominent and recurring theme in this federal campaign, there’s little evidence that the real issues facing racial minorities in Canada are on the election agenda.

It’s a paradox, given key elements of this campaign. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was exposed for wearing blackface or brownface three times in his adult life. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the first person of colour in Canadian history to run for prime minister.

A new Quebec law bans people from wearing a hijab, turban or any other religious symbol while working in the province’s public sector. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier is campaigning on an end to what he calls “mass immigration.” And some of the most hotly-contested ridings in this election are among the most ethnically diverse in the country.

Yet to people who work on improving the lives of Canadians in racialized communities, the debate remains superficial. They’re calling for a much deeper look at what needs to be done to tackle the effects of racism on poverty, employment and the justice system.”When I’m looking at the campaign and across the parties’ platforms, I have to say I’m very disappointed the issues around racial justice [and] racial equity have not been addressed by any party in any substantive way,” said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto.Even after Trudeau’s repeated use of blackface exploded into the spotlight early in the campaign, little changed, said Go.

“The focus with respect to that incident was whether Trudeau apologized for his racist act, as opposed to looking at the day-to-day systemic challenges and systemic racism faced by communities of colour and Indigenous people,” Go said in an interview.

She wants political parties to move on from the blackface incidents — “however repugnant and appalling” — to focus on policy discussions and concrete actions to deal with discrimination and its impacts.

So why didn’t that happen?

“Conversation about race is often difficult in Canada,” said Go. “A lot of Canadians still are not able to come to grips with the idea that there’s a lot of racism in our country.”Debbie Douglas, director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, agrees that the campaign has failed to address issues of racism. Her theory is it’s rooted in what she describes as a “polite Canadian” tendency to pretend that racism doesn’t exist, and a misguided belief that talking about it would conjure racism into being.Anti-racism groups have been trying to get the issues on the campaign agenda.

The Toronto-based Colour of Poverty Campaign issued a “racial justice report card” last week. The report card examined the Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic and Green parties’ platforms and rated their positions on such issues as criminal justice, employment, immigration and poverty reduction.

It declared that the leading federal political parties are not addressing the concern that “racial inequities are growing and deepening in Canada.”

In a pre-election nationwide survey of Muslims, a group called The Canadian Muslim Vote found that 79 per cent named Islamophobia as an important issue.

“This election was an opportunity for our party leaders and all parties to address this and I don’t think that it’s been done in a way that’s been satisfactory,” said Ali Manek, the group’s executive director. “Overall, I’ve been disappointed.”

He’s also critical that no leader has taken a strong stance against Quebec’s religious symbols law, Bill 21.

“I think all parties have let down the Muslim community and ethnic communities tremendously by not addressing it more head on,” said Manek.

He said he believes minority communities must get out and vote next Monday at a better-than-average turnout rate to put pressure on the parties for change.

“I think that’s a real message that we would be sending to the future prime minister of this country that we want a seat at the table and we want our issues to be addressed,” he said.

So how have race and racism been addressed in the campaign? “Laughably bad, just an all-around disaster from my point of view,” said Andray Domise, a contributing editor for Macleans’ magazine and a black community activist in the Toronto area.

Domise says the parties and most media coverage have been too focused what he calls “spectacle” over substance.

“The purpose of the campaign has been defeated because we’re not talking about people’s lives, we’re talking about how much we like or dislike certain candidates,” said Domise. “I’m a lot more interested in structural matters, what is it that policy can affect, that can improve people’s material lives.”

There’s a palpable sense of frustration and missed opportunity coming from everyone interviewed here. There’s also a clear call for the parties to propose ideas to tackle the disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty and incarceration on people of colour. But with just a week left in the campaign, there’s little optimism that’s going to happen.

Source: How the real issues facing people of colour are struggling to gain election traction

Domise: Who gets to be a ‘teen’ and a ‘good kid’?

Worth reflecting on:

For a very long time, I’ve been of the mind that corporal punishment is detrimental for black children, and should be discouraged. Many in the Caribbean community would likely disagree; spare the rod, spoil the child is an axiom I learned from elders long before I first read its source quote in the Book of Proverbs. But it never sat well with me that black children, faced with a world that would capriciously limit their opportunities, fling them into the maw of the criminal justice system, and justify their murder at the hands of police and vigilantes, should come home—their only refuge against a world that fears and misunderstands them—only to be faced with more harsh discipline.

In her recent book Spare the Kids, journalist, anti-spanking advocate and Morgan State University professor Dr. Stacey Patton draws a solid line between corporal punishment and the violence of western colonialism, slavery, and genocide. The harsh treatment of white children endemic in Europe, Patton argues, gave way to a widespread belief in the innocence of children that stigmatized use of “cat-o’-nine-tails, shovels, canes, iron rods and sticks” in the 19th century.

In place of such punishment, which often resulted in infanticide, and wasn’t prosecuted for a long time, came the manual discipline we refer to today as spanking. “In other words,” writes Patton, “white people began to recognize the vulnerability of their own children and had to rescue them, if only partially, from this unthinkable close proximity to blackness and the brutality of childhood.”

For the African-descended and Indigenous people of the Americas, regarded as the most savage and therefore childlike members of the human race, the concept of childhood carries a much different import. All punishments allotted to them—floggings, rape, torture and murder—were not considered wanton violence, but instead the loving attempt of the white patriarch to drive savagery out of their bodies and instill the values of civilization. This belief, that black and Indigenous peoples must be refined through the disciplining of their bodies and minds, has lingered in the white psyche long after the emancipation of black people, and the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty.

It is a belief that white people, as humanity’s patriarchs, have a responsibility to discipline humanity’s children.

This belief is why the words “boy” and “girl” can become slurs when they slide off the white tongue, directed at grown adults. Meanwhile, our children are stamped from birth with the stigma of maturity; plenty of studies exist to show that our children are viewed as older and less innocent by teachers, police and other authority figures who are, by the oaths they take and the titles they wear, supposed to be children’s protectors.

This has tainted racialized communities with a social paradox that quickly ages children out of childhood in order to strip from them the aegis of innocence, yet also infantilizes our adults in order to subordinate them to white hegemony. Thus, acting in loco parentis, the brutality visited on racialized adults and children alike by authority figures—our schools, police, court systems—is not seen as cruel and unjust violence, but instead as a form of socialized corporal punishment, birthed by colonialism and nurtured institutions—our political class and mass media—which function as vestiges of white patriarchal hegemony.

