Don Cherry, Colin Kaepernick and why ‘stick to sports’ doesn’t work

Good column by Balkissoon:

Seen one way, Don Cherry and Colin Kaepernick lost their jobs in similar fashion, after widespread objections to their bringing politics into their respective games. Seen more clearly, the situations are completely different, as Mr. Cherry used his Hockey Night in Canada platform to broadcast a prejudiced diatribe unsupported by facts, while Mr. Kaepernick silently took a knee in NFL stadiums to protest documented examples of police killings of unarmed civilians.

Both men were in the news this week, with Mr. Cherry being fired from Coach’s Corner on Monday after he refused to apologize for a rambling accusation that “you people that come here” don’t respect veterans and soldiers. Mr. Kaepernick’s story has a new twist – on Tuesday, the NFL announced it was playing host to a workout this weekend where coaches and owners could assess how game-ready the quarterback is after three years off the professional field.

These are just two recent examples of professional sports being used as a lens through which to view current affairs. Which is hardly a surprise, as sports have always reflected and refracted the day’s politics; African-American sprinter Jesse Owens’s 1936 Olympic success in a rising Nazi Germany is just one way-back example. What’s silly, but also unsurprising, are futile calls to keep athletics and politics separate. That’s impossible and not desirable, either.

Other relevant stories from the past week include a Woman of the Year award won by U.S. soccer midfielder Megan Rapinoe. In her speech at the ceremony, put on by Glamour magazine, she said that Mr. Kaepernick is still “effectively banned from the NFL” for protesting “known and systematic racial injustice.”

Ms. Rapinoe also referenced a continuing gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer. The same day, she was quoted elsewhere criticizing a revamped pay structure that would benefit female soccer players – but only new signees, not those already on the national team.

As well, former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice stoked the fire burning between China and the NBA. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the Chinese government told him to fire Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey for a pro-Hong Kong comment made in October. (Beijing denies this happened.) On Monday, Ms. Rice called China’s harsh response “a violation of American sovereignty.”

Unbelievably, not one of these four stories was covered by the smart, snarky U.S. sports website Deadspin. That is, the formerly smart website Deadspin, which was full of killer sports reporting, alongside great pieces about politics, parenting, culture and ephemera. That all changed in October, when the site’s new-ish owners, G/O Media, advised the editorial staff that their new mandate was to “stick to sports.”

In response, acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky filled the homepage with non-sports stories and was fired. The entire editorial team then resigned. The hollowed-out site that remains is now missing both fun commentary and real journalism – in 2014, Deadspin was one of the first outlets to obtain audio of then-L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making overtly racist comments that eventually got him ousted from the NBA.

“Do I make the game, or do they make the game?” Mr. Sterling said about players on that tape, as quoted by Mr. Petchesky in a New York Times op-ed from Monday. Pointing out that not sticking to sports had made the site quite successful, the former editor furiously rebutted the idea that athletics exists separately from the wider world, saying that “Deadspin’s position was that it’s all in the game.”

Since its 2004 founding, “Deadspin’s approach was a reaction to the predominant strain of sports writing at the time, which treated athletes as either Greek demigods unconcerned with the dealings of the world or spoiled millionaires playing children’s games,” Mr. Petchesky wrote.

That’s a brave approach considering the power those demigods can wield – British journalist David Walsh endured years of public insults from Lance Armstrong before the cyclist’s doping scandal finally broke wide. Following his work, genuine journalism focused on sports has led to an overdue airing of dirty secrets, from the effects of rampant concussions, to attempts to hide domestic violence, to multiple coverups of the sexual abuse of minors. That’s a good thing.

Sure, it’s a downer that such revelations encroach on the thrill of watching elite athletes in action, but ignoring concussions, unequal pay and the rest of it was a pretty distasteful way to be entertained. Sports are part of real life and denying that has never made problems go away.

Source:     Don Cherry, Colin Kaepernick and why ‘stick to sports’ doesn’t work Denise Balkissoon 11 hours ago Updated       

Pedophiles, anti-vaxxers, homophobes: YouTube’s algorithm caters to them all

Denise Balkissoon on the business models driving some of the hate:

Social-media platforms appear to be having an amorality contest, and this week it was YouTube’s turn to shrug at the harm that it’s caused.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that the platform failed to protect children from people who sexualize them, even though it has known about the problem for months. When prompted with a search for erotic videos, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is still serving up images of increasingly young children doing what should be innocuous, such as playing in swimsuits or doing gymnastics.

The next day, Vox journalist Carlos Maza received a reply to his complaints about being targeted by a YouTube vlogger who he said had spent years aiming homophobic, racist and hateful insults at him. The vlogger has almost 4 million subscribers, some of whom allegedly targeted Mr. Maza across multiple platforms and in his personal inbox with death threats and threats to release his personal information online.

