On July 3, 2009, African Canadian Jay Phillips was physically attacked by three white men hurling racist slurs. The video of the attack was posted on youtube and embarrassed the City Council of the small town in British Columbia.
According to the city’s website: The City of Courtenay is a culturally diverse, scenic city of approximately 22,500 people. Courtenay is on the east coast of Vancouver Island and located within the traditional lands of the K'ómoks First Nation. The Mayor and city council had just a few days before this racist attack was made public, refused to sign on to a protocol that would help fight hate crimes which apparently had been a problem in the city in recent years. After the attack was aired on youtube the police were forced to react to keep alive the myth of the non-racist Canada but one has to wonder what the reaction would have been if Jay Phillips had turned up at a police station bruised and bloodied to make a complaint about the attack.
According to a report in the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s daily white newspapers: Mr. Phillips, who escaped with two stitches above his right eye and a couple of bruised ribs said Tuesday the incident is yet another example of the racism he's battled all his life, despite being a born and raised in B.C. He said he remembered being four years old in preschool and his teacher telling him to shut up, using a racial epithet.
In spite of the evidence from the video, many are defending this behaviour claiming it is not racist. I am just surprised that one of them did not claim to have a black best friend. No such reticence from the people in the next story.
A former police officer who donned blackface on October 31, 2010, for a Halloween party and was led around by a rope around his neck held by a friend dressed as a Ku Klux Klansman says it was a stupid mistake.
Terry Nunn, who was Toronto’s police officer of the year in 1981, said last week Thursday he is in “no way, shape or form” a racist and neither is his friend Blair Crowley.
“I don’t believe in the KKK. It was a Halloween mistake is what it was,” he told Toronto radio station AM640.
The pair won 1st prize for most original costume at the Royal Canadian Legion party in Campbellford, Ontario.
“Blair admits it was in bad taste and he should have thought more about it before he did it,” his wife Marsha Crowley said from their home in Hastings when interviewed on Thursday November 4, 2010.
Both she and Nunn, the ex-police officer in blackface, said no one at the party complained about the costumes. “It was just a last-minute ‘Well, what am I going to wear? There’s a bedsheet. Well I’m not going as a ghost.’ And we had a piece of bristol board and kind of rolled it up and that was his costume,” said Crowley.
Her husband who was dressed in KKK gear also wore a Confederate flag on his back. Crowley said her husband is not a racist, adding his best friend is black.
As an African woman living in the city of Toronto where the motto is: Diversity our strength: If I received money for every time I have been subjected to racism since I have lived in Canada I would be an extremely wealthy woman today. The most recent experience was last week Thursday November 4, 2010, at the Baby Gap store located at 80 Bloor Street West in Toronto. I was told by the cashier that I needed to provide photo identification to purchase an item that cost less than 17.00 when using my credit card which does not even need a signature but the use of a PIN number. I informed the young white woman that I had never been asked for photo ID when using a credit card although I had bought items from several Gap stores including the 80 Bay Street West location. She then began to jab her finger at my name on the card and said in a stern, scolding, patronizing tone: You cannot use someone else’s card.
In a state of shock I asked: Are you assuming that is not my card? She then blathered some remarks of being surprised at the name on the credit card at which point I asked for her name and told her that I needed to speak with a manager. To my surprise she said that she was a manager; however I asked to speak to another manager.
She left and a few minutes later another young white woman came and identified herself as a manager. I introduced myself, asked for her name (Shauna) and relayed the incident to which I had been subjected by Michelle. Shauna apologized and shared with me that while Michelle may have been wrong in the way she handled the situation she did it for my protection. Amazing that in trying to protect my credit, if someone had stolen my credit card and tried to buy an item for less than 17.00 dollars, Michelle had accused me of trying to use someone else’s credit card. I asked Shauna for a name and mailing address where I could send a complaint but she instead gave me two phone numbers and three coupons for 40% off regular priced Gap merchandise.
I left the Baby Gap store at 80 Bloor Street West feeling a bit shell shocked that I had been racially profiled by a manager of a department store in downtown Toronto where the motto is: Diversity our strength. Calling the 1-800-427-7895 number that I had received from Shauna, I spoke with Thomas who told me that it is the policy of Gap stores to ask all customers for photo ID if they paid for their purchases with a credit card. I informed Thomas that if I had the time and the inclination I could prove him wrong by visiting various Gap stores in the Toronto area and observing who if anyone was asked to produce photo ID if they paid for their purchases with a credit card. I later spoke with Lynsie from the corporate office in Ohio, because I was not satisfied with Thomas’ handling of the situation and needed another opinion. Lynsie apologized and promised that I would receive a call from their district manager within 10 days.
Michelle assuming that an African woman could not have a European name speaks to ignorance of the reality of Africans in the Diaspora. We bear the names of the members of the European tribes that enslaved our ancestors. Africans in the Diaspora bear names that were forced on them by the English, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Portuguese, Scottish, Spanish, Welsh etc., who enslaved Africans and stripped them of their belief systems, culture, language and names. Although this is also the history of white people because they were the enslavers there is a dedicated effort to ignore this history.
Then there is the white supremacist culture of North America that encourages people like Michelle to accuse racialized people of imaginary wrongdoing, with impunity because they feel it is their right to do so without consequences. The same mindset that encourages people like Terry Nun and Blair Crowley to think that they can dress in a “costume” that reminds Africans in North America of the four hundred years of slavery and the more than one hundred years of white people lynching Africans in North America. And in the case of Crowley’s wife claim a “black best friend” when confronted with public censure for white supremacist behaviour.
In the next two months we will be in the year 2011 designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the "International Year for People of African Descent." In the next three months we will be recognizing African Heritage Month (February) in North America. While in Canada the recognition of the month is usually superficial celebrations of food and dance, it is time that there is serious analysis of the white supremacist culture of this society and concrete plans to address and eliminate it.