Another year, the end of another Caribana weekend. The glitz, the bedazzled outfits, the feather head dresses, waists gyrating in the hot Toronto sun, and Rob Ford.
Yes, our city’s paltry mayor streams across my timeline in picture after picture with carnival revelers, mostly Black. Caribana weekend is the quintessential of Caribbean events in the city. A part of Black culture and Black history is the pride of Toronto on that weekend. So, why are we celebrating by gyrating on our race discriminating mayor?
It seems, however, that Caribana was simply the climax of the Rob Ford Bacchanal. A week before, my news timeline was flooded with Ford fest reviews and critiques. The articles and news reports from the Toronto Star to Global News easily sensationalized the thousands, the gay protests and the vast number of visible minorities in attendance at this annual free event for Ford supporters. Rob Ford’s supporters are proud and vehement in their defense of the most scandalous man in Toronto. I have never attended Ford Fest, but I have been in Jane and Finch, one of Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, during his famous Toronto Community Housing visits. I have seen men and women of African and Caribbean descents put their babies aside, temporarily close shop, take a work break or miss the bus for a chance to shake their hero's hand and take a selfie. Here are Black people open with their support and appreciation for a mayor that is no stranger to negatively stereotyping the Black community. So the question is asked, repeatedly, why do you support Rob Ford?
All the answers echo the same sentiments. “He is for the poor people.” “He relates to the ordinary man.” “He actually shook my hand.” “He comes to our neighbourhoods.”
Rob Ford in all of his irreverence, drunken nights and potty mouth makes time for his constituents. He doesn’t have a special day where he drives through with security and takes photos. Rob Ford doesn’t bring the media with him; but they show up, and play right into his plan. It is a masterful political plan to sit in a bar and drink with the citizens that taxpayers often claim are a burden on the economy. Rob Ford may call you a n----a, but he will buy you a drink, sit in your bar for a few hours and leave a good tip. He’ll come to your neighbourhood and hang out. This makes people happy, and if you’re living on minimum wage, facing daily stigmatization and feeling hopeless, a little happiness goes a far way.
The Black activists among us might say that this voting for Rob Ford is proof that white capitalism has successfully brainwashed the Black man. Rob Ford spews homophobic and racialized slurs at an alarming rate with no apologies. He doesn’t attend Toronto’s annual Pride and he isn’t afraid to stereotype different cultural groups within the Black community as drug dealers, criminals, thieves and drains on the system. Rob Ford can call us scum and count on our vote because of the unaddressed and unacknowledged homophobia, classism and racism within the black community. Rob Ford capitalizes on the worst of us because we are too busy labelling ourselves, “the good black people” and “those black people”.
Fact: African or Caribbean we ALL come from countries with an unhealthy dose of theocracy in our politics, where the lighter the shade the higher the social climb and sex is a man-and-woman ting, straight! Nah tek back nuh chat! More importantly, whether first generation or second generation immigrants, we didn’t come here for the Canadian way, we came here to be able to afford better lives. Canada is a bank account for many of us, nothing more, nothing less. Any opportunity we get to behave like “wiself”, we take it. Thus, we have developed these beautiful incubator communities where you can find Canadian-born Black people with strong Caribbean accents without a single white or gay friend or even a Black friend from stereotyped backgrounds (Somalian immediately comes to mind).
Rob Ford validates our Black caste system. He validates our Christian whipping sword. We can have backyard barbecues and say whatever we please, ignore the lack of development in our communities and our wilful stigmatization of our own because we have a fat, white mayor that we feel better than.
Here is the problem with voting based on moral preference rather than political principles: it causes more harm than good. So the next time you gloat and feel proud that the Mayor shakes hands in TCHC apartments think about how many of them are leaking, have no heating, water problems and are infested with rats and cockroaches. Remember the funding cuts and the rising cost of public transportation, the increasingly limited access to good, clean, hygienic daycare facilities for struggling young black mothers.
Ask yourselves, if Rob Ford loved the poor so much then why do our neighbourhoods continue to suffer? Think of the tribalized political histories of the countries that many of you and your ancestors fled from and tell me why you are rebuilding those same tribes for the less fortunate? Ask yourself; did I rise above to get my chance to replicate the same injustices that denied us better “back home”?
We have a moral and social obligation to build our Black community. We cannot sacrifice social advancement on the basis of moral indignation. Rob Ford belittles our community and we allow him to because we belittle each other. We seek success by climbing each other rather than pulling our community members up. You chose Canada for better opportunities; don’t deny so many their opportunities in the name of colonialist ideals that ruined and continue to ruin our ancestral homes. We have to make ourselves happy, in the long term, not just for a free burger, a hand shake and $7 of revenue earned from an alcoholic’s beer tab.
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