Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee has made recommendations on changes to carding, to be discussed at a public meeting Monday Nov. 18.
By: Jim Rankin Feature reporter, Patty Winsa News reporter, Published on Sat Nov 16 2013
A proposed class-action lawsuit seeks $65 million in damages and other remedies from Toronto police for alleged racial profiling practices and documenting of citizens.
The suit, filed Friday by the Black Action Defence Committee, comes in advance of a special Toronto Police Services Board meeting to be held Monday on the controversial police practice of carding — encounters where police question citizens and document personal details in stops that typically involve no arrest or charge.
Police Chief Bill Blair and the civilian police services board are named as defendants in the suit, which alleges police and the board have failed to adequately address a problem that has impacted blacks and other minority groups for decades.
Blair reactionBlair reaction
UBC: Unprecedented police presence following sex assaultsUBC: Unprecedented police presence following sex assaults
The committee seeks to have the suit certified as a class action, and have itself named as the representative plaintiff, but it estimates there are hundreds and “perhaps thousands” of citizens who would fit into the class.
“The Plaintiff believes the only way to litigate and seek remedies to uproot the acknowledged scourge of racial profiling and carding is a frontal attack” like a class-action suit, reads the statement of claim. “There is no other effective way.”
The suit alleges police and the board “have failed to prevent the violation of the equality rights of African-Canadian residents of Toronto and Ontario,” resulting in discrimination under the Charter.
Police have not had a chance to respond to the proposed suit. They defend the practice of carding citizens as a valuable investigative tool that allows investigators to make links between people and places, and say they target areas where violent crime is taking place.
But they also have acknowledged carding interactions with citizens can harm their relationship with the public.
There has been talk of a class-action lawsuit on the issue for decades, said Toronto lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, who filed the suit on behalf of the committee and spoke on its behalf.
After many reports by academics, the media and court decisions, the police and board “haven’t done anything to address this at all,” so the committee is hoping a class-action lawsuit will allow for a “holistic comprehensive judicial remedy” to carding and racial profiling.
“The black community has now reached a point where talking has been going on, not much has been happening, so it’s time for action,” said Hamalengwa.
In addition to monetary damages, the action, which has not been certified or proven in court, seeks remedies that include:
A declaration that police have breached the Charter and an order requiring them to “desist from engaging in and condoning racial profiling” of blacks and other “colourful” minorities.
A declaration that racial profiling is a criminal offence.
A written police apology to the committee and “all African-Canadians for their being targets and victims of racial profiling and carding.”
Mandatory reading for officers, including books on racial profiling, the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s 2003 report “Paying the price: The human cost of racial profiling,” the 1995 report of the Ontario Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System, and several Toronto Star series on carding, including 2003 report “Paying the price: The human cost of racial profiling,” published in September.
Class-action lawsuits in Canada can be expensive and lengthy and orders difficult to come by, but as Toronto lawyer Murray Klippenstein recently told the Star in a story about carding, they can prompt change.
“By declaring a practice to be illegal and awarding a significant amount of money to a group of people as compensation, the incentive or pressure to change the practice becomes pretty substantial,” he said.
The Star has published four series — in 2002, 2010, 2012 and 2013 — that examined Toronto police arrest and stop data and found patterns that shown disproportionate treatment for blacks, and to a lesser extent, “brown”-skinned people.
Between 2008 and 2012, police filled out 1.8 million contact cards, involving over a million individuals, and entered their personal details into a database.
A Star analysis showed that blacks over that period were more likely than whites to be stopped, questioned and documented in each of the city’s 70-plus police patrol zones. The likelihood increased in areas that were predominantly white.
On Monday, the special public police services board meeting on carding, scheduled to be held at city hall, will address recommendations from both the police and board chair Alok Mukherjee to change the way police card and interact with the public. Mukherjee has said the Star’s latest findings on contact cards “devastating” and “unacceptable.”
While there has been an acknowledgement by Blair and the board that profiling exists and that carding is problematic, the lawsuit alleges little has changed to deal with it.
Although no individuals are named as plaintiffs, Hamalengwa expects many will come forward and take part.
The issue of race has been ignored by the Canadian media in relation to the Rob Ford crack scandal. The question is why?
Canadians are not comfortable discussing race issues. Canadians pretend race is an American issue it is
not a problem in Canada. There is a facade that Canadians are not prejudiced or racist.
Canadian culture is indeed racist, but the racism is more covert not overt. Canadians engender this mythology race should be ignored.
An African American website, Uptown magazine has published an article about Toronto’s trainwreck crack smoking mayor and the subject of white male skin privilege. Why hasn’t the Toronto Star published an article about this issue? Where is the Globe & Mail editorial?
It seems to me the silence about Ford’s white privilege speaks volumes about Canadian society. By pretending race is not a factor in this crack scandal, the Canadian press are also a part of the quandary.
Ford’s whiteness is an integral part of the scandal. The shock and the horror Canadians have is, due to the fact Ford is white middle class. Since Ford is a public figure, and he’s hanging out with drug dealers, gang bangers, and other underworld people this upsets the Canadian media.
Smoking crack is associated with subaltern people not rich white folks like Rob Ford.
The lack of press about the ways in which white privilege works is due to the fact white people control the Canadian media.
The privilege being a white man grants Ford the ability to get a pass for his deleterious behaviour.
Does anyone honestly believe if Ford was a man of colour his supporters would be so forgiving? Ford’s white constituents give him a pass for his unprofessional behaviour because he is a white man. People of colour are judged at a higher standard than white folks. The people supporting Ford have sympathy for him because they identify with him.
The paucity of news or television broadcasts about the issue of race is not surprising since Canadians have polite bigotry. Canadians are polite racists, they are just bigots in private not public.
Toronto Star Article: Ex Police Officer Alleges Toronto Police Force Is Racist Against Young Black Men!!!!
Former Toronto police officer Garnette Rose has launched a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging he was discriminated against and had no choice but to leave the police service.
By Jim Rankin / Toronto Star
Former Toronto police officer Garnette Rose has launched a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging he was discriminated against and had no choice but to leave the police service.