The acceptance of this socialized corporal punishment, by white authority figures, is why Eric Casebolt (then a McKinney, Texas police officer) can throw a black child through the air, drag her by the hair, and slam her to the ground, and not only will he not be charged with a crime, a prominent white news anchor will comment “The girl was no saint, either.” It’s how former Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann can jump out of a police cruiser and summarily execute 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and have his actions covered by a municipality that blames Rice for failing to “exercise due care to avoid injury.” And it’s also how an all-white jury can acquit Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley of second-degree murder, even after Stanley admitted to aiming a handgun at Cree youth Colten Boushie and pulling the trigger.

Spare the rod and spoil the child. If there is no child to be found behind those savage eyes, then put down a threat.

On the other hand, white youth who commit atrocities in the name of white nationalism are not only draped in the innocence of childhood from birth, but are covered by its long tails into adulthood.

Consider the case of Kam McLeod and Bryan Schmegelsky, two young white men from Port Alberni, British Columbia, who are currently the subjects of a nationwide manhunt. Early on, when their disappearance shifted from missing teenagers to murder suspects, news media continued referring to them as “teens” and uncritically ran pull-quotes from community members who called them “boys.”

To be clear, these “boys,” 18 and 19 respectively, are not only prime suspects in the murders of three people, but Schmegelsky is alleged to have uttered violent threats to his classmates, and have a fascination with neo-Nazi imagery and organizations. Yet, their families have been offered uncritical coverage in Canadian news: McLeod’s father describing him as “kind, considerate and caring,” and Schmegelsky’s father describing his son as “a child in some very serious pain.”

Not long after McLeod and Schmegelsky’s alleged killings, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, of Gilroy, California, armed himself with a legally purchased AK-47 variant rifle, and opened fire at a local town festival. Three people were killed, two of them children, and another 12 people were injured by gunfire. Though Legan was himself killed in a shootout with police, and was found to have posted links to a white supremacist manifesto on one of his social media pages, he was—rather amazingly—described in a tweet by South Carolina-based The Greenville News as “a quiet teen who stayed out of trouble.”

The infantilizing and innocence-jacketing of white murderers and murder suspects is part and parcel of a long tradition; the childhood of New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant (aged 28) was given an extensive profile by Australia’s The Daily Telegraph, Dylann Roof (aged 21) was described as a “sweet kid” corrupted by “internet evil” in coverage after his arrest, and was even brought a Burger King meal by police while in custody. Twenty-two-year-old Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger’s “happy childhood” in England was covered by The Guardian, and it took years to debunk the myth that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the mass shooters at Columbine (aged 17 and 18 respectively), were lonely kids retaliating for a lengthy history of being bullied in school.

Rather than harsh social discipline, young white men who commit these heinous acts are faced with a society endlessly devoted to making sense of their crimes. Behind that, I believe, is a motivation to understand how white children brought up according to plan, and kept safe from exposure to socially corrupting elements—drugs, crime, pornography—could regress so drastically from civilization to savagery. Racialized children, on the other hand, are born into stigma and need no such understanding or explanation. Their already and always existing predisposition for delinquent behavior requires purging from their bodies, and if they happen to be injured or die in the process, well, they should have exercised due care.

I have no doubt that, when Schmegelsky and McLeod are finally apprehended, plenty of coverage will be devoted to figuring out where these young men went wrong. I also have no doubt that, even in the face of glaring evidence that white mass shooters are working from a well-established ideology that requires the removal—if not extermination—of non-white races for a harmonious society, plenty of coverage will be devoted to missing that point.

What I do doubt, however, is that the broader conversation on mass killings will land on the relationship between white supremacy and the power it grants white people (white men in particular) to inflict brutality on others, as well as the logics to justify it.  The social agreement to infantilize spree killers after they’ve passed into adulthood is only one factor in a broader environment of racialized patriarchy; one that warps them in to believing they are acting as soldiers in a race war, and every murder they commit, even against other white people (whom they often deem to be enablers of race-mixing and demographic replacement) is a swing of the rod for the good of society.

And this is why I believe corporal punishment inside the home to have such a damaging effect on black children. A world which grants them no childhood, no innocence, and no protection from physical harm against the people who believe they are entrusted with the responsibility to purge the world from the perceived savagery of our races, well, that’s a harsh enough world already. At the very least, they should find safe shelter from that world with their families, and inside their homes.

Source: Who gets to be a ‘teen’ and a ‘good kid’?

The racial profiling of Masai Ujiri: Andray Domise

Good column by Domise:

A few years ago, after I wrote a column for Maclean’s on the police killing of Jordan Edwards, I informed my editor at the time that I would prefer to not cover the topic when it wasn’t relevant to Canada. Of course, it’s important for news media to document police killings, I said at the time, and it’s the responsibility of the columnist to analyze them. Otherwise, the narrative offered by police (which is too often passed on by a sympathetic media as objective reporting) becomes the lone authoritative voice in the discourse. This skewed reporting can leave readers with the impression that Black people suffer death—as well as brutal assaults, verbal abuse at gunpoint, and everyday racial profiling—as a result of our own careless actions, rather than state-sanctioned enforcement of racial hierarchies.

But there is a mental toll to writing about police violence, and that the source of that toll isn’t just the knowledge that a structurally white supremacist state sees Black life as disposable, if not inconvenient to its project. There’s also the fact that Black writers must revisit this conversation, ad infinitum, and be met with skeptical reactions ranging from feigned shock to outright denial when we provide rafts of evidence that police are not simply affected by “unconscious bias” (which is clever bureaucrat-speak for “everybody’s a little bit racist”), but are active participants in racial conflict.

Take, for example, the carding of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. After the final moments of game six, when nine milliseconds were stretched by procedural nonsense into infinity, Ujiri raced towards the court to celebrate victory along with the team he spent years building to perfection. As he approached the hardwood, he was stopped by a deputy of the Alameda County Sherriff’s Office. What happened next is unclear, but to hear spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly tell it, when asked to present his credentials, Ujiri allegedly shoved the officer and then shoved him again, striking him in the jaw the second time.

