Yes Canada, we too have an anti-Black racism problem

Good reminder of the insights from the Black Experience Project:

The anguish and confrontations spreading across the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer have captured the attention of news audiences in that country and around the world. We are transfixed by images of shocking police brutality and the widespread community resistance they have inspired.

But Canadians should challenge themselves to look past the deeply disturbing American news clips and reflect on the situation here at home, including the recent death in Toronto of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29 year-old Black woman. If we do, we will learn there is no room for complacency in this country.

When we look in the mirror, we see a society in which Black people are regularly treated unfairly because of their race. The Black Experience Project, which focused on the Greater Toronto Area, found that two-thirds of the region’s Black residents report being treated unfairly on a continuing basis. The forms that this treatment takes are specific, varied and tragic.

Three in five young Black men say they are frequently or occasionally accused of something or treated suspiciously because of their race, and a similar proportion report being observed or followed while in public places. Three in four say that others frequently or occasionally are afraid of them or intimidated because of their race.

In the case of young Black women, more than 60 per cent say that others frequently or occasionally expect their work to be inferior because of their race, and that they are treated rudely or disrespectfully because of the colour of their skin.

When it comes to dealings with police – the focal point for the current wave of protests – things only get worse. One in two Black Torontonians and a staggering 80 per cent of Black men between the ages of 25 and 44 report that they have been stopped in a public place by the police. Two in five Black Torontonians and two in three Black men between 25 and 44 say they have been harassed or treated rudely by police.

In short, this unique survey research shows that Black youth in Canada’s largest city are growing up being observed, questioned, dismissed and belittled by their fellow citizens because of their race, and are routinely harassed by the very public institution that we should turn to for protection.

Yes Canada – we, too, have an anti-Black racism problem.

Racism doesn’t stop there. The recent Race Relations in Canada Survey found that Indigenous peoples in Canada are just as likely as Black people to experience unfair treatment because of their race. South Asian and Chinese Canadians also experience racism; fewer than one in five say this never happens to them.

If there is any good news to hold onto in these bleak times, it is that, on the whole, Canadians are not in denial about this reality. Three-quarters of white Canadians recognize that Black people in this country are either frequently or occasionally the subject of discrimination in Canadian society. Just a handful (3 per cent) said this never happens.

Yet this general recognition of the problem carries us only so far. Three in 10 non-Indigenous Canadians disagree with the statement that it is easy to understand the anger of Indigenous peoples, as do 39 per cent of non-Black people in the case of the anger of Black Canadians. Somehow, a significant number of Canadians seem to expect that people who experience racism should not get too upset about it.

That ship has sailed.

Will things change for the better? The survey research provides some grounds for optimism. Canadians from all racial groups are more likely to say that race relations in this country are getting better as opposed to getting worse. And, crucially, personal connections among racial groups in Canada are growing.

The majority of Canadians not only have regular contact with people from other races, but contact that is overwhelming described as friendly. These friendships can only deepen our understanding of each other’s experiences.

Most strikingly, six in 10 Canadians are optimistic there will be racial equality in Canada in their lifetime; just one in four are pessimistic. Pessimism, at 30 per cent, is higher for Black Canadians, but is not the majority view. When we ask non-white Canadians whether the next generation will experience more racism than today or less, they are much more likely to anticipate that racism will diminish.

These results were collected before George Floyd was killed. The optimism that shone a few months ago may well have diminished in recent days. It will not be rekindled by congratulating ourselves for doing better than our American cousins. The determination to do better needs to be reborn and sustained by our own actions to confront and eliminate racism in Canada, not just by institutions and authorities such as the police, but by each and every one of us.

Source: Yes Canada, we too have an anti-Black racism problem: Michael Adams and Marva Wisdom

Let’s not dismiss the painful pattern of microaggressions: Adams and Smith

Michael Adams and Joseph Smith on their research findings from the Black Experience Project, including micro aggressions:

The resignation of University of Toronto emeritus history professor Michael Marrus from a senior fellowship at Massey College has provoked discussion far beyond the college. In an exchange covered elsewhere, Mr. Marrus made a slavery-related remark to a black junior fellow, in reference to the approach of the college’s head or “Master,” that concerned the graduate student and others nearby.

As word of the incident spread, petitions demanding action from the college attracted hundreds of signatures. The upshot to date, in addition to Mr. Marrus’s resignation, has been an official apology from Massey College and the suspension of the use of the title “Master” for the head of the college, among other commitments.

There has been much public debate over whether the consequences for Mr. Marrus were proportionate to his action, which he described in an apology letter as “a poor effort at jocular humour.” The contours of this debate are familiar: Should a joke that causes offence be shrugged off or taken seriously as a symptom of a larger problem? Are those who don’t laugh along oversensitive, or rightly holding people and institutions to account?

