“It’s 2017”

I recently started working on part II of Alive, which continues my story of werewolves and racism. The first one followed my black protagonist, Mason, adapting to his new abilities and breaking off from a radical sect that wanted to use their power to wage war against the people that oppress them. The second part will lead to all out war between Mason and the radical sect, but also has more of a focus on Mason’s attempts to oversee the implementation of new policies that will empower his people. A key theme of the second book is that laws are not enough to change how people think, which reminded me of an oft-cited mantra.

“It’s (current year)”. This can be used by conservatives to shut down the talk of discrimination or by well-meaning liberals who think that the passage of time is enough to ensure equality. Whatever side it comes from, the sentence demonstrates a child-like naivete of how the world works.

When slavery was abolished, racism persisted. When Jim Crow was abolished, racism persisted. I wonder if people used to say “It’s 1970”. Laws may ban people from certain actions, or maybe even certain words, but laws can’t change what is in their minds. If someone holds the racial mindset of the 1950s near and dear to their heart, they will teach those values to their kids, and so on. Time itself is not a cure for racism. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current climate of right-wing backlash, where pretty much any comment or act that doesn’t endorse bigotry is labelled as “political correctness” or the work of “social justice warriors”. People are upset that they, and society as a whole, are being called out for bigotry now more than ever. Instead of adapting to changing times, it is easier to reminisce of times when you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about consequences or criticism. At worst, these people support bigotry. At best, they enable it. Yes, sometimes people do cry racism, misogny etc. where it does not exist, but I don’t believe that these instances account for the majority. I do believe that these instances get lumped in with all of the legimate ones, especially by people whose views are already intolerant. They get a smokescreen for hiding bigotry: “I’m not racist. I just hate it when these social justice warriors get offended by everything.”

I want to know what these people consider “everything”. Is it something as simple as Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or is it a case where another unarmed black man got killed?

I Don’t Like Black Guys

Sometimes this sentence is rephrased as “I don’t date black guys” or “I’m not attracted to black guys”. Either way it is something I always go back to since it is a sentence I am familar with and provides the most irrefutable proof that plenty of people are not truly “colour-blind” in this day and age. There are a wide range of excuses used to defend racial preferences in dating, with the preservation or commonality of culture being one of the most common. This argument is still undercut by the fact that acknowledging this reason still makes it clear people aren’t colour blind. Some people argue that we are simply born liking what we like, and we can’t control it, therefore there is nothing wrong with their preferences. Of course, what we view as attractive is out of our control in some ways. However, I don’t believe we are simply born with our preferences for dating or sex programmed.

Like I discussed in a previous article, various factors such as the images of beauty we consume in the media and coaching from parents, friends etc. all affect what we view as attractive. For anyone who says interracial dating is unnatural, I bet you can find friends or relatives who put that idea in their mind from a young age. Some people also argue that an interracial child ends up being one without a clear identity. To these people, I say that I am glad they are not the parents of mixed children. Otherwise they would have their children grow up with an inferiority complex. My little sister is mixed and my mother ensures that she is raised with a strong sense of identity and love. Obviously raising a mixed child can bring up some concerns or issues that may not be present for other children. However, the fact that something may be a little more difficult does not mean it must always be avoided. This excuse always struck me as an disingenous copout by people who’ve never even considered dating outside of their own race.

Another excuse that reveals how racism can impact reasoning skills, is the excuse that discriminating on the basis of race is no different that discriminating due to weight, hair colour, musculature etc. If we are discussing racism, emphasis on the first syllable, then distinctions based on things aside from race don’t come into play. However, someone’s other preferences can also help to reveal ingrained prejudices. Girls who say they like “hockey players” can send a clear sign that there is a good chance they only go for white guys (93% according to a 2011 survey).

When I arrived at University of Ottawa in 2009 I had yet to confront the reality of dating discrimination. I could remember girls of different races who had crushes on me at one point, and vice versa. I was already aware of racism, but for some reason I was relatively naive when it came to this specific facet of it. I knew about people in my high school who only dated within their race, but I viewed them as outliers. From what I have seen since, it appears that they are the norm. Of course I also know many interracial couples and/or people who are open to dating outside their race, and I am sure any reader does as well. However, if we measure the sum total of all these open-minded people, I am sure they still constitute a minority of the world’s population.

Aside from being watched while I shop, the lovely Quebec district of Hull also gave me my first real dose of dating/sex discrimination. Since the legal drinking age in Quebec is 18, instead of 19 like Ontario, my friends and I would often head there when we partied. I forget exactly where we were this night. I know that it was either a club named lebop or one nearby, it is part of a small strip we frequented in first year. The club was set up with a dance floor to the right as you walk in. After drinking with my friends for a while I decided to approach a girl standing by one of the tables flanking the dance floor. Now, I understand that rejection in itself is not always an indicator of racism. Although it is soothing to my ego to think that I have only been rejected due to racism, I know other factors can come into play. I don’t reflect on this incident simply due to the rejection itself. It stands out in my mind due to the way the woman reacted.

At first, there didn’t appear to be any hostility. The girl was with some of her friends, male and female, but appeared to be single. I began talking to her, while her friends watched. Before racist assumptions come into play, I wasn’t wearing any baggy clothes, hoodies, bandana, cap, etc. I had on blue fitted jeans, a blue Tommy Hilfiger sweater and black dress shoes. I approached the girl straight on, making eye contact and ensuring that she saw me coming. I didn’t sneak up behind her and I never put my hands on her. She stood on one end of the table and I stood on the other.