Even so, replied YouTube, “while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.” Which is confusing, since those policies advise users not to post content that “makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person” or that “incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube.”

Every major social-media platform – Twitter, Facebook, Reddit – has played a part in creating this age of disinformation and extremism. But unlike the other platforms, YouTube shares the ad money it makes with content creators: Tech journalist Julia Carrie Wong argues that it’s effectively their employer, whether it accepts that title or not. That means the platform is directly delivering rewards to its creators, including those who propagate prejudice, creepiness and lies. In fact, it even helps them spread their message.

Some inside the company have tried to solve the issue. In April, Bloombergpublished a story for which it interviewed “scores of employees” who said they had long known that the site’s recommendation algorithm was leading people toward “false, incendiary and toxic content.”

But senior executives, including chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki, seem to be so focused on the advertising money that YouTube’s audience brings in that they ignore the well-being of those same users. They dismissed these warnings, along with suggestions of how to counter the problem. The site’s growth depends on “engagement,” after all – the raw amount of time people stare at the screen. And what keeps them there is a recommendation engine that pushes out increasingly extreme or explicit content.

At the 2018 South by Southwest conference, Bloomberg reported, Ms. Wojcicki defended the problematic content YouTube hosts by comparing the platform to a library. “There have always been controversies, if you look back at libraries,” she said.

But YouTube isn’t a bookshelf. It’s a billion-dollar bookseller, promoting some of the hundreds of millions of stories in its possession over others. Its algorithm doesn’t ignore, or even bury, the factless ramblings of vaccine-science deniers (including at least one in Montreal, a city now seeing an uptick in measles cases). No, it lifts them out of its infinite catalogue and thrusts them out into the world, with the book cover facing out and an “Audience Favourite” sticker slapped on the front.

Revelations of this kind of social-media irresponsibility now lead, reliably, to a certain kind of reaction: the patchwork, flip-flopping, half-measure responses that platforms think will fool us into believing they care. After learning that pedophiles were using comment sections to try to goad children into exploiting themselves, YouTube took comments off of some, but not all, videos featuring children. When Mr. Maza’s situation led to a huge outcry, YouTube “demonetized” the vlogger in question, cutting off his access to ad revenue without a clear explanation about why it was changing its decision, or when and how the revenue might be reinstituted. The criticism continues, as does the company’s inadequate solutions; now YouTube is demonetizing or removing creators it deems extremist entirely, interfering with documentary makers and researchers in the process, and putting itself at risk of being criticized for interfering with free speech.

Free speech is a political issue. Free amplification, though, is a business decision that YouTube is actively making. Which is why the one response that insiders, observers and experts have long advocated continues to be ignored: designing a new, more ethical recommendation algorithm that doesn’t reward repugnant behaviour.

Doing so would reduce traffic, and therefore revenue, for creators, a spokesperson told the Times this week. Somehow, though, she didn’t get around to pointing out that the bulk of that money ends up with YouTube.

Source: Pedophiles, anti-vaxxers, homophobes: YouTube’s algorithm caters to them all: Denise Balkissoon

The New Yorker, The Economist and Steve Bannon’s squad of useful idiots: Balkissoon

Find it hard to disagree with her fundamental points (although I have respect for David Frum):

Steve Bannon is going on tour, and venerable institutions are lining up to host him.

This week, the 93-year-old New Yorker and the 175-year-old Economist announced plans to have their editors-in-chief interview Mr. Bannon at separate live events this month. Organizers of the Munk Debates revealed that their first decade will be celebrated by having him debate “the rise of populism” with David Frum at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall in November.

Mr. Bannon is on the “pro” side: He’s a flashpoint figure in the populist wave washing over the globe. His past occupations include investment banker, vice-president of Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and co-founder of Breitbart News, a web publication that he personally called “the platform for the alt-right” in 2016.

His White House appointment brought criticisms of anti-Semitism from the Southern Poverty Law Center. His time there included constructing the “travel ban” restricting movement into the United States from seven countries, most of them with majority Muslim populations. Just before his departure, the NAACP labelled him a “well-known white supremacist.”

To observers both inside and outside of the two publications, giving Mr. Bannon a platform was a bad idea.

Notable figures dropped off of both magazine agendas: At press time, The New Yorker had rescinded its invite, The Economist hadn’t and the backlash against Munk was just beginning. Tech entrepreneur Anil Dash said on Twitter that he’d still talk at the Economist event but would ditch his original topic to focus on “the consistent, immoral attacks Bannon has directed against the South Asian American community.”

Mr. Dash also said The Economist’s executives “are either foolishly getting exploited by providing a platform without any accountability, or are complicit in an awful agenda.” Let’s stick with the first idea today: that despite the big brains inside these institutions, they’ve become, in this instance, useful idiots.

