Thursday, January 19, 2017

Black Lives Matter, But Bullying Is Still Bullying

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.


  1. It's not often that I disagree with you Lorne, but I do here. It's not that you have no right to "opine" on this subject, it's that you come from a place of safety and privilege that makes it difficult for you see their experience, and it comes off as a race/sexual-orientation version of "manslpaining. Acts of revolt, acts by groups that have lived in the margins and gaps of democracy, are expected to be "reasonable" and "measured" by those who enjoy privilege and status. Such acts might seem unreasonable from viewpoint of an outsider, but sometimes political acts of revolt are not searching for the wholly rational and reasonable, they are sometimes motivated by a desire to standup, to repel what has offended, to gain a sense of safety or authority etc. And it is, I believe, unreasonable to suggest that a group who has lived in such margins and suffered so much oppression can be defined as "bullying" when they de facto have no real social power. It seems similar to suggesting that feminists are being bullies when they want to have a women's only march. No, it's not 1981, for the gay-black community, but it might as well be, and if they see it that way but you don't, I will defer to them because they are in the situation, and you are not. That, funny enough, is entirely reasonable.

    At the wider level, for me there are simply some cases that I let go of my white-male, rationalizing privilege and I defer to the group that has been oppressed and marginalized.

    1. Fair enough, Kirby, and I certainly respect our difference of opinion. Perhaps I have read the situation wrong, but one of the concerns I tried to express in the post was that I felt the BLM participants in the parade, most of whom were not, as I understand it, gay, were really hijacking the larger agenda of the gay community by foisting their concerns on the parade; bringing it to a halt and showing no intention of letting it continue unless their demands were met was a form of extortion tantamount to a betrayal of Gay Pride, in my view.

      In terms of the larger issue, there is there is the question of exclusion of the police, who are gay, and proudly marched in the parade as openly gay police officers, surely a bridge to the established authority that has so abused the gay community in the past. For a gay police offer's perspective on all of this, you can check out this link:

      As always, Kirby, I welcome dissenting views, and yours has given me an additional perspective to consider.

  2. Kirby brings up a really interesting point Lorne that white people like yourself and me have never been victims of racism, so we really can't understand how it effects those who are its victims.

    This is an issue I have given alot of thought too, but have not yet been able to fully answer. I do not really understand racism. I understand it intellectually and even at times emotionally, but I do not understand it as a personal experience.

    This leaves me on the outside looking in when wanting to understand racism and those who are its victims. No matter how much I read and I have read alot on racism, including slavery there is a part of me that feels out of the loop when I try to connect with the real victims of racism.

    I asked a friend of mine over dinner one night, what is it like to be a black man.He said, picture a world where everyday you are confronted from, mainly whites,with the nuances of racism.He said this nuance can be from a look, a stereotype statement made about being black,a gesture like a woman holding her purse tighter when she passes a black man.He went on to say that because racism is not explicitly vocalized today, black men and woman,have become experts at detecting nuanced racism.

    He also said he is not sure about how the racism directed at him as a black man, has effected his view of himself. He said he would like to think that it is he himself who defines his self worth, but he wasn't completely sure that was the case.

    I think Lorne we are living in a pre-civilization. The fact that racism is still a view that one race of people impose on another is indicative of humankind, for the most part, not intellectually, socially, psychologically,philosophically or spiritually advancing and becoming a civilization. We still have a long way to go.

    Having said all that, I disagree with the gay community excluding the police at the behest of black lives matter. I think when you isolate a group, you close the door on being able to communicate with them and communicating is the number one tool for change.

    First Nations who have been subjected to past genocidal abuse and racism, which exists up to the present day have always believed in inclusion.In fact John Ralston Saul has said the root idea of our multicultural society comes from the First Nations belief in the Inclusive circle.

    Inclusion is an important part of First Nations philosophy and they have always practised it amongst different tribes to stop the warring between these tribes. They also welcomed the new settlers to Canada before confederation. They did this by welcoming these settlers into what they called the inclusive circle. They are still doing this inclusive circle with others in the present day.

    It has and still does take enormous strength and courage to be inclusive with the very people who set out to obliterate and at the very least contain them. In the First Nations long road to reconciliation, they have understood the need for inclusion, even when the extent of abuse by white people, who were nothing short of barbarians, was at its most violent.It was the whites who tried to separate and isolate First Nations. It was First Nations who brought those same whites into their inclusive circle and as a result made reconciliation possible.There is still a long way to go in recognizing the sovereign rights of First Nations and maybe, just maybe, we will be sharing political power with them one day.Welcome back Lorne.

    1. As always, Pamela, I appreciate your comments, and as with Kirby's, you have left me much to think about. The fact that we cannot find final answers to this issue is a testament to the need to always think and rethink our assumptions.

      I have thought a great deal over the past months about racism and the voices that are needed to really bring home to us the experiences and effects of systemic racism as it is experienced on a daily basis, as it has been experienced by your friend.

      I have a black friend with whom I have often wanted to bring up these questions, but lack the fortitude to do so, wondering if it is indeed within my province to ask such questions. I shall further consider the situation.

      I trust that you won't mind, Pamela, if I once again offer your insights as a guest post tomorrow.