As a young Toronto police officer, Garnette Rose had a plan to work hard, gradually move up the ranks and perhaps return to the intelligence unit where he got his start with wiretaps — and his Jamaican background was an asset.
From 2003, the year he joined the service, to 2005, Rose was a “proofer,” listening in on and deciphering wiretaps that involved targets with Jamaican accents. He was the ears on homicide cases, a multi-jurisdictional drug bust and high-profile gang operations.
Today, his career as a police officer is in tatters and his slight Jamaican accent is at the heart of an extraordinary hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, where Rose, 36, alleges he was ostracized for not “toeing the line” — an unwritten police code of silence, or looking the other way. He was also, following an injury, recommended by a supervisor for a “light duty” internal position that he wanted in an email that showed “blatant” discrimination, he says in his complaint.
“PC Garnette Rose … is a young officer currently restricted as a result of a hand injury,” reads the email. “He presents very well, and although possessed of a very slight Jamaican accent, he is very well spoken.”
Rose flagged the email to human resources and later, to a deputy chief, triggering an investigation. A half-year later, after he felt he could no longer safely work as a police officer, he filed the human rights complaint.
For Rose, it was the culmination of a yearlong history of “unfair” and “discriminatory” events. “I believe this happened to me because … I am Jamaican and have an accent; Because, I stood for the truth; Because I challenge the negative perceptions from Senior Staff,” he writes in his complaint, filed in June 2011.
Police disagree, arguing in a reply to Rose’s complaint that the email was an isolated incident, with a “prompt and thorough investigation, followed by appropriate disciplinary measures.” There is no proof of a pattern of discrimination and other “alleged acts” are factually wrong or the result of Rose’s own doing, the service argues.
“I became psychologically dysfunctional and frankly scared for my safety.”
Describing feelings after email that mentioned accent, in his human rights complaint
The Toronto Police Service is named in about 30 human rights applications a year. But it is rare that a complaint comes from one of its own. Just how rare, police will not say.
One reason for the rarity could be there are no problems. Another, as Rose believes, is there are problems but the act of complaining about superiors is career suicide.
Rose, currently unemployed, is seeking $1 million in damages.
This story is also extraordinary in that it is public at all. It’s based on Rose’s allegations and police versions of events, as laid out in documents connected to his human rights complaint, which he shared with the Star. The documents include police replies, police statements and summaries of anticipated evidence in the hearing, which is in the early stages.
Becoming a Toronto police officer was a particular achievement for Garnette Rose.
Rose served as a cadet while in school. When he was 17, his family moved to Scarborough from Jamaica and he saw policing as something he was made for. He wanted to help bridge the gap between blacks and police, he says.
Since Bill Blair became chief in 2005, there has been a notable increase in diversity in new hires and efforts to root out racism within the service, which has been held up as a model. Two of the three current deputy chiefs are black. Rose saw the force as a place where he could excel.
After joining in 2003 at 26 and spending two years in intelligence, Rose spent time as a special court constable and at east downtown’s 51 Division, which includes Regent Park and is thought of as an excellent area to gain experience. In 2008, after a year there, he moved in a job swap to 53 Division, which includes Yorkville and Forest Hill.
He also started a family. He and his wife, a civilian Toronto police employee, would have two sons before their marriage blew up.
On April 25, 2010, Rose had finished a special evening shift at the Canadian National Exhibition, when alone and in a marked cruiser, he spotted a woman driving and texting. He pulled her over, and without his cruiser camera turned on, cautioned the woman.
Rose handed her a ticket instruction but no ticket. Inside, he included his police business card and personal cellphone number.
Two nights later, this time with a partner, Rose made a call at a building and on the way out had a conversation with another woman that wasn’t about police business. “During that conversation, he obtained her phone number and entered it into his personal cell phone,” police say in their reply to Rose’s human rights complaint. He called the number to confirm it was correct. He sent a text message a few days later. It was not returned.
Those two incidents resulted in station-level disciplinary action and a loss of 24 hours’ pay from Rose’s lieu time bank. It is one of the highest penalties that can be imposed outside of a police disciplinary tribunal hearing.
Rose, in an interview and in his complaint, acknowledges it was a bad idea to exchange numbers but says it was innocent.
In his complaint, Rose alleges the two women, who are white, knew each other and that one was the daughter of a Toronto sergeant at another police division. Rose alleges the sergeant was friends with Insp. Bruce Johnston, a senior supervisor at his own division. Rose says he heard from colleagues that Johnston was going to “take a chunk” out of him over it all.
Police do not address or deny these specific allegations in their reply, other than stating in a non-specific way that there are factual errors in the complaint.
Rose further alleges that the disciplinary action was started by Johnston, who would later write the “Jamaican accent” email.
Johnston, in material filed with the tribunal, denies Rose’s allegations and says he played no role in the investigation or penalty.
The Star could not directly reach Johnston — or Staff Insp. Larry Sinclair, then unit commander of 53 Division — for comment but did ask a police spokesperson, a police lawyer and the new unit commander at their former station to extend to them an opportunity to comment further.
Through a lawyer, Sinclair declined to comment. Johnston could not be reached.
Following Rose’s acceptance of the penalty, Sinclair put a scheduled promotion on hold to “ensure that there was no further misconduct.”
By then, Rose had been placed on light duty after a motor accident.
Incident at court
Tensions rose further after a dispute over Rose’s testimony as a witness in an unrelated case.
An investigation later revealed evidence collected did not substantiate the allegations against Rose, but police concluded he hadn’t properly prepared to testify and gave inconsistent testimony, and “failed to adopt his own memo book notes.”
As a result, police sent Rose for remedial training, which he found “horribly demeaning.”
“I felt stupid and useless,” Rose writes in his complaint. “I knew that this was their punishment for not following the Code that I must maintain the same story no matter what. I knew that I was not being treated equally.”
By fall 2010, Rose started looking into a transfer out of 53 Division, without success.
Police defend the remedial action and deny Rose’s contention that the court incident is part of a pattern of discrimination.
The internal posting that landed on the desk of Insp. Bruce Johnston’s desk Oct. 21, 2010, was for a temporary social media job. Speaking wouldn’t be a main component.