On the other hand, Greg Wiener, a Warriors season ticket holder standing nearby the altercation, refuted that version of events. He tweeted: “Ujiri was pulling out his NBA Pass, the cop did not see badge he put his hands on Ujiri to stop him from going forward. The cop pushed Ujiri, then Ujiri pushed back. Cop was wrong.” Wiener repeated this in a televised interview, again suggesting the officer physically restrained Ujiri. Videos from other Twitter users soon surfaced, including footage from backstage as the game concluded, which showed Ujiri holding a badge in his hand while heading out to the arena. In other words, he had what he needed to be where he had to be for his team.

I also spoke with Raptors game announcer Leo Rautins, who described the Alameda Sheriff’s Office version of events as complete nonsense. “There is no way this isn’t a racial profile at best. I did a fast walk by security and no one cared,” Rautins said. “Masai was with his security, and team personnel, who all have credentials. How many [Black] men in a suit, with security and credentials, are trying to get on the court for a trophy presentation?”

And how was the story reported in Canada?

When the news about the alleged assault emerged, just about every Canadian news service (including  Globe and Mail, CBC, and National Post blared headlines that Masai Ujiri was “accused of assaulting sheriff’s deputy.” All were based on wire news from Adam Burns of the Canadian Press (the Globe and Mail later softened the headline to “allegedly involved in altercation as he was blocked trying to join title celebration,” after it became apparent the original was not going to fly). In the original Canadian Press story, Sgt. Kelly was the lone voice quoted, with no counter-narrative whatsoever, leaving the impression that Ujiri attempted to buffalo his way through a police officer, an officer just trying to do his job, and in the interest of optics during the Sheriff’s office decided to let Ujiri get away with it.

Let’s put all of that aside for a moment. Let’s even put aside the fact that this is the same Sheriff’s office that hosted the Oath Keepers (a far-right paramilitary organization known for racial antagonism), that has a history of excessive force and racial profiling, and once re-tweeted prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer(supposedly by accident). To believe this version of events, one would have to believe that Masai Ujiri—a Black man who in his previous role as director for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program helped cultivate young global talent, who has met and spoken with Black youth from all over Canada, and is currently the most powerful executive in the NBA—that Masai Ujiri walks around so gassed-up during the most important moment of his professional life, that he responds to mild inconvenience by assaulting a sheriff’s deputy. That was the narrative that Canadian press were willing to promote, until a white witness stepped forward to vouch for Ujiri’s conduct.

This is exactly what police count on. When people see racial profiling as a benign accident at best, and bad actors tainting an otherwise good system at worst, its intended purpose is so obscured that we must discuss every offense, every case, every murder, every denial of our humanity as a one-off incident that forms no recognizable pattern of behaviour. Much less a structural tool of a system predicated on keeping Black people in a state of forced obsequiousness, no matter how high we rise within that system, or how powerful we may appear to be. What should have been the proudest moment of Ujiri’s life, and should have been a moment of unadulterated joy for Raptors fans, became yet another footnote in the body of evidence on racial profiling.

And our news media, for all of the promises to be mindful of its own blind spots, gave the police every ounce of undeserved credibility they asked for.

I’m afraid I have no lofty conclusion for my thoughts here, because there is nothing to conclude. The profiling of Masai Ujiri is just the latest entry in that never-ending conversation. Once it fades, we’ll be forced to recapitulate the entire argument, for whatever ridiculous reason, and I don’t look forward to it.

Source: The racial profiling of Masai Ujiri

Andray Domise: The deterioration of data is robbing marginalized communities of their voice

The Globe’s ongoing series on Canadian data gaps is welcome and continues to draw attention to the gaps. As someone who relies on various data sources, particularly the Census, I find these concerns reasonable when it comes to health outcomes, incarceration rates, foreclosure data, children’s aid, police checks.

I am less convince, however, in some of the other areas. We do collect race-based data (visible minorities) in the Census which has finer gradations than the US Census (11 categories compared to 5 in the US). Census data allows analysis of participation and unemployment rates, average and median income, low-income, highest level of educational achievement, areas of study, employment in the public sector (federal, provincial, municipal, healthcare, education, social services, police) and whether in more senior or support positions.

In education, as I have argued earlier (Karen Robson: Why won’t Canada collect data on race and student success?), we actually have good data in terms of the outcomes of the different visible minority groups and the absence of comparable data to the TDSB data from other school boards is more a “nice-to-have” than necessary (see my analysis of education outcomes Education fields of study and economic outcomes).

Researchers and others will always want more data. How this gets priorized and implemented requires some choices given resource implications. In the meantime, researchers should explore creative ways of teasing out the insights from existing data sources:

The Institute for Policy Studies released a study last month on median wealth in American households, and the findings were unsettling, if unsurprising. While the inflation-adjusted median wealth of white families in the United States had grown from US$110,160 to US$146,984 over the past three decades, it had hardly increased at all for Hispanic families (US$4,289 to US$6,591), and dropped by roughly half for Black families (US$7,323 to US$3,557). By 2082, the study concluded that, should current trends hold, the Black family will have a median net worth of zero.

I posted excerpts from the study online, and an acquaintance of mine asked how Black families in Canada compared with their U.S. counterparts. I had no idea, I said. In Canada, we don’t collect, study and distribute such information.

This has long been a point of frustration. When I was a financial planner in a previous life, I often found myself having to debunk misconceptions about the ever-shrinking middle class. One of the more pernicious narratives was the long-term effects of the 2008 financial crisis, which, more than a decade later, many still erroneously blame on irresponsible, low-income “deadbeat borrowers.”

A 2010 study conducted by the American Sociological Review, I would note, found that banks not only targeted low-income areas for risky and complicated subprime loans, but denied traditional loans to qualified Black and Hispanic applicants, effectively creating a segregated class of borrowers who were disproportionately impacted when the interest on those loans skyrocketed.

A slew of follow-up studies in the United States eventually spurred federal investigations, which found that lenders did engage in discriminatory and predatory practices. One of the worst offenders, Wells Fargo, was hit with a US$175-million judgment in 2012 for saddling non-white borrowers with higher interest and worse deals on their mortgages than their white peers of similar credit standing.

Without publicly available municipal census metropolitan data, federally legislated land data and foreclosure information from private oversight agencies, not only could banks have gotten away with enriching themselves through illegal lending practices, there would have been no counternarrative to the myth that broke borrowers of colour collapsed the global economy.

And equivalent data, available and freely usable for such comprehensive studies, does not exist in Canada.

