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OP-ED

Op-Ed

This essay was originally published on July 23, 2019, on TVO.org. In his 2005 essay “How to Write About Africa,” Binyavanga Wainaina says sardonically: “In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.”

Raising a Black child in Canada can be quite a challenge. One of the things I’ve been struggling with is how do you teach a child to navigate a system that wasn’t designed for them.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Back in the “day” – early 1980’s – a group of Black journalists met at a Toronto restaurant to talk about forming a professional network and to encourage Canadian newspapers and broadcasters to hire more Black journalists. We hoped to create an actual organization.

“The Canadian Entertainment Industry Needs To Address Diversity" - CBC News “The lack of diversity in Canadian media is ‘hard to ignore’ — and the numbers prove it” - Global News “Canada's diversity not reflected on the silver screen, say, actors, screenwriters of colour” - CBC News “Why Is Canadian Television So White?” - Refinery29 Canada

I felt ill-equipped to answer her question satisfactorily. My daughter, Destiny, was on the phone scrutinizing our multi-racial, multi-ethnic identity. And the answers didn’t come easy to me. We have a long history of bi-racial and cross-cultural unions in my family. All of our ethnic and racial identities are hidden in our obvious Blackness.

Like many others this past week I sat and listened to Matt Mauser begin an interview on The Today Show reminiscing about the time he first met Kobe Bryant. Working as a Spanish teacher at the private school Kobe’s daughter Gianna attended, Mauser recalled a time when Kobe, who was injured at the time, approached Mauser to request attending a field trip with his daughter. Mauser enthusiastically agreed to it without hesitation, and over time the two got to know each other beyond just a first name basis.

Last week, Black Enterprise magazine published an interview with COO of Facebook and CEO of Lean In Sheryl Sandberg. It was rooted in the fact that Sandberg’s Lean In advice has fallen flat for most women, and more specifically for Black women.

I think I have potential. I say this knowing exactly how much of an arrogant so and so it makes me sound. As a full-time freelance writer, my work has popped up in publications of all sizes and influence, in which I’ve expressed political opinions from a critical perspective, along with a rare smattering of nuanced art and book reviews.

A few years ago, I began noticing a disturbing trend in American media. Whenever a mass shooting occurred, one of two responses would emerge and dominate the public discourse. The first, as you may have anticipated, was outright denial of the problem. The well-publicized “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” comes to mind.

The Internet and all its Twitter activists are busy cancelling and critiquing a photo that has so fittingly surfaced a month before Canadians cast their votes in the upcoming federal election. In the photo, Justin Trudeau is in ‘brownface’ dressed as Aladdin at an ‘Arabian Nights Theme Party’ in 2001.

 

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