Johnston, who was filling in for Sinclair, thought of Rose, who was still on light duty. In an email recommendation the next day, Johnston referred to Rose’s accent and Jamaican heritage.
Rose, who was copied on the email, says he found it “devastating,” and flagged it a week later to human resources. He heard nothing back.
On Dec. 2, Rose forwarded the email to Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, who also has Jamaican roots. On Dec. 15, a manager in the diversity management unit spoke to Johnston about it.
An internal investigation concluded a charge of misconduct was warranted. The penalty was a reprimand, one of the least severe penalties that can be imposed under the Police Services Act.
For his part, Johnston told an investigator he went through the email with Rose and “had the impression that he was actually good with this and enjoyed the fact that we were supporting him in this position … It wasn’t my intention to nominate him for a job and then insult him … the whole point (was that) I thought he would do well at this.”
Why the accent reference? He said he did it to, in the words of the investigator, “shed light on the fact that PC Rose had an accent, and if PC Rose became stressed, his accent may become thicker and difficult to understand.”
The service argues the email played no role in determining who would get the posting. (It went to an officer, also on light duties, with a journalism degree.)
Rose was left with a perception that he had become the outsider.
“The very heart of policing is relying on each other and having senior White officers as well as other white officers ostracizing me, informed me that it would just be a matter of time before something bad happened to me,” he wrote in his complaint.
“I became psychologically dysfunctional and frankly scared for my safety.”
By April 2011, Rose says he was afraid, depressed and his back hurt to the point he stayed home from work. A sergeant, a direct supervisor, phoned to see what was up
According to police, Rose sounded despondent.
Within a half-hour, the sergeant and another sergeant were at his doorstep.
The sergeants encouraged him to get help from the employee and family assistance program.
Rose found the visit intimidating; police insist it was solely out of concern for his well-being.
A staff sergeant declared him unfit to return to work until he got help. In two appointments Rose had with a service doctor, the doctor agreed Rose was unfit. Rose’s own doctor prescribed anti-depressants.
In a letter to Blair, dated May 25, 2011, Rose’s lawyer Osborne Barnwell argued Rose had been constructively dismissed. He said Rose was unable to cope with the job, had been discriminated against by senior staff and “been subject to reprisals.”
Barnwell proposed the service settle with Rose. When no package came and police declared him fit to return on modified duty at another division, Rose filed his rights complaint.
In addition to money, Rose seeks another “remedy.” He wants something done about “racism in the service” and says the highest-ranking officers are resistant to change.
Rose hasn’t worked as a police officer since April 2011. On July 19, 2011, he turned over his badge and warrant card, which the service took as his resignation.
Under cross-examination by a city lawyer acting for police, Rose has twice lost it on the stand, becoming angry and frustrated by the line of questioning, which the adjudicator called “assertive but respectful.”
A psychotherapist of Rose’s choosing concluded he had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
Ross faces further psychiatric testing. No police witnesses have yet testified but their arguments are made clear in the material filed before the tribunal.
Asked to put this case into context, police spokesperson Mark Pugash instead said the Star must file a freedom of information request for numbers on officers who file human rights complaints.
In an emailed statement, Pugash added: “It is often the case that legal claims fail to be proved in court or before tribunals. Sadly, the Star rarely, if ever, tells their readers when particularly extravagant claims, claims they have printed, fail.”
Barnwell says police are fighting his client “tooth and nail, and are trying hard to discredit him,” in a case that should never have gone to a hearing.
“It makes no sense whatsoever,” he told the Star.
Rose, in an email to the Star the day he broke down on the stand, was despondent. He wrote that the police service had taken away his life.
Rose has created a Facebook page, with the title: Stop Racism Within The Toronto Police Service.
One of the first posts was a link to an article about Blair blasting officers for unacceptable behaviour. Blair has steadfastly said racism won’t be tolerated.
Rose’s psychiatric reports are due back at the tribunal by Aug. 17.
It is interesting reading the news on the internet about First Lady Michelle Obama daring to stand up to an obnoxious lesbian heckler Ellen Sturtz. Ms. Obama was speaking at a private residence and twelve minutes into her speech Sturtz rudely interrupted Ms. Obama. Unlike President Obama, his wife Michelle is not an elected official so she has more leverage on how she conducts herself. Ms. Obama is a strong black woman and I commend her for standing up to Sturtz and telling her to “take the mic or I’m leaving”.
On some conservative and liberal media websites, such as Fox News they are attempting to illustrate that Ms. Obama is the stereotypical angry black woman. After all, Ms. Obama had the audacity to actually defend herself when she is being disrespected by an annoying protester!
A white gay organization codepink defended Sturtz and said ” good for @EllenSturtz for talking to @michelleobama about POTUS
unfulfilled promise to pass ENDA Mrs. Obama should have said to LGBT protester: I don’t make policy but I certainly understand your concerns. Thanks for sharing them with me”.
This is a classic example of white privilege, white gay people trying to tell a black woman how she should act when she’s being rudely confronted.
One of the issues that is often ignored in the mainstream press is the racism of some white gay folks. Sturtz had the nerve to heckle the First Lady of the United States of America! There is this racist attitude by some in the white gay community that black people owe them something.
Sturtz, was swiftly ejected from the event, but I am glad Ms. Obama stood up for herself. There is this racist narrative that black people are supposed to bow down to white folks. Slavery ended in a long time ago, yet some white people still think they can talk to a black person anyway they want in a disrespectful manner.
Sturtz certainly didn’t respect Ms. Obama why couldn’t she have waited until after the First Lady finished her speech? Glad Ms. Obama schooled this lady and put her in her place. You go girl!
On the ABC talk show The View, the ladies discuss the recent controversy of the young white female tennis player Caroline Wozniacki so-called joke about Serena Williams body. At a tennis exhibition in Brazil, Wozniacki decided to stuff her bra and tennis skirt with towels to make fun of Serena’s body. In the mainstream media the consensus by white tennis writers are that Wozniacki was just making a joke. The question these white writers fail to ask is why is Serena Williams constantly the one being made fun of?