Not so long ago, the collection of race-specific data was seen as unseemly at best, and targeting at worst. That data was often used as a cudgel by police forces to stereotype marginalized communities, and often there was no counternarrative offered. But now, with data analysis having become essential to the global economy and our political systems, everything boils down to the numbers. Geopolitics are being tilted and societies are being reshaped by information asymmetries. Avoiding discussions about race has effectively left policy-makers wandering blindfolded through a forest, at the expense of communities of colour.

Our federal and provincial governments, for instance, have responded to increasing conversation about racialized state-sanctioned violence and discrimination by declining to quantify the problem. Even as policing agencies across the country tout the value of street checks as a tool for preventing and solving crime, data on their efficacy have typically not been studied nor reviewed by independently operated and funded oversight agencies. In Edmonton’s case, the police service funded a study in which the dataset was described as “contaminated” by officers’ subjective evaluations; in Vancouver, the data was only released to the public after a Freedom of Information request. Meanwhile, in Ontario, a report by a provincial judge declared it bluntly: “There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice.”

While Canadians thank the heavens we don’t experience the statistically proven dysfunctions in the United States’ health, financial and public-safety systems, that gratitude is rooted in ignorance. We know that south of the border, Black mothers are three times as likely to die during childbirth as their white peers, but Canadians have no way to understand the scale of the Indigenous child-welfare crisis beyond the blunt sum of Indigenous children being funnelled into the children’s aid system. We have no aggregated national data on maternal (or even infant) mortality rates among specific ethnic groups, preventing Ottawa from creating targeted health policy. We have no comprehensive data on sexual-health practices among teens and young adults, which effectively granted the Ontario government carte blanche to roll back the sex-education curriculum by 20 years.

Time and again, marginalized communities have had to rely on an irregular flow of data to validate our stories and lived experiences – forced to marshal math in support of our stories that broader Canadian society too often dismisses as hysterics. Canada’s data deficiencies are not merely problems of public policy: They reflect an unacceptable level of neglect that’s become an obstacle to our ability to advocate for ourselves.

Source: The deterioration of data is robbing marginalized communities of their voice

The related Globe article: How Canada’s racial data gaps can be hazardous to your health

 

Yes, a MAGA hat is a symbol of hate: Domise

Good commentary by Andray Domise:

A few years ago, a very close friend of mine was hailing a cab off Spadina street, in downtown Toronto. He, a tall and broad-shouldered Black man, was on his way to a social event with an acquaintance, a blonde white woman. They were both well-dressed for nightlife, which is a normal sight for that neighbourhood on a Friday evening. What was not normal, however, was the gaunt white man approaching them wearing Doc Martens boots, a bomber jacket, and a clean-shaved scalp. My friend registered danger just before the skinhead opened his mouth twice, first to shout “Don’t trust that nigger” at the blonde woman, and again to spit in my friend’s face.

Being a dark-skinned man whose personal experience with hate crime stretches back to his childhood (when he was introduced to that ugly word right after being shot in the head by a white teen armed with a pellet gun), my friend didn’t need to have a conversation to assess the character of the man before the assault happened. He knew right away he’d just encountered a skinhead, a self-ordained social enforcer who believes the human species can be ordered by a racial hierarchy—one which places Black people like us below the cutoff.

If the man hadn’t given the game away with the racial slur, it would be ridiculous to try and convince my friend that was, perhaps, not a hate crime. When a person wearing the visual markers of a neo-Nazi passes every other human being on a busy street without incident, but singles out a Black man and a white woman for violence, there aren’t many questions to be asked.

And yet, supposedly sensible people and media outlets are willing to debase themselves by proposing that the Make America Great Again hat, that bright red beacon of racialized aggrievement, is somehow not a hate symbol. The perennial conversation bubbled to the surface again this week after an altercation between members of the Omaha nation (led by longtime activist Nathan Phillips), and a mob of students from now-infamous Covington Catholic high school.

In a nearly two-hour video shot at the Lincoln Memorial, students wearing MAGA hats shouted at the elders, danced mockingly, and pantomimed tomahawk chops. One of them, Nick Sandmann, made his way to the front of the crowd to stand almost nose-to-nose with Phillips and smirk in his face as the elder drummed and sang the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) song.

By now, nonwhite groups are all too familiar with hate groups and what they’re about. The similarity in their tactics is not an accident. Hate groups typically construct an extremist kinship through shared values, language, and an aesthetic that serves a twofold purpose: to visually signal themselves to allies, and to let their enemies know they intend harm. The skinhead aesthetic—black boots, weathered denim, suspenders, and shaved heads—is one of these. Proud Boys—khakis, beards, and Fred Perry polo shirts—are another.

These aren’t political organizations that happen to attract the occasional radical, or unpolished community groups that happen to have a large platform. There is no driving sociopolitical force behind these movements outside of white nationalist ideology, which is why they’re designated hate groups. And they understand this, which is why they’ve spent so much time lately cultivating an everyman aesthetic. Even David Duke famously tried to rebrand the Klan with a kinder, gentler image before leaving in frustration that the message wasn’t catching on. His movement had long passed beyond plausible deniability of their motives.

We know this, yet when people quite logically connect the people who wear MAGA hats with the white supremacist ideology of Donald Trump, this is considered painting with too broad a brush. The same Donald Trump who egged on violence against Black protesters at his rallies, stereotyped Mexicans as rapists, referred to African and African-descended nations as “shithole countries,” referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” and for years has rattled off a near-endless litany of ad-libbed comments that place him squarely in the white nationalist camp – that is the Donald Trump with which a person openly signals kinship when they put on that garish red hat in public.

So when a restaurant manager refuses to serve a MAGA hat-wearing patron, or Omaha elders confront a crowd of MAGA hat-wearing students to try and diffuse an escalating conflict before it gets out of control, they’re not making assumptions out of whole cloth. Neither is Alyssa Milano, who tweeted “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.” They’re justifiably responding the way that my friend responded to that skinhead, moments before that skinhead spat in his face, and the way decent people should be expected to respond to those who publicly align themselves with hate movements. If the people who wear the hat feel unfairly maligned, that’s just plain unfortunate for them. Maybe they should examine their politics, and their own hearts.

In other words: if the hood fits, wear it.