Our goal is not to revisit the specifics of the Marrus incident. We propose to widen the scope of the conversation with some unique and recent empirical evidence drawn from a seven-year study of the experiences of self-identified black people in the Greater Toronto Area.

What is the context into which a joke is launched? How often might black people – especially those in institutions where they’ve been historically underrepresented – find themselves on the receiving end? Is it a rare event or quotidian?

The Black Experience Project (BEP), whose results were released in July, was an unprecedented survey of 1,504 self-identified black people aged 16 and over in the GTA. The focus was their experience of being black in everyday life in our city region: at school, at work, at leisure, in civic and political life, when shopping, or simply moving around the city.

Four in five participants in our study reported experiencing unfair treatment based on race, in one or more forms of microaggressions, on a regular basis. Examples of microaggressions included: general condescension; intuiting that others expected their work to be inferior; or being treated as an intimidating presence. (It’s worth noting that microaggressions were by no means the whole story; other forms of discrimination – for example, involving employers and the police – were also widely reported.)

Some people who aren’t subject to microaggressions view them as small, unimportant experiences that are blown out of proportion. But BEP participants told us their effects are real and cumulative. One respondent called these day-to-day harms a form of “quiet violence.” Another, a member of Parliament, described the relentless experience of subtle discrimination as “death by a thousand cuts.”

Most of us go through life hoping to be judged on our behaviour, not on what others can surmise about us based on our appearance: our gender presentation, the colour of our skin, the clothing we wear, including religious dress. Martin Luther King Jr.’s hope that his children would be judged “not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character” remains poignant – in part because it remains unrealized.

The Black Experience Project and other surveys show that many Canadians are treated differently because of the face they show the world; anti-black racism is an especially stubborn force. Institutions of learning have an important role to play in helping their members understand and address manifestations of racism, large and small.

Debates about language, codes of conduct and the nuances of social life may seem granular to some who don’t feel at risk of “quiet violence” or “death by a thousand cuts.” But to dismiss microaggressions as unworthy of attention treats each one as a minor, isolated experience with no meaningful consequences instead of as a painful pattern that shapes the landscape many (our survey suggests most) black people navigate in their daily lives right here in the GTA.

Source: Let’s not dismiss the painful pattern of microaggressions – The Globe and Mail

Get ready — Toronto’s next wave of Black voices will be more urgent, strident and radical: James

More analysis of the Black Experience Project and potential implications:

Astonishingly, half of Black youths aged 16 to 24 identify racism as the greatest challenge facing the Black community. These are kids born here. In 2011, for the first time, the majority of young Black adults in the GTA were Canadian-born, outnumbering those born in the islands. But instead of building security on top of their parent’s angst, they report anxiety beyond that of their elders.

And still you wonder why Black Lives Matter has such resonance.

Hundreds filled the auditorium of the downtown Y on Wednesday night to receive the report, six years in the making. Black folk interviewed themselves, in depth, 250 questions over two or more hours, each posed to more than 1,500 respondents in the GTA, buttressed by the polling expertise of the Environics Institute.

Findings? No surprises here. The gathering had a vibe of self-prescribed group therapy where victims comfort each other with nodding heads and sighs that breathe, “the story of my life.”

Validation is good, one woman said, providing feedback. “Now I know it’s not just me; I’m not crazy,” she said.

Another summed up the daily toll of racism encountered in a society steeped in the ethos of colonized and colonizer. “It drains you,” she said.

Then she asked the tough question. “How are you getting this information in front of the people who need to hear — so it’s not just us talking to ourselves, telling us what we already know?”

Almost 40 years ago when I took pictures and wrote stories for Contrast Newspaper, the parade of headlines had a numbing sameness: Man beaten by police. Mother says school discriminates. Youth says racism kept him from job.

In the 1980s when I joined with Toronto Star colleague Leslie Papp to examine life in Metro Toronto for Black folk compared with whites, little had changed. In daily interactions large and small, Black folk endured the slings and arrows of outrageous racism.

In 2002 the Star unleashed its study on racial profiling, Black pain and suffering finally received an official stamp of institutional and scientific approval. No one who was serious could deny the reality anymore. Black people were being targeted, harassed, arrested, imprisoned and victimized at a rate three to four times their white neighbours — not because of wanton crimes but for the same misdemeanor and behavior that left white citizens free of censure.

When the Star verified in 2010 what Black youths complained about from my Contrast days — that they are systematically watched, targeted, surveilled, had their movements recorded and “carded” as a matter of police policy — one would have thought the jig was up.

But no, the racism deniers only got bolder and intransigent.

Police chiefs and mayors and citizens defended the most outrageous violation of the human and civil rights of its Black citizens — in the name of a safety no one could identify or specify.