Sports websites such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Fox Sports, have all claimed Wozniacki’s attempts at being funny isn’t racist. However, the vast majority of these sports writers are white men and they also have white male skin privilege. It is very easy for people who do not experience racism to tell black women they need to be quiet about racism and sexism. White privilege allows white tennis writers the ability to ignore race since they don’t have to think about race on a daily basis. White privilege also means white people have the luxury to not deal with race when they don’t want to and ignore it. The white tennis writers have chosen to ignore Wozniacki’s racism because the harsh truth is racism and sexism is very much a part of the professional tennis industry. The tennis industry is still very uncomfortable with the fact women’s tennis is being dominated by Serena Williams a black woman.
The white tennis writers lack the racial sensitivity, knowledge, and the awareness to discern the history of racism and sexism against black women. For centuries, since Sara Baartman tragedy in the early 19th century, black women are constantly mocked, ridiculed, and demonized for not having bodies that conform to the Eurocentric ideal. The ideal female tennis player body is supposed to be blonde, thin, such as Maria Sharapova or Caroline Wozniacki. Tennis writers for years have mocked Serena Williams because she’s a black woman, due to the fact her body has curves, and her buttocks is larger than her white female counterparts.
I am glad people on twitter, You Tube, Facebook, and the internet are saying enough is enough!
The racism Serena Williams experiences in professional tennis is more subtle. Nobody would dare call Serena a racial slur to her face.However, I believe there is still discomfort by some white people in the tennis industry about Serena Williams domination of women’s tennis. Tennis is still a very elitist sport, dominated by rich whites and the country club set.
Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shephard pointed out as black women they have a right to speak out against racism when it relates to the black female life experience. Goldberg and Shepard explained that Wozniacki’s joke is indeed racist against black women.
Goldberg makes a cogent argument, why are these white male and female tennis players such as Caroline Wozniacki and Andy Roddick making fun of Serena’s body? Why is it a black female tennis champion is ridiculed because her body does not conform to racist Eurocentric body image standards? Why should black people be silent to this prejudice and bigotry?
Serena Williams is constantly criticized and ridiculed by the racist tennis establishment because she’s a a black woman dominating women’s tennis which is still a predominately white sport. Let’s be honest here, Serena Williams is thirty one years old, a part time player yet she is clearly the best female tennis player in the world. Serena won Wimbledon singles and doubles, Olympic gold medal in singles and doubles, US OPEN, and the WTA Championships. Serena has dominated the so called number one and number two ranked women Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova with a stunning 8-0 record this year.Wozniacki’s joke I believe is due to jealousy, Serena also dominates Wozniacki she has a 4-1 record against her. Since Wozniacki can’t beat Serena on the tennis court she has to find another way to ridicule her by mocking her body because she’s a black woman.
What Mitt Romney discovered in this election is something that should be taped on the wall of every white presidential hopeful for years to come: If you cater to angry white men as the foundation of your campaign, you will lose.
The reason can be explained with one word: Demographics. There simply are not enough white men left in America to win the big prize for a presidential candidate. In order to win the presidency, you must knit together a coalition of voters that look much more like the composition of the country than the voters who checked the square for Romney yesterday.
This past May, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that for the first time there were more babies of color born over the past year than white babies. This means that over the next couple of decades, black, Latino and Asian Americans could form a governing coalition that could essentially rule the country.
The depressing future for the Republican Party was neatly summarized by Republican analyst Steve Schmidt last night on MSNBC.
“This will be the last election a Republican can possibly win as a national candidate with these types of numbers,” he said, looking at the results coming in for Obama—but before Obama’s re-election was called. “This will lead to some important moments of soul searching for the Republican party if it is going to be a national party.”
But yet, despite Romney reaching desperately for the votes of white males, in the end he couldn’t even win their stronghold—the Midwestern Rust Belt. Obama beat Romney soundly in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania—together probably the last bastion of the angry white male (aside from the South, of course). Romney began substantially behind the 8-ball with that group after declaring four years ago that the auto industry should be allowed to go bankrupt. In an area of the country where millions of jobs are dependent on that same auto industry, it was an extremely difficult haul for Romney to overcome that statement—particularly after he incorrectly said in recent weeks that Chrysler would be sending Jeep jobs to China, which was an outright lie.
Frankly, if a white male candidate can’t win Michigan and Ohio, he’s not going to win the country.
But beyond Romney’s blunders with the Rust Belt blue collar, Romney was doomed by the numbers. Namely, the coalition of African Americans and Latinos that came together and handed him a monumental loss. It was not a given that Obama would get the Latino vote—after all, Republican George W. Bush got over 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004. But yesterday, Obama got well over 60 percent of the Latino vote—some estimates said as much as 75 percent. It was policy and politics that doomed Romney with Latinos—not just his vociferous attacks on undocumented immigrants during the Republican primary, but his position on issues like healthcare, reproductive rights and taxes.
Steve Schmidt on MSNBC broke down just how much the country has changed over the last 24 years. Romney got about 60 percent of the white vote yesterday, but it brought him only slightly more than 200 electoral votes. The last time a presidential candidate got 60 percent of the white vote was in 1988 with George H.W. Bush—and that number of whites brought him 426 electoral votes in a landslide win over Michael Dukakis. Schmidt called this transformation “stunning.”
The complexion of the country has changed so dramatically over 24 years that nailing down a sizable portion of whites gets you a sad concession speech on election night.
In a year when the unemployment rate hovered just under 8 percent, it was supposed to be conventional wisdom that the presidential incumbent would have a very difficult time holding onto his seat. Knowing this, Romney went after the unemployment number with a vengeance, repeating about a hundred times a day that 23 million Americans were still looking for work.
But it didn’t work.
In the end, Americans chose to hitch their fate once again to a man who they felt could much more closely empathize with their fate, who more easily understood their lives. While Romney tried to sell himself as a businessman who could put America back to work, Americans more likely saw in him the unfeeling boss who did not care how hard they were struggling. He wanted to be embraced as the smart technocrat, but instead came off as a distant multimillionaire.
The lesson is that when the economy is horrible and the nation is suffering, it’s probably more important for the public to feel like you understand and empathize with their plight than for you to throw out some dubious plans for transformation.