Source: Yes, a MAGA hat is a symbol of hate

Remembering Bromley Armstrong, and the segregation of Canada’s stories

Nice and important profile:

In January of 1991, when I was in the fifth grade, my mother woke me up early on a Saturday morning to go to school. I put on a white dress shirt, navy blue pants, and a matching tie before she packed me into the car and drove me across town to Higher Marks, a tutoring and mentorship program for Black youth in the Greater Toronto Area. At the time, the school was located near the intersection of Bathurst and Bloor streets, a corner that functioned as one of Toronto’s original Black business hubs and community gathering spots. While my friends ate sugary cereals and gorged themselves on morning cartoons, my mother parked my behind in a cold, cramped classroom to learn advanced math skills and Black Canadian history.

I hated it, of course. But it was in Dr. Ronald Blake’s classroom at Higher Marks that I first learned the phrase “Jim Crow,” and that even in Canada, the fight to end segregation was long and arduous. There were no textbooks we could flip open to read this history, and Google wasn’t yet even a twinkle in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s eyes. It was inside that classroom that I learned of our separate history, carried on the lips of Black community members who were either born or immigrated to this country early enough to have witnessed the events as they happened.

This is one of the stories I first learned at Higher Marks.

In July of 1943, carpenter and Second World War veteran Hugh Burnett wrote a letter to federal justice minister Louis St. Laurent about an incident he felt demanded the minister’s attention. While Burnett was in town to visit relatives, he went to have lunch at Kay’s Café, a restaurant in Dresden, Ont., while wearing his army uniform—the one he voluntarily put on to fight the tyranny of the Third Reich. But because he, like approximately one-fifth of Dresden’s 1,700 residents, was descended from slaves who escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad, he was told he was not welcome to eat at that counter. Its proprietor, Morley McKay, was a flagrant racist who, like many of Dresden’s white residents, believed in the separation of the races.

St. Laurent’s reply to Burnett’s letter was curt and dismissive: there was no law in Canada that barred racial discrimination.

In response, Burnett, his family, and several Dresden residents organized over several years to form the National Unity Association, which joined with the Toronto-area Association of Civil Liberties to draw attention to Dresden’s Jim Crow-like racial atmosphere. Vivien Mahood, chair of the ACL’s committee on group relations, contacted Maclean’s managing editor Pierre Berton in 1949 regarding the town’s growing discontent, and Berton dispatched feature writer Sidney Katz to cover the story. Katz’s article, “Jim Crow Lives In Dresden,” helped propel the Dresden story to national interest, even quoting McKay as saying “I get raging mad every time 1 see a Negro. Maybe it’s like an animal who’s had a smell of blood.”

The story of Dresden helped precipitate two events in 1954. One was a 30-minute documentary entitled Dresden Story, in which residents debated the problem of segregation, and in which pro-integrationists were even accused of having “communistic influences;” it was an eye-opening look at the intellectual lengths to which white Canadians would leap in order to keep Black Canadians yoked to second-class citizenship. The second was the Fair Accommodation Practices Act, passed into law by Ontario premier Leslie Frost, a Progressive Conservative who served at a time when the party stood for racial and gender equality. The act erased the ambiguity of anti-discrimination policies that varied from municipality to municipality, and made clear the province’s stand on segregation: “No person shall deny to any person or class of persons the accommodation, services or facilities available in any place to which the public is customarily admitted because of the race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry or place of origin of such person or class of persons.”

In order for the law to be effective, though, it had to be enforced. And in order for that to happen, businesses had to be caught in the act of discrimination. Enter a 21-year-old labour activist named Bromley Armstrong.

Along with University of Toronto student Ruth Lor, Armstrong was dispatched to Dresden in the fall of 1954 to sit at Kay’s Café and request service. According to Armstrong, McKay became so angered at this “test” that Armstrong feared that the man would attack him with the meat cleaver he was holding. The cafe’s waitress refused them service, which not only violated of the law but also exposed McKay in front of undercover reporters that were invited from Toronto to witness the test. McKay was prosecuted by the government of Ontario, marking a first for Canada: a racial discrimination trial in which a business establishment was the defendant.

McKay would go on to lose the trial, successfully appeal on the basis that a business proprietor shouldn’t be punished for the actions of an employee (i.e. the waitress who refused service), and then lose on the basis of another test, in which his overconfidence in the secret handshake of white supremacy led both the waitress and himself to deny service to two more Black patrons.

Armstrong’s name would become widely known throughout the Black Canadian community over the course of his decades-long career in civil rights and labour activism. He helped to found the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Black Business and Professionals Association (with which I’ve served as a board member and consultant), the Black Action Defense Committee (which successfully pressured Ontario into create the Special Investigations Unit oversight branch, for police incidents involving injury, death, and sexual assault of civilians), and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

For his tireless work, Armstrong was granted a seat on the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as well as admission to the Order of Ontario, and the Order of Canada. And after a life lived in service to the communities he loved, Bromley Armstrong passed away on Aug. 17, at the age of 92.

And yet, outside of labour websites and Facebook tributes from small-press Black publications in Toronto like Share Magazine and Pride News, media coverage of his death was nonexistent. While activists like Bromley Armstrong helped end the segregation of Canada’s public spaces, his story has been deeply segregated from public knowledge.

By Aug. 22, Black journalists (including myself) began to make noise on social media, arguing that it was unacceptable that the passing of someone with such a rich legacy, and whose work helped drag Canada into civil-rights modernity, would go unremarked upon by the mainstream media. It wasn’t until a week after his death, on Aug. 24, that CBC’s “As It Happens” picked up the story—and even then, in the original published draft, Armstrong was incorrectly reported to have died the previous Saturday.

Bromley Armstrong’s life, and his work, matters. Within the Black community, this is incontrovertible fact. But in our classrooms, almost 30 years after I first set foot in Higher Marks, his name is still absent from the textbooks. And in our newsrooms, where Black journalists regularly watch our colleagues take cameras and laptops out to our neighbourhoods to report tragedies in our community, and convert our blood into copy, clicks, and revenue, our history might as well be that of some small, unremarkable country overseas.

I attended Armstrong’s wake, and shook hands with his family. There were labour activists present, a few MPs and MPPs, and members of the organizations that Armstrong helped found. It was not a somber event, but a joyful one, as people shared stories about the man, including that long-ago time when he sat stoically at a café table while a bigot, armed with a meat cleaver, hurled insults his way. And it saddened me to know that, if it hadn’t been for the few Black journalists in Canada’s media industry holding their colleagues’ feet to the fire, some of the people listening to those stories might not have known who the man was.