The conversation seemed to be going well for a bit, as we talked about where we were from, where we went to school etc. After a few minutes I could tell that the girl didn’t seem that interested, at best she was just being polite. I said goodbye and walked away, thinking that would be the end of that encounter. A few minutes later I meet up with my friends again and a bouncer confronts me, telling me it’s “time to go”.

I asked why and he said I was talking to too many girls. This night is one that is burned in my brain pretty vividly so I can remember that I talked to less than five girls that night (outside of my group). They were all rude with their rejections, including one putting her hand in my face, but I didn’t confront them about that. When I got rejected I simply moved on.

My friends left with me, and I still remember how angry I was that you could simply get kicked out for talking to girls in a club. It was one of my girl friends that told me the real reason I got kicked out. She overheard the girl I spoke to talking to the bouncer, saying that she “feared for her life” due to her encounter with me. Go back and read the paragraph on what I was wearing and how I introduced myself. Does anything in that paragraph come across as threatening in anyway? Threatening enough to say you fear for you life? As always, I initially tried to remove race from the equation. There have been times when I was the guy who screamed racism at everything, and I wanted to make sure this wasn’t such a moment. I went over how I approached, how I was dressed, what I said etc. I could not think of anything that would warrant the girl’s reaction. Unless she was simply afraid of me due to my skin colour. Yes, I’m tall as well. Maybe you’ll argue that she was scared due to that. However, would she have been as scared if a white guy my size approached her the same way I did, dressed as I was, speaking like I was? I don’t think so.

After the SAQ incidents I was convinced that Hull, and perhaps Gatineau, just had a problem with racism far more corrosive than what I previously witnessed in Canada. This suspicion was confirmed at a house party a few years ago, where I met someone else who had a similiar experience from the same clubbing district in Hull. He recounted the story of heading to one of the bars with his rugby team, who were all dressed casually. He and the other white members of the team were let in, but the bouncer advised the only black member that his dress didn’t permit him to enter. When my friend advised the bouncer that the other teammates were all dressed similarly, the bouncer only responded “We’ve had a lot of stabbings in the area.”

One year ago my friends and I were driving to La Pataterie Hulloise. On the way, we were stuck in a stretch of traffic and one of my friends pulled out a board game. We began playing in the back seat, but my attention waned as I saw the cop car beside us. The cop in the passenger side focused on me, before his eyes also darted to my Indian friend driving. As far as I know, playing board games in the back seat of a car isn’t illegal and the cop didn’t bring this up when he pulled us over. To be fair, I did have my seat belt unbuckled as the middle passenger. The cop mentioned this when he pulled me over, but didn’t mention it as his reason for pulling us over. He and his partner simply took our Ids and left us waiting for fifteen minutes. When he returned he tried to hassle my friend about the fact that the car is not registered in his name, but like many young drivers it is registered in his dad’s name. According to my friend, the cops asked him random questions about his dad’s businesses, including some odd queries about his dad having a home for orphans. No, I’m not making this up.

Since my experiences in Hull were one string of racism after another, I think I ended up focusing on the district too much when I thought of issues like racial discrimination. It made me blind to all the more subtle cues around me, which I’ll discuss in tomorrow’s piece.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians, whether you are a citizen or a resident. This day brings up one aspect of citizenship that has bothered me at times.

I remember seeing this online

http://imgur.com/gallery/9HcXN

I laughed and appreciated the joke, and I assumed most people did. I forget which outlet I saw this on originally, but I remember comment after comment saying “But he’s Indian.”

Being a black Canadian, of Jamaican birth and descent, I have run into this conundrum as well. Not the conundrum of whether I am Canadian or not, but the conundrum of whether people can accept me as a Canadian.

I was at a bar with my friends one night in Toronto and we introduced ourselves to a group of tourists sitting at another table. My friend, of Indian descent, was talking to one of the girls. After he tells he’s Canadian she turns to me and asks if I am, with a tone that indicates she was expecting me to say no.

I then responded, “No I’m from the jungles of Africa.”

She shut up after that. My friend was upset that I said that since he was hoping to hook up with her, but I do not regret what I said.

The way she became quiet instantly, made it clear she realized why I was offended and probably realized she asked a stupid question.

I found the situation amusing as well since she never really questioned my friend’s nationality. It was as if she could accept Indian- Canadians, but a black-Canadian was like a unicorn.

Maybe I could understand the question if I had a noticeable accent that clearly indicated I was from somewhere else. I lost my Jamaican accent about twenty years ago. Of course, I might still have traces of it and I have been told by friends that I do have a slight accent they can pick up on. However, anyone who has seen my YouTube videos can probably note that my accent doesn’t automatically disqualify me from being Canadian. There was no reason for this woman to assume I was foreign, aside from my skin colour.

Despite the age-old truth that everyone has immigrant ancestry, unless they are Native, the falsehood that whiteness indicates a true Canadian or true American still persists. On a day like Canada Day, I think it is important to realize how foolish this mindset is. If you live in any of the (relatively) diverse areas of Canada, like Ottawa, the GTA or Vancouver, realize you will see people of colour proudly celebrating. Do not think they don’t have the right to, or that they don’t belong. Embrace everyone who wishes to celebrate the day. Visitors, residents, citizens of a few generations and citizens of a few years.

As Canadians we pride ourselves on being a cultural mosaic, not the melting pot that the US tries to uphold. If you want to be a “real Canadian”, uphold that principle.

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