The term refers to someone whose hubris prevents them from seeing they’re being used to spread the message of a nefarious actor. That’s always been Mr. Bannon’s goal – in February, he told Bloomberg News that he was never fighting the Democrats in the 2016 election. “The real opposition is the media,” he’s quoted as saying. “And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

It’s a dark plan, and it’s worked. Supposedly savvy outlets across the globe have been beaten at their own game by far-right propagandists time and again.

Richard Spencer got the left-leaning publication Mother Jones to call him “dapper.” Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie started out with gaming videos, got a Disney contract and evolved into a virulent racist: Although Disney dropped him, he hasn’t lost his popularity. Multipronged attacks by multiple extremists have made it so that journalists – including me – often seem to have no choice between ignoring them until something terrible happens, or helping to introduce their message to a new audience.

I’m not the first to say that the far-right onslaught is shaking the very foundations of journalism. This past May, the New York-based Data Society, which studies how new technologies affect culture, released “The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists and Manipulators.” It’s a detailed, 125-page outline of how pillars including open debate, free speech and balance have been twisted to sneak hate into the mainstream.

Take the belief that a debate of reasonable ideas helps get us out of our echo chambers. No insular bubbles are being popped at these events: Mr. Bannon, Mr. Frum, New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick and his Economist counterpart Zanny Minton Beddoes are all Ivy League graduates. New Yorker tickets start at US$17, but The Economist is charging US$49, and Munk seats go up to $100. If populism is about the working class, it would be good to have them in attendance.

More to the point, racism and xenophobia are not reasonable. They aren’t ideas, but harmful actions, happening now. Ask the Latin American migrants still separated from their children, or the people in Puerto Rico mourning their 3,000 dead while living without basic services almost a year after Hurricane Maria.

A woman was killed at last year’s white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., and it was after repeated consultations with Mr. Bannon that Mr. Trump responded. The President eventually blamed “both sides” for the violence – a false equivalency that equates resisting violence with starting it, and manipulates the journalistic tenet of balance.

The world has “debated” hateful ideologies time and again – choose your genocide, and the “never again” declaration that came afterward – and letting them be revisited is, quite frankly, stupid. It’s not an opportunity for intellectual discourse. It’s allowing violence to go unchecked, to sweep up vulnerable people, and to grow.

Mr. Bannon knows it, so why don’t experienced journalists? The answer is ego: the desire to go head-to-head with infamy, the belief that their personal smarts can’t be outsmarted and the inability to admit when one is being used. Pride comes before a fall, and it’s revealing supposedly intelligent people as idiots.

Finally, a sign of national unity: racial profiling in policing: Balkissoon

Sad to say there is a national pattern here:

Indigenous and black people are more likely to be considered suspicious by Vancouver police than people of other races. That’s the takeaway from data released by the city’s police department about how it conducts street checks, the practice of stopping someone to gather information even though they aren’t suspected of a specific crime.

As reported in The Globe and Mail, Indigenous people make up 16 per cent of those stopped and asked for their identification without cause in the city, though they’re only 2 per cent of the population. The 1 per cent of its residents who are black make up 5 per cent of those street checked by police.

These stats are dismal – and the trend is repeated across the country. Also known as “carding,” street checks are practised by police forces from coast to coast, and are a regular point of contention.

That’s mainly because every time someone digs into the data, it turns out that racialized people are more likely to be stopped than white people, meaning more likely to have their identification noted and recorded. This makes them (in Toronto cop parlance) more likely to be “known to police,” despite not actually being involved with a crime.

Specifics do differ from city to city – while black and Indigenous people are most often targeted, those who police consider “brown” show up in the stats for Toronto. Some places like to pick on “Arabs” or “West Asians,” which I think means Muslims who look like the bad guys in Aladdin.

But while individual shades may not match up exactly, the same picture can be seen from Medicine Hat to Ottawa to Halifax. When tasked with trying to keep communities safe, police forces across the country target those who aren’t white.

“I feel a little demoralized,” said Bashir Mohamed, a member of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Edmonton, about learning Vancouver’s carding data. “It makes me wonder if anything will actually be done there. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to do much here.”

Last June, BLM Edmonton released that city’s data on street checks, after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information request. Mr. Mohamed said he was gratified to have proof of his suspicions that his black friends were stopped more often than their white acquaintances.

He was also shocked at one particular statistic: that Indigenous women in Edmonton were almost 10 times more likely to be stopped and to have their identification recorded than anyone else. BLM Edmonton shared the information with the Institute for Advancement of Aboriginal Women and Stolen Sisters, which focus on Indigenous women’s issues.

