The Reflection Pool

The Skin I’m In

My go-to listening in the morning on the drive to work is Metro Morning on CBC with host Matt Galloway. It’s talk radio at its best. This morning I joined the program as Matt talked with Desmond Cole about his raw, honest and heartbreaking article: The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more that 50 times – because I’m black.  Near the end of the interview, Mr. Cole said, “I want this issue [of Toronto Life] to be the best selling issue of all time.” So do I.

When I read the article, I felt overwhelmed with sadness, with anger, with empathy and with remorse. I’m pretty sure you’ll get the anger and sadness. Let me explain the empathy. Cole’s article is partly about feelings of powerlessness in the face of racism. While I don’t know what the sting of racism feels like, I know powerlessness in the face of authority. Who hasn’t felt it, if they are honest with themselves? Imagine experiencing that every single day from childhood to adulthood. Many of our students do.

My remorse stems from feelings of responsibility. As a member of our Canadian society, how does my and others’ silent acceptance of Desmond Cole’s reality feed it? What we ignore, we permit. What we permit, we condone. My white privilege lets me look away.

There has been so much written about racism in North America over the years and especially in the last few months. We Canadians sometimes get to pretend that it’s different here. Wake up call: it’s not.

Read the article. Then help me understand what I can do next.

3 thoughts on “The Skin I’m In

  1. I read this article earlier today when it was shared on Twitter, and I’m thinking more about it now thanks to your post. I wish I knew what to do. The only thing that comes to mind is teaching with more of a social justice lens. I’ve been watching and listening closely to some of the mature and important issues that Jonathan So (@mrsoclassroom) has been discussing with his Grade 2 students. I think to myself, will these students think and act differently thanks to Jonathan’s instruction? Maybe they will. It seems small, but if these issues make their ways into our classrooms and schools, will awareness start to lead to change? I’m curious to hear what others have to say here. (Glad I stayed up to read your “April Blog A Day” Challenge Post tonight.)

    Aviva

  2. A few of my students have looked at this article with me as we consider social issues in our government/citizenship unit. They were shocked and appalled, and admittedly a bit fearful, knowing that this blatant racism exists, and so close to home. Two of my students are writing to our Mayor to ensure that “carding”, “racial profiling”, whatever you want to call it, does not happen as a practice in our city, with the Hamilton Police Service. I was unsure and not entirely comfortable bringing this issue up with grade 5 students, but now I’m more at ease with it. The action that they are taking is real because the emotion they are feeling with it is raw.

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