By Dr. SHELDON TAYLOR
Hopeful winds of change are blowing across the world. In the Middle East, as elsewhere, oppressed peoples shout out for relief from their onerous burdens suffered because of political, economic and social oppression. Yet, here in Canada, many poor and Black people are spectators on the sidelines. The cat’s got our tongue. So, while Tunisians and Egyptians and other downtrodden people cry out for freedom, Blacks in Canada, except for the few anointed ones, suffer until death do them part.
Loud calls for change are heard everywhere else in the era of Obama. Not just rhetorical, cool words, but ones which underscore, if realized, that real change will renew the desire of progressive human beings to move forward after struggling for so long under the burdensome yoke of modern oppression.
Supposedly, many of us are now smarter and brighter. So, the call is not for another boogie fever era. Don’t give us access to the discos to dance the night away. We no longer want the clothes that make us chic and cool. What is being demanded is the opportunity to genuinely enrich our own lives.
Just imagine that, in the City of Toronto, the average Black student, even if he or she attends public school regularly, is still likely to fail. By fail, I don’t necessarily mean earning a mark that is less than 50 per cent. For even if he or she is capable of bringing a report card home to parents with a 70 per cent average this no longer counts for much.
Honour roll status in Toronto District School Board schools means earning at least 80 per cent. However, this minimum attainment will not bat the eyelashes of most acceptance committee members at Canadian and international post secondary institutions. Increasingly, if your son or daughter’s overall average is below 85 per cent it is possible that he or she will not be welcomed into universities and colleges where they may earn qualifications to help them develop a quality of life their grandparents believed would safeguard their legacy.
Just think about when you decide to purchase a car or a home in Toronto. As a Black person with money in hand, should you assume that the price to purchase you’ve been quoted and you’re hot on the heels for is equal to the one the average White person is guaranteed?
Furthermore, should you believe the person you sit next to at work doing the same job is paid the same wage you thankfully grab each pay period?
The fact is, as in my mentor Harry Gairey’s time, very little has changed.
“Oh, no!” you exclaim.
Well, if not so, explain why more and more Black children are not making it to university; instead they are going to jail. Explain why so many Black businesses are underfinanced and why many of you who read this dread receiving your next credit card bill.
I have always maintained that Toronto Blacks have allowed themselves to be duped; myself included. Let me be honest. This is not my original idea. In the 1970s when I was just an energetic pup and those wiser, older and supposedly bolder community leaders promised a community centre built with government money; a school system transformed in our favour, as I rah! rahed! with exuberance also for an African continent with democracy raining down on its people, Gairey reminded me that as a people we’ve longed hoped for Shangri-La. He told me: “Son, many of us hoped for real change in our favour when I was young. But with each generation it’s the charlatans who get the Man’s anointment.”
In other words, the traitors in our midst help ensure life chances are stacked against the rest of us. Therefore, an entrepreneur will wonder, after a stellar business presentation, why wasn’t there a follow up call from the bank? The newspaper advertising manager will find it strange that the copy promised from the financial institution arrived after the contractual deadline; and the student who worked so hard realizes the graded paper makes no sense.
For sure the system in Canada is stacked against Black people. But should we only blame the system? One that is quick to point to the unique opportunities members of other ethnic groups enjoy? Should we join the march like the Egyptians and other peoples for fairness? Or are we so much like sheep that our only hope is to continuously graze on the toxic grass the Man continuously feeds us?