The three groups put together a number of policy suggestions, some of which echo rules put into place in Ontario around the practice of carding. Since January, 2017, officers in that province must inform people that they have a right not to talk to police or to produce identification unless they’re being arrested or detained.

This is far from perfect – Ontario’s data excludes traffic stops, a rather big exception – but informing people of their rights is a basic place to start.

Mr. Mohamed says he was promised action in person by Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley last fall. Edmonton’s police commission also vowed to review its carding practices and put together a research group to do so in December. Advocacy groups were told to expect the next steps by early 2018, but halfway through the year, nothing has happened yet.

And neither Edmonton, Ontario, nor any other jurisdiction has promised to change how it stores carding data, which is usually kept indefinitely. While there have been calls in some cities to destroy the information entirely, Mr. Mohamed is willing to let it be used by researchers and academics. He just wants it removed from databases meant to list criminals.

After all, police haven’t shown that they need it. Even as forces across Canada insist that personal information about innocent-until-proven-guilty citizens is useful, none have released data to show how street checks help reduce crime. Yet, despite this lack of proof, the constant, unjustified surveillance continues.

This country famously resists being tied together by a common string, with regular hand-wringing about whether anyone cares about maple syrup or hockey anymore. It’s time to claim our actual national past-time – making sure Indigenous, black and other racialized people know they’re being watched with suspicion.

via Finally, a sign of national unity: racial profiling in policing – The Globe and Mail

For author David Chariandy, it’s not a matter of whether to discuss race with children, but how – The Globe and Mail

Nice and insightful review of his new book by Denise Balkissoon:

David Chariandy and his family have no interest in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

On a sunny afternoon about a month before the mad, multimillion-dollar wedding, I ask the novelist, his wife and their two children what they thought about Markle, a biracial black woman, marrying into one of the world’s most aristocratic white families.

“I’m tempted to say … so what?” he replies.

“I don’t really follow the Royal Family,” adds his 13-year-old daughter. Chariandy’s wife and 10-year-old son similarly shrug.

The question was stirred by Chariandy’s new book, I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You, a memoir about his experiences with race that is written as a letter to his daughter. In it, he notes that his children’s ancestry combines a variety of genealogies that have historically been kept divided: on his side, they are descended from enslaved Africans and indentured South Asian labourers in the Caribbean. Through their white mother, their lineage includes Sir William Mackenzie, who, in the 19th century, made his fortune in railways, an industry that was known to often exploit Chinese labourers.

In making this observation, Chariandy rejects the idea that combining disparate families could homogenize us all into one happy, beige-skinned world. It’s a sentiment I’ve come across in celebrations of Harry and Meghan – the idea that all is forgiven and forgotten now that a man whose ancestors were slavers is marrying a woman whose ancestors were enslaved.

“Even if he has married this person of colour, it doesn’t mean racism is over or anything,” Chariandy’s daughter observes. Or, as her father puts it in his memoir, “The future I yearn for is not one in which we will all be clothed in sameness, but is one in which we will finally learn to both read and respectfully discuss our differences.”

Chariandy’s two novels, Soucouyant and Brother, both draw on his Trinidadian heritage and centre on fragile family ties. This is his first work of non-fiction, which he was compelled to write after his daughter began asking hard questions about Donald Trump’s racist speeches and policies, as well the realities and politics of race in Canada. “She was asking very explicit questions,” said Chariandy, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., and now lives in Vancouver.

In attempting to answer those questions thoroughly and honestly, Chariandy is endorsing a contemporary parenting philosophy – that it’s better to be honest when tackling difficult subjects with children rather than duck their questions or give dissatisfying answers. It’s a different approach than that usually taken by older generations, especially immigrants who came here expecting a multicultural Canadian dream.

“‘We just simply want to be Canadian, we don’t want to talk about questions of race,’” Chariandy imagines his own parents thinking. “Perhaps they wanted to protect their children against a difficult truth about the past. I understand that – at the same time I think one has to arm one’s children against the realities that surround them.” For him, the question isn’t whether to discuss race and racism, but how: how to explain prejudice, but keep his children feeling safe, and how to respect that they’re of a new generation, and will experience the world differently than him no matter what.

The result is poetic and moving, a slim but weighty book that excavates things often left unsaid. Chariandy shares the anxiety-inducing experience of meeting his wife’s learned, established family, (“That was a Get Out moment,” he says, and they both laugh) and the internal conflicts that arise visiting Trinidad as a moneyed Westerner. He details the parental heartbreak that comes with watching one’s children experience prejudice: the rush of anger and despair, and the attempt to soothe their pain while simultaneously treating reopened wounds from one’s own youth.

The book is endearingly intimate and full of love, and the author says he’s much more tentative about releasing it into the world than his previous work.

