Just back last evening from our Cuban sojourn, it will take a little while to get my blogging and political legs back up to speed, given that I was peacefully unconnected for a week. However, an item in today's paper caught my attention that I feel moved to comment on.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I take great exception to the abuse of power, whether political, economic, or social. However, none of that exempts victims from criticism, not as victims, of course, but as members of our larger society. It is in that spirit that I offer my criticism of what looks to be an affirmation of the decision to exclude the Toronto Police from future participation in the annual Gay Pride Parade.
First, some background:
Black Lives Matter brought the 2016 parade to a standstill for more than half an hour in July, refusing to move until Pride officials agreed to a list of nine demands.The most contentious of those extortionate demands, in my view, was the total removal of all police floats/booths in all Pride marches/parades/community booths.
I always felt it was not Black Pride Toronto's call to make, and that they had in fact abused the invitation they had been given to join the parade; of course, ultimately that judgement and the decision on whether or not to honour the hastily-agreed upon deal by then-executive director Mathieu Chantelois to get the parade moving again had to be made by the membership. And according to the article referenced above, they have done so.
This strikes me as a huge mistake. No one would argue that the police have, historically, abused the gay population, the infamous bathhouse raids of 1981 being perhaps the most public and egregious example, when patrons were mocked, humiliated — and arrested by the hundreds. A brief video found here affords a glimpse of the mindset that pervaded the times.
But this is no longer 1981, and last July Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders made an historic apology for this flagrant abuse of authority, an apology that was an important repudiation of such repugnant tactics. I like to think that the intervening 36 years have seen some evolution in the authorities' attitudes.
Why jeopardize those advances and the understanding between the two communities that both the passage of time and the participation in the Gay Pride festivities have helped make possible? To shut off such an important line of communication between the gay community and police culture seems to be counterproductive at the very least, given that the cultivation of such positive ties can only serve to strengthen understanding and empathy.
As neither a black nor a gay man, by what right do I offer an opinion on this issue? To suggest that this is only a black issue or a gay issue overlooks a larger point. They are all part of something bigger, Canadian society as a whole, so my expressed view is as a member of that society. To assert that only gays or blacks have any right to opine here would be to ghettoize and, to some extent, dehumanize, them as occupying special categories of citizenship.
We surely do not want to return to such prejudicial thinking, I hope.