I sat at a police services board meeting and watched my mayor support carding — immediately after Black and white citizens begged the board to please, stop, in the name of God or justice. Former metro councillor Bev Salmon was in tears. Former police board member Roy Williams was near depressed. Desmond Cole renounced his journalism credentials and attempted to shame the bastards into doing the right thing. And they sat there unmoved.

I wept that day — at police headquarters.

I wept many other nights that year as I watched the systematic de-humanization of Black people, across America and the globe.

Why do we matter so little?

Fowzia Duale Virtue, one of the presenters Wednesday night, in a moment of revelation, put her finger on the trigger:

“I’ve been Black in a lot of places in the world. I’ve lived on four continents, lived in 22 countries” and encountered racism “so overt that I didn’t want to spend another” dollar in that place. And she’s experienced the “refreshing welcome of humanity in places without the history of colonization.”

Right here, Black response evolved into Black Lives Matter (BLM) — young, accented in Canadian lilt and vocabulary. Where Dudley Laws and Charles Roach and Black Action Defence Committee (BAD-C) once roamed, BLM occupies. The youths seem more strident, more forceful, direct and impatient and radical.

And some GTA teacher posted or retweeted the sentiment that says BLM is our local terrorist group.

Dude! You should be ecstatic. The alternative will be unrecognizable — more combustible and radical and urgent and disruptive than the 2017 version of BLM.

Consider that the majority of young Black adults is now Canadian born. They have more white friends and connections than their immigrant parents. One might expect their reported experiences in Toronto society would leave them with a more hopeful, less victimized existence. Yet this latest report says:

“Young Black Canadian-born adults are more likely to identify racism as an obstacle they face; more likely to say they experience some forms of unfair treatment because they are Black; and more likely to be adversely affected by these experiences. It appears, therefore, that young Black adults are more impatient with the failure of Canadian society to deliver on the country’s promise of equality.”

That’s what should bother us. BAD-C leads to BLM. What will BLM morph into, if current conditions persist?

Carding had to go because it was just too odious. The disrespect so obvious that regular middle-class folk, Black and white, could see its devilish design. But the racism that’s part of our DNA is so much harder to erase.

Black people have shown they won’t stop pushing for equality. Toronto’s next wave of Black voices will be more urgent, strident, boisterous and radical. You can count on that.

Malcolm X talked about the ballot or the bullet, even as Martin Luther King marched in non-violent protest. One day, the idea of Black Lives Matter as an incendiary terrorist group will be as absurd as calling the Black Action Defense Committee dangerous. Current requests will pale in the face of future demands.

“We are just like everyone else,” Virtue said Wednesday, her form steady, poised, articulate and resolute. “We will fight and demand that our humanity is respected and honoured and received.”

We won’t be able to send these kids home — back to Africa or Jamaica. They are home. What too many of them are telling us — if we open our ears and hearts — is that our beloved Toronto doesn’t feel like home.

We have been warned.

Source: Get ready — Toronto’s next wave of Black voices will be more urgent, strident and radical: James | Toronto Star

Groundbreaking project explores Black experience in the GTA

Good detailed coverage in the Star and Globe (not much if anything in the Sun):

Whenever he is asked about his racial identity, Carl James always says “Black” instead of Antiguan, especially in Canada, where race is often defined by skin colour.

But there is more to the York University education professor’s preferred response to the question.

“I generally see myself as a Black person who happens to be from the Caribbean,” said James, who came to Toronto in the 1970s as a university student.

“It’s the politics about being Black that we are thinking in skin-colour terms. That’s the way we have come to define and see ourselves in our struggles.”

He is not alone in feeling that way.

According to the Black Experience Project, a groundbreaking survey of 1,504 self-identified Black individuals in Greater Toronto, 53 per cent of the participants identified themselves as Black regardless of their heritage, country of origin, and ethnocultural and other identities.

The participants were sampled to represent the population across census tracts, taking into account age, gender household income and ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

The study led by the Environics Institute, released Wednesday, posed 250 questions to participants about their daily experiences as Black people in the GTA. Most interviews were conducted in person and each took between 90 to 120 minutes.

“What struck me is how the experience of the Black community is so similar,” said Marva Wisdom, the project’s director of outreach engagement, whose family moved here from Jamaica 40 years ago.

“Being Black is an important identity for us despite our diversity. It is our shared experiences that help bind us together.”

Black people make up 400,000, or 7 per cent, of Greater Toronto’s population and the community has more than tripled in size over the last three decades.

Until 2011, young Black adults living in GTA were much more likely to be born in the Caribbean than in Canada, but the trend has reversed. Black youth today are twice as likely to be born in Canada than in the Caribbean, while those from Africa have been on the rise.

While people with Caribbean heritage make up 55 per cent of GTA’s Black population, those with African origins now account for 31 per cent of the community, with the rest being a mix of both and/or with other ethnicities.