“I’ve written two books and I’ve never found this degree of profound vulnerability,” he says. “The only thing I say to myself is, we live out the politics of race. From the very beginning, it is a public encounter. Sometimes it feels like I don’t have a choice but to be public, because that’s how the game is played.”

This memoir comes three years after African-American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, an equally unflinching passing-on of an unwanted inheritance written as a letter to his son. Both Coates and Chariandy were inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 work The Fire Next Time, written in part as a letter to his nephew, which criticizes not just white Americans but Christianity and helped cement Baldwin as a revolutionary thinker and civil rights activist.

It’s a heady legacy, but Chariandy doesn’t see himself as following in other footsteps as much as contributing another voice to an important chorus. “I actually think there must be many, many more books like this,” he says. “I think that this exercise ought to be done many, many, many more times.” Each family’s history and present is particular, after all, and each choice to create a new one is an attempt to weave together scattered threads into something whole and secure, with a future.

Which is why Prince Harry’s personal mission is only beginning, should he choose to accept it. “Does Prince Harry do his homework?” Chariandy asks. “Has he made an effort, a genuine effort to understand things that may correspond to the person he loves or purports to love? That to me is the more interesting question.” Not that interesting though: He and his family are much more engaged in writing their own story, a fresh one for them, Canada and the world.

via For author David Chariandy, it’s not a matter of whether to discuss race with children, but how – The Globe and Mail

Black Britons and belonging: Meghan Markle versus the Windrush generation: Balkissoon

Appropriate and sharp contrast:

There are two big stories right now about black migrants in Britain, but only one is fun to pay attention to.

That would be that Meghan Markle, an American with a black mother and white father, is marrying Prince Harry. A beautiful, biracial commoner starring in a royal wedding is a fairy tale about race and Britishness the Crown can get behind. It’s a much better image than half a million black and brown citizens facing possible deportation.

But that, too, is currently happening: In fact, the Windrush scandal, as it’s known, became public around the same time as the Royal engagement, last November. That’s when The Guardian began publishing stories about people losing their health benefits, being put into immigration detention or being deported even though they had been citizens since birth.

These Britons were born in pre-independence Commonwealth countries, once considered far-flung parts of Britain itself. After the Second World War, when the U.K. was hit with a serious labour shortage, it appealed to the Queen’s global subjects to fill the void. Among the thousands that answered the call were the passengers of the MV Empire Windrush, which landed in June 1948 full of British citizens from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands.

That ship’s name has become a rallying cry for a generation: West Indians, South Asians and others who were told that arriving before the early 1970s gave them “the right to remain” in their supposed mother country. The problem is that now, decades later, much of the Windrush generation don’t have the paperwork to prove when they got there.

Many were children when they arrived, travelling on their parents’ passports. Few knew that the government was in possession of ship landing cards that could prove their arrival date – or that in 2010, the U.K. Border Agency began destroying them.

Two years after legal proof that thousands of mostly non-white people had a right to be in the U.K. disappeared, then-Home Secretary (or immigration minister) Theresa May introduced “hostile environment” policies meant to deter unwanted migrants. At least 50,000 of the over 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who moved to the U.K. in the Windrush period don’t have British passports: thousands of lives have been disrupted.

Sylvester Marshall, for example, learned he was an “illegal immigrant” when he went to replace a lost driver’s license. Mr. Marshall, who has worked and paid taxes in the U.K. for 44 years, had his cancer treatment delayed when he suddenly became ineligible for health-care.

Most of these people are senior citizens now, and many have lost their jobs or their rental homes or been put into immigration detention. At least 63 people seem to have been wrongfully deported, dark-skinned collateral damage in Ms. May’s anti-immigration offensive.

Meanwhile, Kensington Palace has bravely embraced its first openly non-white family member (rumours swirl about the possible African ancestry of Queen Charlotte, born in 1744). Prince Harry told the tabloids to stop being mean to his girlfriend, Princess Michael of Kent was made to apologize for wearing racist jewellery and the rest of us are supposed to be impressed.

Many are accepting these crumbs from the royal table, such as young Tshego Lengolo, who lives in working-class southeast London. The 11-year-old told the New York Times that she knows what it’s like to move to a new country, and that she’s ready to be Ms. Markle’s friend. My heart hurts for children fooled by such sad scraps of belonging, but I have no time for adult women penning paeans to the first “black princess.”

First of all, Ms. Markle will likely be given the title of duchess, which is a yawn. More importantly, like Kate Middleton and Diana Spencer before her, she’ll be giving up her career to be a wife. None of the bridesmaids in her wedding party will be little black girls like Tshego, and any children she bears will never reach the throne.

As far as updating the monarchy as a symbol for the modern world, these nuptials are fairly surface level − especially in a country coping with a scandal like Windrush.