And maybe the final lesson was this: Telling the truth matters. Romney thought he could lie with impunity and get away with it. While there was no one to order him to the principal’s office or to threaten to wash his mouth out with soap, in the end Romney probably paid the ultimate price for his duplicity: A thorough and embarrassing defeat.
In recent months, there’s been a lot of chatter on the interwebs about this thing called “gaycism” on the TV. As defined by Lauren Bans of GQ, gaycism is “the wrongheaded idea that having gay characters gives you carte blanche to cut PC corners elsewhere.” In her example, Bans cites shows like Modern Familyand freshman comedy Partners as emblematic of this trend. Modern Family is an Emmy-juggernaut, a critical darling and a much-lauded champion of LGBT characterization on TV, but that progressivism comes at the expense of Gloria, the lone woman of color. Sofia Vergara is a terrific comedienne and kills in the role, but the brunt of her jokes revolve around her flimsy command of the English language. Gloria’s B-story FOR AN ENTIRE EPISODE dealt with her use of malapropisms, like “doggy dog world” and “don’t give me an old tomato,” because being foreign is her whole purpose on the show. Oh, and having boobs.
Although Modern Family has gotten away with Charlie Chan-ing South American women (so fiery! yelling!) for three seasons, Two Broke Girls came under fire earlier this year for the same stuff. But the difference between the two is that Modern Family is racist like that friend you have who wears Native American prints from Urban Outfitters until you say something about it and then they apologize and never do it again. You know they mean well, and “flesh colored” band-aids provewhite privilege is hard to spot sometimes. However, Two Broke Girls is like your white gay friend who thinks he’s entitled to say whatever he pleases because he’s been oppressed, so he’s allowed to oppress other people and call it being an “equal opportunity offender.” He’s earned the right to be a racist, insensitive asshole, because I guess he asked Audre Lorde and she said it was okay?
For example, look at Michael Patrick King. For the queers in the audience, we know MPK as the man who brought us Sex and the City, a series notably gaycist with its Lena Dunham-esque exclusion of anyone not white, except for the groundbreaking depiction of Miranda’s sexy fling with a chocolatey black man. However, King recently upped the gaycist ante with Two Broke Girls, a show the New Yorker referred to as “so racist it is less offensive than baffling.” The show reduces black men to sweet ol’ jive-talkers, Eastern Europeans to crazed sex hounds and Asian Americans to Long Duk Dong and “Yellow Panic” stereotypes. On the latter, Andrew Ti of “Yo, Is That Racist?” notes, “It’s distressingly easy to imagine the writers sitting around and listing off every single ching-chong stereotype, ultimately deciding with some sorrow that a Fu Manchu mustache would be impractical for budget reasons.”
And when Michael Patrick King was asked about it a panel for Two Broke Girls earlier this year, was he like your friend who vowed never to shop at Urban Outfitters again? Nope. He was like your friend that then buys a bunch of Native American print underwear afterward and then dances half-naked on a coffee table bragging about how edgy he is — because he’s, like, pushing boundaries or whatever. In defense of being a racist douche, King eloquently summed up the problem with a heaping helping of white gay male privilege, “I’m gay! I’m putting in gay stereotypes every week! I don’t find it offensive, any of this. I find it comic to take everybody down, which is what we are doing.”
Into this controversy steps The New Normal, the new Ryan Murphy show about two gay men who decide to raise a baby together, a show that marries Murphy’s trademark tonal inconsistency “with more gay jokes and regular old racism than Gallagher’s stand-up act.” All of Murphy’s shows have huge problems, and Glee has faced heavy criticism for not only being super racist, but also for being super transphobic, which was recently kiiiind of rectified by introducing the character of Unique, a young trans* woman of color. However, as the Cracked article on the show argues, the real problem is that everyone is a “something” on the show, and all the characters conform to broad caricatures, “like the awkward Jew with the afro, the black girl who always sings the big gospel notes, the gay kid with the great fashion sense, the overachieving Asian [and] the fiery, underprivileged Latina.” Although you could argue that in high school, everyone conforms to a stereotype, Cracked‘s Ian Fortey notes the Michael Patrick King logic behind that rationalization: “Glee’s producers think that by shoving their parade of characters and their intense stereotypes in your face, rather than having them be subtle, it’s cool, because they’re acknowledged.”
Similarly, The New Normal announces its offensive stereotypes as if it were shouting them through one of Sue Sylvester’s bullhorns. TNN has already caught a lot of flack for its “lesbian problem,” as it reduces all lesbians to “ugly men” with “gingerbread man bodies,” but this is pretty much the tip of one big problematic, racist iceberg. In one greatmoment for the history of gay characters, main gay Bryan (Andrew Rannells) refers to vaginas as “tarantula faces,” with the implication that gay men think vaginas are icky and gross. Elsewhere, he prances around a lot, listens to Lady Gaga, talks about dressing his baby up in Marc Jacobs clothes and does lots of other stereotypically “gay things.” This is not progress. This is pretty much the same crap that shows like In Living Color (see: their “Men on Film” sketches) used to pull, except now the “Equal Opportunity Offenders” are on “our team” (aka. Team Queer). As a self-proclaimed “femme,” I know there’s nothing wrong with being effeminate, but nothing about Murphy’s characterization of femme males feels particularly nuanced.
The problem is that instead of writing actual characters, Murphy falls back on tired tropes, showing his writing hasn’t evolved out of high school cafeteria labels. On top of Bravo Gay Bryan and his Butch Gay partner (Justin Bartha, who gets to watch football and do “dude stuff”), we have a Precocious Child (Bebe Wood), a Single Mom With Big Dreams (Georgia King), a Sassy Black Woman (Nene Leakes) and a Homophobic, Racist Grandma (Ellen Barkin, who deserves so much better). Some of these stereotypes are harmless, but Leakes’ and Barkin’s characters make my brain hurt, as they seem to be taken from deleted scenes from Crash. Barkin’s Nana exists in some Paul Haggis-ian alternate universe where people can just shout racist invective all the time, in place of actual conversation. And in The New Normal, the people around them just shrug it off or laugh at them dismissively. Because old people are so old, amiright?