And if it wasn’t for Higher Marks, I might not have known either. None of what I learned in Dr. Blake’s classes—not in middle school, high school, or university—was any of this history taught. As with most Black Canadian history—the razing of Africville, the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the trial of Viola Desmond, and stories of Armstrong, Burnett, Lor, Joseph Hanson, Bernard Carter, Lyle Talbot, Sid Blum, and the National Unity Association—there was no space in the public school classroom for the Dresden sit-ins. Instead, during the school week, my classmates and I read books about Sir John A. Macdonald and the formation of the Dominion. But on Saturdays, in a classroom my mother worked double shifts for me to attend, I watched a VHS copy of Dresden Story. I read news clippings blurred by the imperfect cloning process of the photocopier, as well as Katz’s story. And I listened to an instructor who knew Bromley Armstrong on a first-name basis—as well as several other Black civil rights activists, like Charles Roach, Dudley Laws, and Denham Jolly—deliver the man’s oral history. Otherwise, I might never have known about the Dresden story at all.

As the concept of diversity comes under attack by white nationalists in Canada, and when prominent members of Canada’s opposition party have castigated the taking-down of Macdonald statues as the erasure of history, it’s time for this whitewashing of our history and of the quiet struggles that people of colour have undertaken to end. Slowly and inevitably, the civil-rights generation is leaving us behind in troubled times. The story of Dresden led to the end of segregation, and if that can teach us anything, it’s this: if we truly want unity and shared values to prevail in Canada, some stories have to be told.

Source: Remembering Bromley Armstrong, and the segregation of Canada’s stories

If you vote for a reckless politician, you can’t claim to be a good person: Domise

While  it is unhelpful to label people as good or bad, it is valid to highlight that people are accountable for their political affiliations and positions and are somewhat complicit in the overall nature of political decisions:

Earlier this year, while talking to a relative about Donald Trump’s comments regarding “s–thole countries,” I mentioned that Trump’s voters are every bit as responsible as Trump himself for converting the executive office into Coachella for white supremacists. My relative responded that free choices are part and parcel of democracy, and that we should respect people’s voting choices, even if we don’t agree with them. After all, she said, these are mostly good people who generally feel put off by politics.

At the time, I let the matter drop, but I think about that conversation when the Know-Nothing school of the authoritarian right defends its leaders against scandal and ignominy. And with the recent stream of news over the last couple of weeks, it should be safe to say that not only are voters of the populist right driven by their own politics—rather than an alienation from it—they cannot hide behind the assumption they are good people.

Many who throw in their lot with the populist right have serious hang-ups about immigration and multiculturalism, as shown in a study by Jackie Hogan of Bradley University, and Kristin Haltinner of the University of Idaho. Dehumanizing words such as “barbarians” and “parasites” are often used by political and nationalist organizations to describe out-groups, and to circle the wagons in defence of whiteness. These groups have, in recent years, co-opted the right wing and replaced principled conservatism with nationalist and religious theatrics.

Additionally, a recent study conducted by Steven V. Miller of Clemson University and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M University found that white people who would not want immigrant or non-white neighbours were more likely to oppose democracy. Moreover, they were “more open to rule of government by the army,” or by a “strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections.” (The study, by the way, was conducted from 2011 to 2016, before Donald Trump was elected President.) In a follow-up article for NBC News, writer Noah Berlatsky summarized this effect as a tendency of white voters to pull away from democratic institutions, when marginalized people are perceived as benefiting from democracy. “When faced with a choice between bigotry and democracy,” wrote Berlatsky, “too many Americans are embracing the first while abandoning the second.”

The study dovetails with previous evidence to show that white people with racial hang-ups are more supportive of harsh punishments in the criminal justice system, and less supportive of social service programs, when they perceive racialized minorities as the targets of those programs. Prejudice isn’t simply a matter of personal preference, and it doesn’t park itself at the ballot box. Voters who elect populist right-wing politicians—and who know they’ve proposed or support policies that are likely to harm broad swaths of the population—aren’t good people forced into a bad decision by a disdain for politics. Harm against those groups are their politics.

In April, the New York Times reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have separated more than 700 migrant children from their asylum-seeking parents since October, and taken to shelters run by non-government agencies. Many of them wind up in the facilities indefinitely, and many of them are younger than four years old. And earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy for the crime of crossing the border illegally, which pledged to separate children from their parents if they are apprehended.

While the alleged abuses by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection date back to the Obama administration, the response from the Trump administration has been an encouragement for these agencies to escalate punishments in order to deter future migrants. In a recent interview with NPR, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly commented that the migrants in question are “not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society,” and that children separated from their parents “will be taken care of—put into foster care or whatever.”

In short, it’s easy to let right-wing populism slide by a simple rejection of élitism—performing a civic duty that occasionally has unforeseen consequences. This is a complete cop-out, and assumes voters have no responsibility to engage with their own humanity. To mark the ballot with that motivation, under the belief that one is fundamentally a “good” person, is to fool oneself. Especially when candidates tout policies during the campaign that will punish and marginalize, and then receive an electoral mandate to act on them. Voters knew who Donald Trump was, before they elected him President. They knew this could happen to innocent migrant children.

Keep that in mind as Ontario’s election day nears. Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford has taken to the campaign trail with his everyman attitude and a bullish approach to sensitive issues. This brand of empty populism—rooted more deeply in his feelings than any demonstrable evidence or priced-out policy—has not deeply hurt his election chances among working-class and high-income voters.

In a community meeting in northern Etobicoke, Ford has pledged to bring back the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy. TAVIS was a police detachment whose tendencies towards racial profiling (or, if you will, “carding”) and strong-armed tactics were so destructive to community policing that even the Toronto Police Service itself recommended the organization be disbanded. And Ford has plainly stated that he is dead set against safe injection sites for opioid addicts, stating that society can’t “just keep feeding them and feeding them” drugs. This, despite repeated rafts of evidence that safe injections sites help save lives, and no evidence that shutting them down will accomplish the same.