Ms. Markle isn’t jumping the citizenship queue: becoming officially British will take her about three years. Perhaps that’s enough time for the Windrush generation to achieve fairness. There’s been a flurry of apologies and resignations, and talk of compensation is growing louder.

Will those who lost their jobs be given back pay? Will Mr. Marshall survive his cancer? By 2021, Ms. Markle will officially be a black Briton and, maybe, the Windrushers who were sent away will have made it back home.

via Black Britons and belonging: Meghan Markle versus the Windrush generation – The Globe and Mail

Eating while black in a Chinese restaurant: a grim lesson in racist division: Balkissoon

Denise Balkissoon on the implicit heirarchies of racism and prejudice:

It took four years for Emile Wickham to get official confirmation of what he already knew: that the treatment he received on his birthday was racist.

Mr. Wickham is black, as are the friends he went to dinner with one night in May, 2014, at the Chinese restaurant Hong Shing in Toronto, just north of City Hall. There, they were asked to pay their bill in advance – a request that Mr. Wickham suspected hadn’t been made of the non-black patrons around them.

After confirming this, he confronted the server, who refunded the group’s money. They walked out, no longer hungry or in the mood for celebration. The incident so bothered Mr. Wickham that he was still thinking of it a year later, when he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

This week, the proprietors of Hong Shing were ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 for violating section 1 of the province’s human-rights code, which guarantees equal treatment when accessing goods, services and facilities. The tribunal’s adjudicator said that Mr. Wickham was treated as “a potential thief in waiting.”

There are many unpleasant truths confirmed by this story, including that black people in Toronto face consistent prejudice when going about their daily lives. Another grim reality it proves is often hard to talk about: the persistent racism between groups of non-white people, especially that directed at black Canadians, and how it works to maintain white supremacy.

On Monday, a Globe and Mail tweet about Mr. Wickham’s story attracted hundreds of comments, many of them racist. The vitriol was pointed at the group of black friends, but also against the restaurant: Toxic tropes about Chinese people’s relationship to money, or the quality of their food, were common.

The owners and staff at Hong Shing have likely experienced anti-Asian racism personally, perhaps many times. This doesn’t excuse them in any way from participating in anti-black racism – in fact, it might be the cause of it.

For centuries, pseudo-scientists have attempted to categorize human beings by race in a ploy to justify unjustifiable behaviour. Participants in this embarrassing game include philosophy celebrity Immanuel Kant and storied botanist Carl Linnaeus.

On the very worthwhile podcast Seeing White, American scholar Ibram Kendi dates the earliest attempts at racial categorization to the 1400s. That’s when broad, global slavery practices – in which many cultures enslaved basically whoever they could get their hands on, including their own people – evolved into overwhelmingly European enslavement of predominantly African people.

Where previously the justifications for erasing other humans’ basic rights were equally varied, those excuses began to narrow. Racial classifications denigrating dark skin tones and African origins became the dominant narrative.

That doesn’t mean that those who were neither black nor white were given equal status to white Europeans. Instead, a divide-and-conquer hierarchy emerged, in which a chance at a marginally less subjugated life was offered to those who participated in black oppression.

This hierarchy existed in many forms, in many places; apartheid South Africa’s “racial classification” was less harsh on those who were “coloured” than “native.” Convincing those of mixed race or Asian ancestry to help police black people made the system stronger and took some of the work out of white hands.

Today, this often plays out as the “model minority” trope, in which particularly skilled or educated East and South Asian immigrants are granted visas and citizenship to Western countries, including Canada. Their successes (which, yes Uncle, still require hard work) are used against other racialized people who live in entrenched poverty, including the Indigenous.

This, too, is a weapon that non-black, non-white Canadians often carry of their own volition – the fear that it could be turned against them adds incentive to use it.

Records show that the current owner of Hong Shing is 25-year-old Colin Li, who took it over from his parents. He hasn’t spoken with any media since the tribunal’s ruling, nor offered Mr. Wickham a private apology − in fact, he’s stated that he plans to appeal.

That’s a shame. There are many bridges to be built over the gulfs created by this ancient tactic of division, and Mr. Li could help, if he has the courage.

via Eating while black in a Chinese restaurant: a grim lesson in racist division – The Globe and Mail

Arti Patel’s take: 3 reasons why anti-blackness still exists in multicultural cities like Toronto

How to apologize, the National Geographic way: Denise Balkissoon

Good commentary:

Everybody’s saying sorry these days, for transgressions old and new, big and small. Earlier this month, Canadian singer Jacob Hoggard, of the band Hedley, joined the list of high-profile men issuing apologies for their past treatment of women after an accusation of sexual assault.

The President of Poland apologized for the 1968 expulsion of Jewish people from the country, and The Chronicle-Journal newspaper in Thunder Bay apologized for a headline that made fun of a wave of assaults on Indigenous people.

