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25 Oct 2014

An Open Letter To The Canadian Black Caucus

Dear members of the Canadian Black Caucus, we are the women of the Black Women’s Caucus of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCC/MWAR). We are a community of women that commune together based on our shared oppressions that we have and currently experience throughout our lives, in the workplace, within society and in our homes.

To the members of the Canadian Black caucus, firstly allow us to salute you.

For being a pioneer path-creator for us young Black and African peoples who crave for ways to exercise our political citizenship. For your political will and practice of unapologetically taking up political space even when representing a community that is very often seen as apolitical and; for the ways in which you have made it a priority to highlight issues that affect us as Black people living in Canada.

In spite of this, grounded in a love for the people who live on and have built this land; and an equal love for speaking our nuanced distinctive truths as Black people living in Canada, we must not only honor your work but it would be remiss of us to not also hold you accountable.

The Canadian Black Caucus’ decision to publically endorse Toronto Mayoral candidate, John Tory, has brought tremendous pause within us, particularly given his most recent comments on how white privilege does not exist. We are sure that as fellow Black bodies living in a predominantly white space, having to explain the multitude of things wrong with that stance is unnecessary. What we seek through this communication is to show you that there are implications to endorsing a candidate – more so a white male candidate who significantly benefits from white privilege.

The city of Toronto is on unceded traditional Mississauga territory. For a potential Mayor of Toronto to pretend that white privilege does not exist is to dismiss the colonial and white supremacist history and realities of Toronto. It is also to laugh in the faces of the many Indigenous peoples and allies who continue to fight for their basic rights to land, social services, education and political and civic equalities. Tory’s statement is akin to when Stephen Harper denied Canada’s colonial past.

What also remains troubling are the ways that you have silenced dissent on the group’s Facebook page. Many Blacks living in Canada have expressed their outrage and disappointment at the Caucus’ endorsement of John Tory. Instead of engaging in a productive discussion or at least listening to what members of the constituency group which you claim to represent had to say, you instead opted to be condescending, silencing and erased the voices that did not agree with your stance. Statements such as, “You all are not to blame because the fact is when you DON'T have information, then all you can go by is the little that you know”, in no way encourages a healthy and respectful discussion. You also assumed that if one were not in support of John Tory, that they would automatically be in favour of Olivia Chow which is not only presumptuous but is also an interesting indication of how you perceive this municipal elections and the juxtaposition of the candidates. In many ways, you’ve helped to show why we must push back against candidates like John Tory who benefit from white privilege and supremacy yet are quick to deny its existence whereas Olivia Chow, who though also experiences her own forms of privilege, as a racialized woman has experienced the scars of white privilege and supremacy. So even within your analytical narrative, you have placed these two candidates on opposing ends of the spectrum based on race; therefore based on white privilege. With all of that said that, it is important to stress that this is not an endorsement of Olivia Chow and her political platform.

It is also important to note that financial contributions do not necessarily, and in many ways never indicate one’s commitment to dismantling the very systems of power and privilege that allow them to always be the givers and us, the receivers of charity. In fact, their ability to ‘donate’ helps to ensure that those locations of power and privilege remain concrete.

It must be stated clearly that as Black women, we continue to resist structural systems of oppression. We do not support the erasure of candidates such as D!onne Renée – a Black woman who is also running for the position of Mayor but has been left out of mainstream coverage and debate participation. Within our Caucus we remain resolute about the fact that race is still the primary determinant of opportunity and experience, particularly now when there is so much evidence to validate what we have been feeling and experiencing for generations. Consequently, we seek to dismantle the idea that white people can continue to use unearned privilege to remain ignorant and thus make irresponsible comments such as those made by Tory. Tory’s endorsement of white privilege and your subsequent endorsement of Tory works to silence us and further delegitimizes our truths and experiences.

We would like to encourage you as ‘The Canadian Black Caucus’ to work against this ‘color blind mentality’ asserted by Tory and the mainstream society. Of course you are free to endorse who you choose, but to do so while claiming to represent a significant portion of the population and by choosing not to apply a critical lens carries significant implications, of which, dramatically and forcefully counter the work that we and so many before us have worked so hard to achieve.

In the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Sincerely, on behalf of the Black Women's Caucus at TRCC/MWAR,

Kimalee Phillip

Viviane Rutabingwa

Tonia Richard

Cheasnessa Pink

Natacha Pennycooke

Kayon Green

Chirysh Dupie

Sanifa Holaki

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Editor's Note: We reached out to the Canadian Black Caucus, and they offered this statement:

The Canadian Black Caucus does not believe that Facebook can provide a proper platform to discuss serious issues and challenges in all fairness to those involved. We do not promote or encourage debates on Facebook which often lead into very angry and hateful conversation and continuous counter attacks that seldom produce positive results. We have suggested and invited members of the community who have commented on our Facebook page to be a part of future panel discussions which provide the right venue for such matters. The offer was declined. Which leads to question what was the true intention behind this. We are open to learning and working with others who are sincere in their efforts and intentions. Politics and religion are two areas known to inflate passion and at times bring out the worst in people. We encourage the democratic process and we MUST learn to respect people's choices. This community needs to break the cycle of fighting amongst ourselves. Instead we need to reach out in a respectful manner to encourage healthy dialogue and partnerships that build, encourage growth and development. There is just too much work to do with very few committed individuals willing to pay the price. We looking forward to working with all community builders.

- Gwyn Chapman, Canadian Black Caucus, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Unless otherwise expressed, the views expressed in the opinion column are not endorsed by the editors or publishers of ByBlacks.com.

Read 3530 times Last modified on Sunday, 26 October 2014 03:48
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