Ford’s disregard for the well-being of some Ontario communities doesn’t end there. He has also thrown in with the Campaign Life Coalition’s opposition to Bill 163, which establishes protest-free zones outside abortion clinics. He has floated the idea of requiring parental consent for teenagers to seek abortions. And in his capacity as Toronto city councillor, he attacked a home for autistic youth as having “ruined the community.”

But according to polls, even with his musings on his record, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives remain a strong contender to form Ontario’s next government. Without a coherent and fully costed platform for voters to examine so they can arrive at an educated decision, the PC campaign has mostly surrendered itself to Ford’s own political and social revanchism. Even the Campaign Life Coalition says that his actions and words should speak for themselves: “There is much on the public record about Ford’s views on Toronto’s controversial gay pride parade…This public record can also be considered an indicator of where Doug stands with respect to the pro-family values that are important to many socially conservative members of the PC party.”

And now, voters appear poised to hand him a blank cheque.

Though I may disagree with many on the right, there are principled ways to practise conservative politics. At the very least, if a politician intends to cut back on social services, spur business by cutting red tape, and address the sticky matters of crime and drug policy, those proposals should have plenty of evidence and a fully costed budget attached. But what has passed for “evidence” lately are the gut feelings of people with low stakes. People whose lives and safety are not placed at risk by reckless policies that result in young men of colour being racially profiled, young women screamed at as they enter abortion clinics, and children ripped out of their mothers arms at the border. People who would generally refer to themselves as “good.”

It hardly matters what a voter’s intentions might have been when they cast a ballot for bullies and panderers who have no moral objections to making life more difficult for the marginalized. Regardless of the intent, if the pain of marginalized communities is less important than jamming a finger in the eye of the so-called elites, that voter has signalled to politicians that inflicting pain is a sound campaign strategy. Our pain, in other words, are their politics.

If this is how they choose to exercise their civic duty, then God save the rest of us from good people.

Source: If you vote for a reckless politician, you can’t claim to be a good person

Andray Domise: Why I’m #HereForCelina

Valid and needed perspective:

The first thing to know about Black political involvement in Canada is that, until very recently, its success or failure has mostly revolved around managing white perceptions.

This isn’t hyperbole, or even a gripe, but the simple reality of getting elected and keeping one’s seat in a country where Black people make up less than three per cent of the population. For far longer than I’ve been alive, there has been an unspoken understanding in the community that, while the Black politician knows firsthand the frustration, pain, and anger of living in a society that abides our unequal treatment, there is a certain decibel level above which a politician cannot speak. Better to do the work quietly and accomplish what they can for the community, than risk offending the white Canadian who, while benefitting from the systemic racism that keeps him perched atop the social hierarchy, feels unfairly indicted for having his position explained to him.

This is what makes Celina Caesar-Chavannes unique among Canada’s Black political class. The Liberal MP for Whitby not only carries the work outside of Parliament Hill to the broader community, often speaking at events and encouraging organizers to demand more from their elected representatives, but publicly names white supremacy for what it is. Whether speaking to systemic and institutional violence, or individualized racism (e.g. discrimination against Black women’s natural hair, a topic for which she became known internationally), Caesar-Chavannes has, like Rosemary Brown before her, defied the accepted wisdom that Black politicians must face down racism with resolute silence.

And for that, she was named a racist.

In the last few weeks, Caesar-Chavannes has made headlines repeatedly for using Twitter to call out Canadian politicians and media figures who, having no firsthand experience with racism, have attempted to define the terms of its discussion. First, there was her suggestion that Conservative MP Maxime Bernier “be quiet” when Bernier criticized Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s language in cheering a budget set-aside of $19 million for programs that serve racialized Canadians. She later apologized for her comment, and Bernier rejected the apology via Twitter, responding that it’s “time we Conservatives stop being afraid to defend our vision of a just society made up of free and equal individuals and push back against those who want to silence any opinion that differs from theirs.”

And then there was her response to Robert Fife, the Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau chief, who questioned the existence of “systematic racism” in a CPAC interview. Fife was discussing the Liberal government’s announcement of a strategy to counter systemicracism, and flippantly dismissed the announcement as a “wedge issue,” given that schoolchildren seemed to be integrating well with one another. Caesar-Chavannes tweetedthat Fife’s comments made her question his “ability to investigate stories of the Canadian experience without bias.”

In response, former Rebel Media co-founder Brian Lilley wrote a blog post accusing Caesar-Chavannes of “seeing racism everywhere,” following an earlier claim by Rebel Media owner Ezra Levant that she is “a racist,” and “a disgrace.” In a 20-minute video, Levant claimed that “Canada has been good to her,” implying that Caesar-Chavannes could not have achieved similar success in the “very poor” and “very small” Grenada, her country of birth. He later compared Caesar-Chavannes’s description of her skin colour—“Black, no sugar, no cream”—to Malcolm X’s anti-integrationist coffee allegory, solidifying the assertion that her extremism made her unfit for office. This, of course, triggered a wave of harassment by the Canadian alt-right, with several Twitter users calling her a “racist,” and others descending into racial slurs.

In the messy business of combating racism at the political level, too often the burden of white anger falls on the shoulders of outspoken Black women. In the UK, Labour MP and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has spoken at length about the harassment and racial abuse she’s faced as a result of her Black skin and high profile. In the United States, Congressional representative and Donald Trump critic Maxine Waters has faced racism not only from the President’s alt-right supporters, but from the President himself. It seems that, whenever a Black woman in office uses her platform to denounce the systemic oppression of Black people, the immediate and overwhelming response is to tear that woman down, paint her as an extremist, and break her will to continue.

For transparency’s sake, Celina Caesar-Chavannes is a friend of mine; the social circles that comprise Toronto’s Black political, business, and media class overlap heavily, and most of us are at least passingly familiar with one another. So it would be disingenuous of me to pretend I have no interest in seeing her succeed, or that I didn’t have a personal stake in promoting the #HereForCelina hashtag on Twitter (which was started by fellow Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, and joined by thousands of Canadians including the Prime Minister) in response to the harassment she faced.

But the backlash that she has faced over the last few weeks is more than an unfair attack on a friend. It has been an instructive guide to the way we deal with racism in this country. We avoid naming the issue for as long as possible (witness Justin Trudeau’s acknowledgment of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent almost three years after he took office), and when it is named, we stand by and watch as the whistle-blower is attacked by aggrieved white people who demand gratitude for merely tolerating our existence.