None of this went over well.

In every case, observers accused the apologizers of acting insincerely: of being more sorry that they got caught than of their hurtful actions, of offering hollow mea culpas without committing to meaningful change. There was, though, one admission of guilt widely considered sincere and it was made by National Geographic.

This week, the 130-year-old magazine published its April issue, on the topic of race. Alongside stories about twins born with different skin tones and a lengthy, genetics-based explanation of why race doesn’t really exist, it included an editor’s letter with a headline that made a stark admission: For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.

Identifying herself as the magazine’s first female, Jewish editor-in-chief, Susan Goldberg details the findings of historian John Edwin Mason, whom she enlisted to parse how the magazine’s historical coverage has presented race and ethnicity. He found that it often ignored the voices and movements of African-Americans and other communities of colour in the United States, while presenting non-white people around the world as exotic, primitive creatures with inferior intellect.

“National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized,” Mr. Mason said. “That was a colour line and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”

After unashamedly dissecting the past, Ms. Goldberg promised a future full of writing, photograph and videos made by a true diversity of creators. This month’s contributors’ masthead is encouraging.

The issue is meant to commemorate, on April 4, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. It’s a fitting occasion to look at the realities, rather than the ideals, of racial justice. Since his death, Dr. King has often been, well, white-washed: depicted as a kind, hand-holding teddy bear willing to spend his lifetime coaxing white Americans into sharing.

It’s common for people uncomfortable with discussions of race to simplify Dr. King’s work. Too often, his dream that “people … not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character” is invoked as a way to avoid grappling with the privileges and responsibilities of whiteness.

But Dr. King was very clear that he didn’t find good intentions to be of much use in the fight for civil rights. When criticized by white clergy for direct-action tactics, such as sit-ins, the Baptist minister sharply condemned their unwillingness to disturb their own comfort, which he saw as complicity in black oppression.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block is not … the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate,” he wrote in his 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail, published the same year as his more famous Nobel acceptance speech. “Shallow understanding by people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding by people of ill will,” he added.

It seemed fairly shallow this week when actor-producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon announced future projects by their production company Pearl Street will have an “inclusion rider.” A concept introduced to the wider world by Frances McDormand when she picked up her Oscar, an inclusion rider is a requirement by the biggest players on a movie that various types of diversity be represented among cast and crew.

Such targets are a great idea, but these BFF-bros have multiple failings on the diversity front to atone for – such as when Mr. Damon mansplained diversity to black producer Effie Brown; or when Mr. Affleck coerced Henry Louis Gates Jr. into concealing the movie star’s relatives’ slave-owning past, leading to questions about the integrity of Prof. Gates’s geneological TV show, Finding Your Roots. Before attempting to change the system, they need to admit their place in it.

As National Geographic has shown, change begins at home. The magazine’s broad approach to rectifying its past is promising because it recognizes both individual actions and a larger system. As the age of apologies rolls on, it’s a good example to follow.

via How to apologize, the National Geographic way – The Globe and Mail

As Abdoul Abdi’s parent, Canada is guilty of child neglect: Balkissoon

One of the better articles on the failures involved in looking after Abdi:

Before last year, an immigrant child could not apply for Canadian citizenship. Their legal guardian had to do it for them. Abdoul Abdi has been here since 2000, but his citizenship paperwork was never filled out by his parents. Since he was 7, that role has been filled by the Nova Scotia government.

In January, Mr. Abdi, now 24, completed a five-year sentence on multiple charges including aggravated assault. As a non-citizen convicted of serious crimes, he’s facing deportation. Having forcibly assumed the responsibility of raising him, the government is now trying to shrug off the repercussions of its own negligence.

Mr. Abdi fled Somalia at the age of 3 along with his five-year-old-sister, his two aunts and his mother. They spent three years in Saudi Arabia where Mr. Abdi’s mother died while waiting to see if they would be accepted as refugees to Canada. The children’s aunt, Asha Ali, became their legal guardian.

The family arrived in Nova Scotia as survivors of a brutal war; all had witnessed family members being killed. They didn’t speak English, and Ms. Abdi says she and her brother experienced harsh, racist bullying. So Ms. Ali – who grew up in a country where only 30 per cent of children are enrolled in primary school – took them out of class.

Soon, instead of providing the vulnerable refugee family with assistance getting settled, the Department of Community Services put both children in foster care.

At first, the Abdi children were kept together, in a home both say was emotionally and physically abusive. Ms. Abdi was eventually moved after her teachers saw her bruises, but her little brother stayed. He spent his youth moving between 31 different foster and group homes.

