What I am about to comment on is painful in many respects. It’s a little like “dirty linen washing in public”. It’s about some of the people we respect for their outspokenness and the sense of progressiveness and who fail to live up to some of the expectations we have of them.
I won’t call any names, but if you recognize yourself in these descriptions, one can only hope that you amend yourself.
There are people who, for example, have made it to significant positions in the public, broader public and private sectors and who, before their ascent, led the critical positions held by their groups or organizations. Some of them get lost in the system, depending on where they are, and are rarely heard from again, once they’ve made it. In some cases, they realize too late that their elevation was designed to muzzle their activism. Continuing their outspokenness could be in breach of their tenure.
Let me say this: In partisan political situations, there is an expectation that members of caucus maintain a high degree of unanimity. If you oppose, for example, a position held by the majority of caucus, you are expected to hold your tongue in public, or exit caucus. If you are the member of a governing caucus that, obviously, will have an impact on a cabinet level appointment. It’s called party unity and you have to be gutsy to go public.
That scenario also translates, to some degree, in other spheres. For example, I do not know what position Chief Mark Saunders held on “carding” before his appointment, but I would have been somewhat surprised had he announced that he would end carding in his first speech. He was handed a policy by the governing board to implement. He can work to change it, if he opposes it, but he has to be prepared to show why it doesn’t work, after the implementation process has been put into effect.
The people I do have a gripe with are those who, having ascended, allow themselves to be manipulated, coerced or willingly betray not only the positions they once held in concert with the group which gave them prominence, but their previous comrades. And this happens all too often among us. There are some who will toe the line, others have daringly bucked it.
We have had the experience in which a former head of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation “mishandled” appointments and promotions. Some of the stories that came out of that debacle were such that one can only suggest that the man hated Black people.
There are those who would preach mentorship, opening doors or other such valuable promises, but who, in the course of their newly-attained position, not only cease to be that supportive person, and who, perhaps without realizing it, become a very discouraging performer.
There are so many individuals from whom I have heard, or heard of, and who have suffered at the “hands” of people like these that it becomes a painful experience hearing about it. It’s like hearing some of the stories of betrayals in a slavery rebellion or uprising.
You have no doubt heard stories in which the Black boss behaves harshly towards a Black employee because he or she does not want to leave the impression that he or she is playing favourites. This is also a kind of betrayal.
These are some of the obstacles we face in our progress. Those who hold the reins of power are very much aware of some of these faults and use them strategically to diffuse opposition and criticism. It is not unlike employing other minorities at the expense of people of African descent and then preaching the diversity line; “we have a diverse representation” when in fact the most junior position at a particular level is held by a Black person.
I am a devout supporter of reparations for the transatlantic slave trade, slavery and colonialism. But I also recognize that we, as Black people, need to repair ourselves considerably. Over 400 years of the practice and the ensuing anti-Black racism have been and is a hard obstacle to expunge from our mentality. Some of us seek refuge in religion which, more often than not, confuses us even further. “Loving thy neighbour as thyself” is not always truly reflected. We also sometimes love our neighbour more than we love ourselves – see the controversy over skin-whitening.
There is a positive side to this. The messages of people like Marcus Mosiah Garvey are being studied, appreciated and practiced more. The “Black Lives Matter” movement, like the Black Power Movement before it, and so many others, is indicative of that. And like movements, it can be a slow process.
I am reminded of an old song, “Wayaya”, by the group Osibisa:
We are going, Heaven knows where we are going, we know we will.
We will get there, Heaven knows how we will get there, we know will.
It will be hard, I know, and the road will be muddy and rough, but we will get there
Somehow I know we will get there, we know we will.
Email: email@example.com / Twitter: @pghntr.