Nana has a lot of people to offend, and like Andrew Ti, I can picture her crossing off a Glenn-Beck-created checklist for every episode. Jews? Check. Gays? Check. African-Americans? DOUBLE CHECK. To give Nana a lot to complain about, Ryan Murphy casts Real Housewife Nene Leakes to be the embodiment of every single stereotype about black women this side of an Aunt Jemima bottle. Leakes plays Bryan’s assistant, and in her first scene, she discusses stealing her boss’ credit card to buy new shoes, ones (of course!) covered in rhinestone bling.
When’s she’s not stealing, Leakes has a constant “mhmm” expression on her face, as if she spontaneously developed a case of Lana Del Rey lips. She serves no other purpose on the show except to be loud and to and validate Bryan and David — in the same way that most TV shows and films use people of color solely as vehicles for white narratives. General, non-gay-specific racism is nothing new in the media. Non-whites are always relegated to supporting roles where they are acted and commented upon by the white characters (e.g. Bryan and Nana), but rarely get their own agency or the ability to write their own narratives. (Both of the creators of The New Normal are white.) After all the criticism The Help received for similar issues, I’m surprised this ever made it past NBC’s people. I know the struggling network is desperate for anyone to take it to the prom, and Ryan Murphy is SO HOT right now, but this is just pathetic.
All of this overt stereotyping makes it particularly hypocritical when Leakes calls out K-Mart Sue Sylvester for being racist, asking Nana to take her “dirty, racist mind back to the South.” I couldn’t believe that the pot dared to call the kettle African-American, until I realized that the problem was that Murphy and Ali Adler (his out lesbian co-creator) don’t see any problem with Leakes’ character. TV sitcom writers don’t necessarily have to care about white privilege or how stereotyping perpetuates a system of systemic injustice, as they are more concerned with putting on a show and getting viewers. Murphy and Adler will do whatever is necessary to get laughs, even if that means offending people, because pushing buttons is part of comedy! Haven’t you seenBrickleberry?
In response to that reasoning, Lindy West writes:
This fetishization of not censoring yourself, of being an ‘equal-opportunity offender,’ is bizarre and bad for comedy. When did ‘not censoring yourself’ become a good thing? We censor ourselves all the time, because we are not entitled, sociopathic fucks. Your girlfriend is censoring herself when she says she’s okay with you playing Xbox all day. In a way, comedy is censoring yourself–comedy is picking the right words to say to make people laugh. A comic who doesn’t censor himself is just a dude yelling. And being an ‘equal opportunity offender’–as in, ‘It’s okay, because Daniel Tosh makes fun of ALL people: women, men, AIDS victims, dead babies, gay guys, blah blah blah’–falls apart when you remember (as so many of us are forced to all the time) that all people are not in equal positions of power.
To Murphy and co., it’s not being racist, it’s being politically incorrect, which Debra Dickersonargues is often the same thing:
The rhetorical cul-de-sac where white hate went–in goes racism, out comes political incorrectness. Use of this phrase is a tactic designed to derail discourse by disguising racism as defiance of far-left, pseudo-Communist attempts at enforcing behavior and speech codes. However, vicious, brainless, knee-jerk, or crudely racist a sentiment may be, once it is repackaged as merely ‘un-PC’ it become heroic, brave, free-thinking, and best of all, victimized.
And that sense of victimization is exactly what makes the gaycism in The New Normal so troubling, because it makes the show feel entitled to being offensive. Shock humor is the only type of humor The New Normal knows, and it insists on shoving it down our throats, like when Nana thanks a young Asian girl for “helping build the railroads” and offhandedly remarks that “when [she] was in school, they learned about presidents that owned people like [Barack Obama].” Shows likeSouth Park and Louie do a good job of using racially charged and politically incorrect humor as a way of critiquing societal and systemic norms, rather than indirectly supporting that oppression through just mindlessly regurgitating stereotypes. In contrast, nothing about Nana’s statements subverts the status quo, and the laughter only derives from the fact that Nana is saying the things we aren’t supposed to or allowed to say. She’s just being “real” and “honest,” like a second-rate Archie Bunker.
However, in the case of Bunker, the jokes were on him, as the show served as a critique of the conservative ideologies that made him racist, and Bunker’s punchlines only served to show what a xenophobic jerk he was. The New Normal doesn’t do that, and in fact, they have Bryan and Nana bond over both being Asian racist, so everyone’s racist and it’s okay. Because Murphy doesn’t know when to quit, the show’s fourth episode, “Obama Mama,” has Bryan and David then reflect on their racism — when they realize that they have no black friends. Because I guess having black friends makes you not racist, they try to get some to fix the problem. Spoiler: They don’t actually make any. However, they are nice to an interracial family for approximately two seconds, which istotally the same thing as challenging societally constructed racial biases. As Barney taught us, fleeting recognition of existence = friendship = post-racial society. Racism solved. Not only does this skirting of the issue uphold the show’s racial status quo, but it also centers on a false notion: Mel Gibson starred in four Lethal Weapons with Danny Glover and look how he turned out.
Remember hipster racism? This is that turned up to 11, like Murphy throwing a big blackface partyon TV and saying its okay because it’s “ironic.” However, the biggest problem with pointing this out is that people often don’t realize that ironic racism is still just racism. And what actually makes the show’s racism so doubly troubling is that the act of being systemically oppressed should make people more aware of the ways in which they have the ability to marginalize others, because they have experienced the same thing themselves. The New Normal is even ABOUT that marginalization, specifically the discrimination Bryan and David (or “Bravid”) face for being two men who want to raise a child. Although the show is on the surface purely entertainment, Murphy has an explicitly political agenda, one he announces at almost every turn, the same way he did when he made bullying a major storyline in Season 2 of Glee. The message in TNN is that all families are normal, which (although problematic) comes from a good place and is necessary in a political climate where even some in the LGBTQ community, like Rupert Everett, think two men can’t raise a child together.