The right-wing attack on Caesar-Chavannes is the scenario that many Black politicians before her have avoided by keeping their heads down in public, while discussing matters of race within the confines of the community. And it demonstrates the importance of discussing these issues frequently and in the open. If, as other writers have suggested, we keep a low profile on discussing matters of race, we inevitably surrender the power to shape the conversation to those least equipped to handle it.

Levant isn’t fit to discuss Caesar-Chavannes’s racial politics when he missed that her proud “no sugar, no cream” description wasn’t lifted from a Malcolm X speech, but rather a Heavy D song that praises dark-skinned Black women in a culture that has, for centuries, elevated lighter skin. Bernier isn’t fit to discuss racism when he lacks awareness that the white moderate’s mantra of “colour-blindness” is its own pernicious form of racism. And Fife isn’t fit to criticize systemic racism when it seems he isn’t even clear as to its definition.

Eliminating racism means much more than a personal distaste for neo-Nazis and other unrepentant bigots. It means supporting Black women who’ve spoken up about the soft bigotry of Bay Street, written about Canada’s history of policing the Black body, and called attention to the violence of forcibly placing Black children in the care of the state. It means showing up for Black women, like Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who use their political platform to advocate fiercely for an equal society. And it means facing the uncomfortable truth that our institutions—schools, social services, the justice system—were not designed for the protection and equal treatment of racialized Canadians. We’ve long passed the time when white perceptions about our language and our politics ought to be considered when advocating for our lives.

Source: Andray Domise: Why I’m #HereForCelina

In the U.S.’s debate over free-speech politics, Black Americans lose: Domise

Good piece by Andray Domise:

Where Black identity is concerned, all speech is political speech. In a social environment where principals suspend students, coaches expel players, and spectators are confident shouting slurs and dumping beer on the heads of silent protesters (in an eerily similar fashion to the pro-segregationists who showed up to the Woolworth’s lunch counter to remind integrationists just who was in charge), Black people and public figures find themselves in the exact double-bind Jemele Hill described. When other Black Americans face state-sanctioned violence and injustice, does one choose their profession and education, and even their personal safety? Or should they choose the community they represent?

In September, after Hill was reprimanded for her tweet about Trump being a white supremacist, ESPN president John Skipper issued a memo to employees:“ESPN is not a political organization,” he wrote. “Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.” Later in the memo, Skipper writes: “…we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.”

As I’ve mentioned before, those most violently affected have the most to lose by speaking up about white supremacy. ESPN may see itself as an apolitical organization, but it cannot avoid politics where they’ve been brought into the game by players, coaches, owners, and the President and Vice-President of the United States. Suspending a Black journalist for discouraging lateral violence among football fans is necessarily a political position. Going by ESPN’s reasoning, Hill may comment on what she sees on the field, but the conversation happening off the field, even when it involves her own community, is deemed off-limits.

Universities and high schools may see themselves in a similar light—existing outside of politics—but the personal politics of their staff, when allowed to supersede the right of students to speak out for the modern civil rights movement, make that impossible. There is no avoiding politics on the matter of Black lives. There is only the exercise of free speech in the face of oppression, or the complicity in enforcing silence among the oppressed.

By hiding behind an “apolitical” stance, and punishing Black people who dare speak up about an unjust system, institutional politics in America are clear. And they just happen to line up perfectly with a white supremacist President who demands Black Americans be punished for engaging in peaceful protest. The question isn’t whether or not speaking, tweeting, or kneeling is appropriate. It’s whether those with the ability and willingness to silence protest, while claiming a false neutrality, will ever realize whose side they’re taking.

Source: In the U.S.’s debate over free-speech politics, Black Americans lose – Macleans.ca

Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. Andray Domise and John Ivison takes

Good article by Domise on how Singh has been dealing with these issues over the year. I don’t have the same assessment of the political chatter as Domise – agree with Ivison below:

Yet taken as a whole, the response to his campaign from the political class seems to be that Singh should hang back in Brampton until the rest of the country—a country which prides itself on not being as despicably racist as America—has evolved enough to accept him. At a time when white nationalists have crawled out of the dirt to murder people in the streets, shoot up and firebomb mosques, and taint the office of the U.S. president, this is not a good look. Regardless of the NDP convention outcome, Jagmeet Singh has, so far, made his candidacy look like light work. But the way he handled Jennifer Bush wasn’t the true demonstration of his class and grace. It’s the way he’s handled Canada’s serious thinkers, who can’t help but find polite ways to explain why he doesn’t belong.

Source: Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. – Macleans.ca

A ridiculous article in Macleans suggested the “political class” has been operating from a “racialized” script that urges Singh to return in ignominy to his native Brampton and wait until the country has evolved enough to accept his candidacy.

But no one is saying this. Even in pro-secular Quebec, the informed commentary has pointed out that Singh won’t automatically lose on religious grounds.

This country still has work to do integrating its most recent immigrants, and its original inhabitants, into the tossed salad that is Canada.

Singh said as much recently when he pointed out that, while Canada is known for celebrating multiculturalism, “as a kid growing up, it didn’t always feel that way … my turban and beard evoked a reaction in every room I walked into.”

He said fashion became his “social armour … insulating me from the negativity I faced.”

Yet, here he is — the front-runner to lead one of Canada’s national parties.

He has embraced his Sikh identity and had some fun with it in an attempt to make it cool — who else could get away with a pink turban?

He understands, as did Barack Obama, that race is more a social construct that a biological reality — and that he can shift the culture.

His ethnic background has proven to be a power base from which to launch those ambitions.

I first met Singh in his Brampton riding during the 2015 election, when he helped his friend Harbaljit Singh Kahlon campaign for the federal seat he holds provincially.

He pulled up in a convertible sports car, in matching turban, tie, socks, and proceeded to charm the voters of Brampton East on their doorsteps.

Against the background of a lacklustre national NDP campaign, Kahlon lost, but it was clear: a) that Singh is a charismatic campaigner; b) that he has built a powerful political machine in the very young, very brown suburbs of Canada’s biggest city.

The Liberals will be disquieted by a capacity to generate publicity that might rival the prime minister.

New Democrats will just be delighted that someone, anyone is paying them a little attention. The net effect of the heckler video is that it may convince enough of them that Singh has been transformed from “precariously electable” to “sufficiently electable.”

Source: John Ivison: Jagmeet Singh heckler video may be his Trudeau boxing match moment