Battling Anti-Black racism in 2017

There can be no doubt that 2017 has seen significant progress in the battle against anti-Black racism.

Just last week, the Ontario government publicized its Anti-Black Racism Strategy, an implementation blueprint that falls squarely within the ambit of its policy document of earlier this year entitled “A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s Three-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan”.

The latter three-year plan was itself the legislative enactment of the recommendations coming out of the report contained in “The Independent Police Oversight Review” concluded in March this year under the leadership of Justice Michael Tulloch.

In recent months, Ontario has also been presented with Toronto Mayor John Tory’s Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism and with the creation of a new organization, the Expose Toronto Committee (ETC), an anti-racism initiative being promoted by well known Black activist Kenneth Jeffers.

This newest addition to the province’s Black community activism has focused on two issues: addressing racism in the workplace in the public and private sectors; and the need to establish a civilian oversight board for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, through a standing sub-committee for issues related to anti-Black racism.

Another welcome addition to this year’s anti-Black racism agenda in Ontario was the announcement by Education Minister Mitzie Hunter that a one-time grant of $100,000 will be allocated to fund legal assistance for youth in conflict with the education system. Particularly useful for students facing suspension or expulsion from school, this program will be supported by Legal Aid Ontario and the TAIBU Community Health Centre in Scarborough and the Rexdale Community Health Centre.

The cumulated effect of all of those developments this year will strengthen the province’s decades of community pushback against anti-Black racism.

Consequently, the Black advocacy movement thrust into historic prominence by the formation of the Black Defence Action Committee (BADC) is now being powerfully supplemented by Black Lives Matter/Toronto.

Similarly, the Anti Racism Directorate, under the portfolio of Minister Michael Coteau, is also being healthily complemented at the Ontario Human Rights Commission by the pro-active, impassioned, anti-racist leadership of Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane.

Highlighting all that progress is important because all forms of racism negate such fundamental human rights as freedom of the person and the right to equal treatment.

In that regard, one is reminded of the wise words spoken by American Abolitionist and liberal activist Wendell Phillips on January 28, 1852 as he addressed members of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society:

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten.[Therefore]…only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

Ontario now stands in stark contrast to the blatant and flagrant racism still poisoning the lives of Muslim women in the neighbouring province of Quebec, via the legislative adoption of Bill 62. That so-called Religious Neutrality Law is a crude vote-snatching venture that prevents veiled persons from delivering or receiving a public service anywhere in the not-so-belle province.

Ontarians may also take pride in another fact.

No Premier in this provincial domain will ever dare to impose, on residents and citizens alike, the crudely racist policies, attitudes and statements that are now being belched out into the public place by the hate-filled White male supremacist who this year presumed to preside over the dubiously named establishment commonly referred to as “The White House”.