The study also found:

  • Two-thirds of survey participants said they frequently or occasionally experience racism and discrimination because they are Black;
  • Eight in 10 reported experiencing one of several forms of day-to-day “microaggression” such as having others expect their work to be inferior or being treated in a condescending or superficial way;
  • Although those with lower incomes are affected more intensively by these incidents, when it comes to getting randomly stopped in public by the police, those in the higher socio-economic stratum are not immune;
  • About four respondents in 10 said they felt accepted by their teachers “only sometimes” or “never”;
  • One-third identified challenges in the workplace linked to being Black, whether those involved explicit racism or discrimination, or an uncomfortable workplace culture in which they do not feel they are treated professionally accepted.

“Teenagers growing up feel they’re experiencing all these things on their own. You feel you have to work hard to prove Blackness is a positive thing. Now we can confirm and validate our experiences with data,” Wisdom said.

“There have been incremental changes, but things haven’t changed that much, either.”

Source: Groundbreaking project explores Black experience in the GTA | Toronto StarBlack Experience Project a heart-rending snapshot of Black lives in Toronto: Paradkar

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Carl James, an education professor at York University and one of the researchers behind the study, explains the lasting effect frequent police interactions has on the black population as a whole and how wealth and education offer little protection against profiling.

Half the black people you surveyed said they’ve been stopped by police in public but that number surges to 80 per cent when it comes to black males between 25 and 44. What’s behind the targeting of this demographic?

I think it has to do with how black males are thought about in society. These stereotypes operate to influence the relationship we’re going to have with the police, with teachers, with our neighbours. The sense [police] have of these people is that they are probably up to no good, probably mischief makers. In order to prevent any of those things that might take place, let us take pre-emptive action.

Get the latest political headlines.

What’s the effect of having so many of these interactions with police?

One youth sent me an e-mail where he talked about going home at 11:30 and police stopped him and searched him and in the process roughed him up. We then think we can’t be out at 11 at night or drive a nice car or live our lives. It affects how we might trust police or a teacher.

We’ve seen a lot of reports in the past couple of months prepared by judges or human-rights organizations that look at policing and the recommendations are always the same: collecting race-based data, providing implicit bias training to police. Are these the right solutions?

I think collecting the data is absolutely important and critical but what we do with it is important afterward. Even though the data might be there, in a society where institutional racism exists, people might not believe the evidence because that’s not their personal experience.

With personnel training, I’m not sure it helps unless people start thinking about how they’re complicit, and also responsible for working at the issues, instead of, “I got some training. Black people aren’t exactly all what I thought.” I think we need a deliberate attempt coming from federal policies and programs.

We need different representations in media. It’s not just when we hear about issues related to blacks that we get a black person on the radio. If a personal story is the only way that the larger society can be able to respect and understand and get to know the black person, I think that’s a very sad situation.

Your results show that black people from the GTA from all class backgrounds had negative interactions with police. Your social standing, your education, it can’t really protect you. Was that surprising?

No. If you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a professional, the fact is, outside of those contexts, you’re seen as who we construct you to be. We have to shift the thinking, shift the ideas to challenge the stereotypes.

You have a Ph.D. You’re a faculty chair at York University. How does that have an effect on your experience being black in this city?

There are assumptions of what my research might be about. Assumptions I might be biased based on how I come to my research. The assumptions of how I might teach or perceive some students. We all are marinated in the same stew of stereotypes and we’re going to bring that to the world and interactions we’re going to have.

Eighty per cent of the people you surveyed said that they believed that others – specifically non-black people – saw them in a somewhat negative or very negative light. Do you think it’s worthwhile trying to change the perception of adults? Or are those stereotypes too ingrained?

We have to get at the perception of adults. These are the people that set the laws, set the rules, set out the school curriculum, set out the kinds of processes that people need to live by. If they are allowed to maintain their ideas, nothing will change. Even if we worked with kids to have them see the world differently than the adults, after a while, they’re inculcated by ideas held by adults and are going to think they’re right. To be able to succeed, you might not be able to challenge the existing ideas, the status quo, so sooner or later these kids will have to fall in line.

I don’t think it’s just the individual ways it must be done. It has to be done with institutional practices. Since the police occupy a very significant place in society in which we live, the government’s going to have to play a significant role in bringing them into understanding and respecting the role that they play and their relationship with the community.

Source: Majority of black people in Toronto feel targeted and disrespected: study 

Other commentary of note, from a more activist perspective:

Black Experience Project exposes Canada’s big lie: Mochama – Multiculturalism is a national policy that promises to embrace diversity while doing nothing to address a long history of punishing Black people.,

The tragic echoes in the cycle of Black death – As a verdict loomed in the Andrew Loku inquest, Pierre Coriolan was killed in Montreal—reminders of why Black Canadians fight for change