Mr. Abdi experienced the worst of Canadian foster care. Though the importance of schooling was given as the reason for his apprehension, in the province’s care, he only achieved a grade six education. He was first arrested as a teenager, which is unsurprising. Interacting with the criminal justice system is twice as likely for foster kids as other youth, which is particularly upsetting since black and Indigenous children are also overrepresented in the system throughout Canada.

“Once in state care, instead of mediating issues, black children see police called in for typical conflict situations,” says Robyn Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. She says that normal stuff that other adolescents get parental guidance on – like being intoxicated, or petty theft – become a reason black foster children interact with police.

On Twitter, social work professor Idil Abdillahi used the hashtag #PoliceAsParent to discuss Mr. Abdi’s case and the care-to-prison pipeline. “A young person is late for curfew – call the police. A young person doesn’t do chores – call the police,” wrote Ms. Abdillahi, who works at Ryerson University.”The police were his co-parents, how could he not have involvement with them?”

Her hashtag brought to mind the Toronto police officer who, last August, bought a shirt and tie for a teen caught stealing one before an interview. The teen then got the job. Imagine if Mr. Abdi’s state-appointed parents had been loving, not punitive.

Foster children without citizenship are not uncommon. Mr. Abdi’s lawyer, Benjamin Perryman, says that Nova Scotia doesn’t attempt to make its children Canadian until they turn 18. And since a finding of guilt on a youth criminal charge makes them ineligible for citizenship, convicted children endure a double punishment – first their sentence, then being kicked out of the country that pledged to take care of them.

Mr. Abdi’s aunt, Ms. Ali, tried to apply for the children’s citizenship when she got her own, but couldn’t since she was no longer their legal parent. So, while in prison, 16 years after he got to Canada, Mr. Abdi was deemed inadmissible to the country by the Canadian Border Services Agency, ordered “back” to a place he hasn’t been since he was a toddler, one so dangerous Canada advises its citizens not to travel there.

Last fall, a federal court overturned the original deportation order, but another soon followed. On Thursday, a federal judge presided over an emergency hearing to temporarily halt the current order. Mr. Perryman hopes a ruling in his favour will come before Mr. Abdi’s Immigration and Refugee Board hearing on March 7.

Otherwise, he’s certain to receive an official deportation order, stripping him of his landed immigrant status. That would mean Mr. Abdi won’t be allowed to work, a condition of his release: he’s currently in a halfway house in Toronto, where his family now lives, but CBSA first put him in solitary confinement, and he might have to return there.

Mr. Perryman is also attempting to launch a full constitutional challenge, arguing that denying Mr. Abdi his citizenship while he was in government care was a violation of his human rights.

That’s clearly true, and just one of many ways Canada has mistreated this prodigal son.

via As Abdoul Abdi’s parent, Canada is guilty of child neglect – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI – Dear white nationalists: It’s not unfair, this is how equality works: Balkissoon

Good commentary:

The idea that certain light-skinned people – currently called “white,” though a multisyllabic name like “Cvjetanovic” might not always have made the cut – deserve more than their fair share, dates back centuries.

It’s documented at least as far back as 1493, when a papal bull known as the Doctrine of Discovery decreed that any land not inhabited by Christians was open to European settlement. This was used to justify the attempted genocide of Indigenous people across the Americas, concurrent to the enslavement of millions of Africans and before the invasions of India and China, to name two places.

Along the way, we’ve all been led to believe that a slew of inequalities are equally justified, even “natural.” These hierarchies are maintained through unjust laws and untold violence, but also deep patterns of belief.

These include who is deserving of police censure versus protection: at least 155 people were arrested at protests in Ferguson, Mo., after an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot to death by police. The arrest total in Charlottesville, where heavily armed vigilantes converged to protest the removal of a statue, currently stands at four.

They’re also about who deserves stability, let alone power and influence: Just seven years ago, Maclean’s magazine ran a cover story titled “Too Asian,” blaming overly studious East Asian students for displacing white kids from their rightful place at Canadian universities.

Most recently, hatemongers such as U.S. President Donald Trump, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Canada’s Breitbart-wannabe site, The Rebel, have whipped up hysteria about everything from a black U.S. president to an array of genders to female-only viewings of Wonder Woman. Having been raised to believe in their own entitlement, white people are also taught to fear those of us here to “take it away.”

This delusion has been millennia in the making. It’s rewritten history so that cruel men such as Lee and Cornwallis are venerated as heroes, while black female mathematicians who launched shuttles into space were, until very recently, erased.

Flipping that script is simply the truth, but to many white people, it feels unfair. It feels violent, and so deserving of violence.

I get it, Mr. Cvjetanovic, the undeniable structural truth of global white supremacy isn’t entirely evident in your day-to-day life. You just want to preserve what you have: respect, opportunity, money and power. The bloody spoils of an old and infectious evil.

Source: Dear white nationalists: It’s not unfair, this is how equality works – The Globe and Mail