The tsunami which has emerged regarding the implications of Mr. Trudeau sporting black and brown faces and even the banana in his crutch as he played the part of a Black man in Black face, have given way to an explosive discussion of the dynamic of racism as suffered by Black and Brown people.
Of course, the term is not only applicable to just Black and Brown bodies. The difficulty I have had is listening and reading what I would characterized , for the most part, uninformed chatter about what constitutes RACISM.
Surely, as a Black woman articulated in a Toronto radio show this week, in words or words to this effect, “ Trudeau? What racism? The real racism is what I experience at work every day”. Truly, this is the essence of my argument and that is, for those of us who have suffered the effects of Racism, when this story broke, we immediately knew that Trudeau, regardless of whether he had been a champion for minorities interests since he took office, was being racially insensitive but surely not racist.
The quickest means by which one could give meat to the debate is to look at the on line definition of Racism. On Google it is stated (Miriam Webster): racism – a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
As a Black lawyer, having been in Canada since 1974 and having acted in roles of a qualified accountant for eight years at Canada Revenue Agency and a lawyer for twenty six years, it is a trivialization of what I experienced and continue to experience, just like that Black woman mentioned above, every day in our Courts.
Such include: a Caucasian judge screaming at you for no reason; a Caucasian judge going to do research on you to see if there is any “bad” stuff against you so he could raise it to question your credibility; a Caucasian judge mocking you about you using what he sees as a new word (penultimate) and when I objected to what I perceive as being made fun of, he accused me of playing the “race” card; a Caucasian judge staring at you as you rise to argue the case of a Black man who had been severely victimized by police and says to you, “such is life” and “life happens”; a judge saying out loud “ I have not met a refugee who has ever spoken the truth (that day the refugee at issue was from Africa); Caucasian judges clearly taking the side of Caucasian lawyers because he/she is from a recognized downtown firm; Caucasian judges pressing forward even before you open your mouth on the expectation that your unusual Black presence in the Court room needs an accommodation as you would be unable to speak English properly. These are just a few examples of where for us a Black people the rubber hits the proverbial road.
However, amazingly satisfying is that here we are talking about Race and the politics of race. Sadly, each opposition party has exploited this event and each has appeared sanctimonious that oh how horrible this development is on Black and Brown people.
Well, I say keep your sentiments and your misplaced empathy to yourselves as surely I do not need it. What I need to see is an over haul of the Judiciary where the objective must be appointments of Black and Brown people to the Bench and especially so in the Federal Court of Canada where there is not a single Black or Brown face as a judge.
I note that the Federal Court deals with disenfranchised immigration cases and my goodness, do they make their racist views known! Yeah, these are my real issues….. lack of diversity and representation of us and the obvious need for us to walk away after arguing a case in court believing that “well today, one thing I could discount, is that the judge was not discriminatory or racist”. Of course, the issues are much broader but the space provided here, clearly does not accommodate a full exploration.
OSBORNE G BARNWELL (BA, (Econ), Hons B Comm, CGA, LLB, LLM) is a lawyer (civil litigator) practicing in Toronto since 1993.