As the gay parenting is the central subject matter of the show (rather than a supporting storyline, like in Modern Family), The New Normal is (whether I like it or not) a landmark show, and how Murphy defines “the new normal” will matter to same-gender parents everywhere. This isn’t one of Murphy’s haunted house yarns; this is people’s actual lives that Murphy is representing. As Spider-Man’s uncle once said, with that “power comes responsibility,” and like David and Bryan, same-gender parents want their children to grow up in a better, more inclusive world for all people, no matter their color or preference. In the third episode where, after being gay bashed in an outlet mall, Bryan tells David he doesn’t want to raise a child in a world where people so openly discriminate against each other. If Bravid ever have that child, I only hope that Ryan Murphy heeds that wish. Their baby deserves better.
Note: An earlier version of this post was featured on In Our Words, a Chicago-based online salon covering all things queer, and was updated to take the newest episode into account. You can find the original here.
Globe & Mail Article: Toronto Ombudsman Finds Mayor Rob Ford Is A Racist Tried To Rig Civic Appointments!!
Kelly Grant – City hall bureau chief
The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Sep. 27 2012, 12:57 PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Sep. 27 2012, 3:43 PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is disputing the findings of a new report from the city’s ombudsman that alleges his office interfered in the civic appointments process, including asking bureaucrats to remove a line from newspaper advertisements seeking “diverse” candidates.
The report describes how unnamed employees of the mayor’s office meddled in the way the municipal government selects ordinary citizens to sit on some 120 boards, including the boards of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Toronto Parking Authority, the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Public Library Board.
The mayor’s office first asked for post-election recruitment to be postponed, then demanded it be condensed into such a short time-frame that candidates could not be screened properly, according to the report from Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean.
“It will look to cynics as if the fix is already in for appointments and the process is just for show,” an unnamed bureaucrat wrote to the city manager in a June 9, 2011 e-mail, expressing concerns about the tight timeline.
“We now have a governance process that is no longer based on any recognizable principles.”
Mr. Ford said Thursday that he “didn’t interfere in any process.”
“I’ve actually cleaned up the process that we had before. It’s a very clean and above board transparent process and it went very well,” the mayor told reporters after a ground-breaking ceremony for a new aquatics centre in Scarborough.
The report also found that the mayor’s office directed that recruitment ads not be placed in the Toronto Star, a newspaper with which the mayor and his councillor brother Doug Ford have a long-running feud.
“The [City manager’s office] informed my investigator that when they raised this with the Mayor’s staff, they were told that ‘we do not like the Star,’” the report says.
The mayor’s office denies it asked that the ad be kept out of the Star, according to the report.
In the end, recruitment advertisements appeared only in the National Post, Toronto Sun and Metro.
One of the goals of the city’s appointments policy is to fill boards with qualified citizens of different genders and racial and ethnic backgrounds, a subject on which the municipal government keeps careful statistics.
The report suggests the mayor’s office tried to undermine that goal.
“[City Manager’s Office] staff informed my investigator that they were asked by the Mayor’s Office to remove the statement in the advertisement that encouraged applicants from the City’s diverse population to apply. Staff refused to do so,” according to the report.
Mr. Ford said that was not true. “No, that’s not what happened,” he said, adding it was city staff, not his political staff that did not “reach out in terms of diversity.”
Asked if he was against diversity, Mr. Ford laughed. “That’s a ridiculous question,” he said.
According to a “diversity summary” of public appointments, 70 per cent of the citizens selected for boards under the Ford administration were white — the same percentage as in the second term of his predecessor, David Miller.
More men were tapped under Mr. Ford (70 per cent) than during Mr. Miller’s second term (53 per cent).
However, more applications actually flooded in under Mr. Ford than under Mr. Miller. The city received 1,927 applications for 167 positions in 2011-2012, up from 1,316 applications for 125 posts in 2007-2010.
At least one candidate with a serious conflict-of-interest nearly slipped through the laxer-than-usual process, Ms. Crean wrote.
In that case, the report describes an acrimonious closed-door meeting of the civic appointments committee at which an unnamed councillor pointed at staff and said, “I’m going to get you,” and added that bureaucrats had other councillors fooled, but not him.
“Some staff described the panel chair’s manner as ‘threatening.’ One staff described the process as ‘gruelling’ and ‘humiliating,’” according to the report.
The trouble apparently began when someone pointed out at a Nov. 16, 2011 meeting that a candidate who had previously been marked as qualified actually had a conflict-of-interest – he was an agent who appeared frequently before the adjudicative committee on which he was seeking a seat.
When the issue was raised, the same unnamed male councillor who allegedly threatened staff asked for those concerns to be put in writing. But a letter never surfaced.
The alleged threats from the councillor – who was also the panel nominating chair – came at the next meeting of the civic appointments committee, which was Jan. 16, 2012, although that date is not specified in the report.
Only one board was dealt with at both the Nov. 16 and Jan. 16 meetings: The Sign Variance Committee, whose nominating panel was chaired by Ford ally Giorgio Mammoliti.
Mr. Mammoliti said Thursday that he asked for such a letter at the Nov. 16 meeting, but he said he did not know if he was the councillor identified in the report.
He “unequivocally” denied threatening staff at the meeting. “Never in my 23 years in politics have I used that kind of language,” Mr. Mammoliti said in an interview Thursday.
The chair of the civics appointment committee, Frances Nunziata, said she did not recall any member of the committee upbraiding staff as described in the report.
Ms. Nunziata, the council speaker and a Ford supporter, said the mayor’s office did not tamper with her committee’s choices.
“Every decision that was made was done at the committee … I’m not aware of any interference or direction from the mayor’s office,” she said.
The ombudsman’s finding prompted harsh criticism from the councillors who chaired the civic appointments committee in Mr. Miller’s second term.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, a staunch critic of the mayor, said members of the current committee should be fired at mid-term and replaced with a new slate of councillors.
“I just don’t think they’ve done their jobs,” said Mr. Vaughan, chair of the committee in the second half of Mr.Miller’s last term.
Councillor Janet Davis, who chaired the committee in the first half of the same term, said Mr. Miller and his staff stayed out of the process. She called the alleged meddling by Mr. Ford’s staff “unprecedented and inappropriate.”
“The interference from the mayor’s office so compromised this process that we need to make sure that there are new guidelines and practices to stop it in future,” she said.
Ms. Crean and two of the city’s four accountability officers — the integrity commissioner and the lobbyist registrar — are locked in a battle with budget chief Mike Del Grande, an ally of Mr. Ford.
Citing their need to remain independent from city council, they have refused to provide a line-by-line accounting of their budget requests for 2013, according to Mr. Del Grande.
“The three of them, led by the ombudsman, are very, very concerned about their independence. I pointed out to them that it really doesn’t have anything to do with their independence per se, it’s reviewing their numbers,”he said.
Ms. Crean was ill and not available for interviews Thursday.
With a report from Elizabeth Church.
Global News: Violence In The City Of Toronto Is A Serious Problem Yet Strained Race Relations Between Black Community & Police Force Ignored.
Toronto’s black community has a serious problem with gang crime. There is no need to lie about it because the recent shootings in Scarborough this summer where two innocent young people died was pernicious. In addition, the shocking shooting at Eaton Centre in June is terrifying because violence can occur anywhere in the city of Toronto.
There too many young black who are so apathetic to the concerns of others. My question is, why are young black men getting involved with crime? What has happened to these young black men that they don’t value life or care about the well beings of others? Now, I know these young black males who get involved in crime have parents, families, siblings. So what happened to this generation? What went wrong?
Now, essentialists are going to make racist assumptions that it has to do with the “essence” within black males which causes some to commit crimes. The other possible explanations are poverty, unhappiness, despair, lack of education and employment opportunities leads young men to crime.
However, the white Canadian media never look beneath these surface explanations. Perhaps it is time for Toronto’s black community to not be so reticent and acknowledge there is a serious problem here?
There are programs for at risk youth, basketball camps, after school programs to assist children that are in danger of entering into crime. I believe these programs are important but are also band aid solutions to a deeper, more subliminal problem.
I can understand why some black people are irritated and annoyed by the media whenever gun violence occurs. Why should black people who are hard working and good citizens care about the bad behaviour of others? Why should the actions of a few tarnish the reputation of an entire race? It is ludicrous that people of colour are generalized in this manner.
Are white men generalized as psycho murderers like James Holmes shoots up a theatre in Aurora Colorado? Are young white men demonized in newspapers are psychopaths and killers?
Recently, a white supremacist murdered innocent people in Michigan at a Sikh temple. Are the media pathologizing young white men as being violent? Is there an essence to these young white males whiteness which causes them to go psycho and shoot and kill innocent people?
There questions are never asked in the mainstream white media because we live in a white society.
White privilege allows whites to generalize the actions of some in the black community yet the mirror image is never reflected at the majority.
Remember, white people control the Canadian media, the news which is broadcast on television, in the newspapers, and on the internet is based on white privilege. An editor decides in an editorial meeting what is the news. What sells more papers? What gets people talking? The media has a critical role in how race is shaped and constructed in Toronto.
In the classic 1988 essay, Peggy McIntosh a white feminist wrote an article called White Privilege The Invisible Knapsack. McIntosh’s article was groundbreaking because she is a white woman and she acknowledges the privileges she has simply because she was born white. According to McIntosh, whites are conditioned by the media and white society to ignore their privilege. Just like men ignore our male privilege and the freedom we have to walk freely in society, white people don’t have to think critically about race. A white person can live his or her’s own life in North America and not think about how race affects their lives.
People of colour we don’t have the luxury of not having to think about race. Race is in our face every single day of our lives whether we want to admit it or not.
It is understandable that some in the black community are angered that when crime occurs suddenly the entire race is to blame for some idiots dangerous actions.
Why are blacks generalized for the actions of a few? Why should I personally care if a black man shoots someone just because we are the same race? I don’t shoot anybody, I’m a citizen minding my own damn business.
The counter argument is, the white press in Toronto claim that black people need to become more vigilant and just trust the police force. The quandary is, a lot of black people in Toronto do not trust the police due to strained race relations.
Another point to consider is, some black people are terrified and afraid they don’t want to be the next statistic and get shot. It is a vicious circle that seems to be getting worse in the city of Toronto. There is a lot of bad feelings, anger, resentment.
It is disconcerting to see young black men shooting and killing innocent people. I think something has happened to the minds of these young black males who get involved in crimes.
Frantz Fanon the black psychiatrist and author of the book Black Skins, White Masks argues in chapter five called The Lived Experience of the Black man that the psyche of black males are shattered due to racism.
The black man sees himself in the third person he does not see himself as a three dimensional human being because the white man has the power to control the images and representations of the black man.
Now some people might argue that the city of Toronto is a multicultural paradise where racial harmony exists.
The danger of multiculturalism which the Toronto media engenders is it ignores racism and pushes it beneath the surface. Racism is a serious problem in Toronto yet Canadians like to pretend it does not exist.
The power structure in Toronto is still based on white privilege. For instance, Toronto has an idiot white mayor Rob Ford he’ is obnoxious, pathetic, unprofessional, and abhorrent. However, Ford is praised by the white right wing media in Toronto. The mayors of Toronto and all the police chiefs are white people. Even though, the city of Toronto has a very large non white population the people in power are still white.
The Toronto police force is also a problem there aren’t enough black officers on the force in positions of power. Real change needs to occur inside the police force in order for racism and barriers of indifference to break down. Why would a black person suddenly trust a white police officer in crime ridden neighbourhoods? The so called anti racism policies are a farce. The question still remains, why do people still not trust the police to inform them about criminal activity? Why are people so afraid to speak out?
The media is also to blame because the real subliminal problems that are not visible are not discussed in the public sphere. Serious and hard questions about inequality, racism, and discrimination, are not brought to the surface. Canadians still have an apathetic attitude towards race which is disconcerting.
In America, despite the race relation problems between blacks and whites they are more honest about racism. In the United States, people are not afraid to discuss race.
CNN, ABC, Fox News, NBC, and the major American media outlets constantly discuss racism in the public sphere. Americans are aware of racism in their country they don’t hide and pretend it doesn’t exist. By contrast, Canadians believe in the illusion of multiculturalism which is dangerous.
In order for Canada to progress, people need to stop being afraid to discuss race, inequality, white privilege, and other social problems in the public realm.