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Does Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Have a White Saviour Complex?

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The City of Toronto's Mayor, Rob Ford, recently took to the regular radio segment he hosts with his brother, Doug.

This time, it was to defend himself against allegations that he has been using city-funded resources (cellphones, cars and staff) to manage his youth football teams. The Mayor defended these actions with the usual stubbornness that girds the cavalier, unapologetic and arrogant attitude with which he always rebuffs his critics -- no matter how legitimate their concerns.

Anyone who has been following the follies of Ford's mayoralty would not be surprised by the Mayor's reaction to these latest allegations which come on the heels of a conflict of interest court case that could see him removed from office. However, what did come as a surprise was the revelatory insinuation by Doug Ford that the Mayor's psyche is infected with what's generally known as a "white saviour complex," specifically in relation to the mostly black youth that he coaches.

The suggestion that the Mayor harbours a white saviour complex came from none other than his brother when, during this radio segment, Doug boldly proclaimed, "There's no one that helps black youth more than Rob Ford," which he followed with, "These are kids who have nothing."

That's right, Doug Ford actually said that the black youth whom Mayor Ford coaches have NOTHING, without Mayor Ford. Permit me to use my historical memory to translate Doug Ford's words: "dem po' black kids ain't got a damn bit'a nuthin widdout dat gud suh and Massa, I means, Maya, Robs Fowd..."

In political terms, Doug Ford is an extension of Rob Ford's brain and vice versa (though Doug is arguably the more astute, if not, the more collected of the two) and so it's not at all unreasonable to assume that at the moment Doug revealed the taint of his and his brother's white saviourism, he was expressing exactly what was on Mayor Ford's mind and drives the Mayor's work with his football teams.

So what is the white saviour complex? Most popularly perpetuated within the plots of any mainstream films featuring whites alongside blacks or other racialized groups, the white saviour complex is best described in the following way:

"[A] white person coming into the lives of a person or people of color who are often low-income, troubled, and/or severely oppressed. [...] [where] the white saviour comes in, quickly sympathizes with the problems of the people of colour, learning what needs to happen to solve their problems, and in doing so, wins their favour and becomes their hero."

The white saviour complex which Doug Ford's assertion suggests that the Mayor possesses is, in effect, a psychologically insidious manifestation that consciously or unconsciously infects and corrodes the minds of some people (of all racial and cultural backgrounds), and which maintains that blacks and other racialized minorities are fundamentally, if not, inherently incapable of achieving any measure of success or overcoming obstacles of any sort without the help of a benevolent white person. For examples, consider the movies The Help, The Last Air Bender, or more classically, To Kill A Mockingbird. Also see the Kony2012 fiasco.

So what does all of this mean about Mayor Ford and the underprivileged black youth he coaches and has coached over more than a decade? It means, or at least it strongly suggests, that the Mayor of Toronto actually thinks that black youth are hopeless, irredeemable nobodies and total zeroes without Ford's football teams. With the deep-seated belief in the hopelessness of black youth cancerously entrenched in the Mayor's mind, of course it makes sense to him to abuse public office, break the law and misappropriate tax-payers' funds to save these otherwise incurably destitute and indefinitely despondent black youth.

With some reflection, it seems that Mayor Ford's white saviourism might also explain why in the wake of the brazen public shootings that seized Toronto earlier this summer, the Mayor, dismissed community-led support programs and was instead most adamant about securing public funding for more aggressive policing initiatives targeted at disadvantaged Toronto neighbourhoods.

As the Mayor's thinking seems to go, why work to change the underlying and collectively manufactured structural conditions that entrench and legitimize the perpetual impoverishment and marginalization, out of which violent crime naturally flows, if the black youth engaging in such crimes are incorrigible miscreants?

So, am I saying that any and all work done by white people to help black people or other racialized minorities is inherently corrupt and should be stopped? Absolutely not. Such a position is totally ridiculous and fundamentally un-Canadian. After all, part of what makes our country great is expressions of our general commitment to helping residents of this country (except for Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples) enjoy standards of living that are consistent with not only the immense wealth of our country, but also consistent with the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. Our robust, publicly-funded social-support systems, which include health care and education, are ready examples of this.

What I am saying though, is that when a white person holds the belief, as Mayor Ford seems to, that his fellow community members of racialized backgrounds, in this case black youth, have and presumably are "nothing" without their assistance, such otherwise welcomed, laudable and noteworthy community service goes from an example of fulfilling a civic and social duty to equalize the playing field, towards being a menacing act that gives permanence to relations that support white privilege and racial hierarchies of power and domination with white people unquestionably on top of the socio-economic pyramid.

"Charity" of this sort is misguided and harmful, regardless of one's intentions, because it is not offered as a way to reconstruct society so that the conditions that create racialized socio-economic disadvantage are broken down and eliminated. To the contrary, it prolongs racialized social injustice, and does so in a way that demoralizes and degrades the individuals being helped. It does this by inflicting the receivers of such assistance (and also infecting the acts and minds of the person "helping") with the psychic trauma of believing in the racial superiority of white people, a.k.a. white supremacy.

In other words, if Mayor Ford really does hold the view that the black youths he helps have "nothing" without his football program, he is only furthering the sentiment that no matter how hard black people and communities work or how committed they are to bringing themselves and their families out of poverty and into hard and fairly-won prosperity, they still have "nothing" if their self-help, hard work and perseverance is not supported by a white saviour.

There are few better ways to cultivate a culture of dependency within Toronto's black youth and families than having a Mayor who thinks this way and worse, who is backed by tax-payers who demonstrate a latent willingness to fund expressions of this mental dysfunction.

The City of Toronto's official motto is "Diversity Our Strength." Ford's comments about black youth having nothing without Mayor Ford's football program is really making me wonder who exactly in the Mayor's mind the "Our" in the city's motto is meant to include (and exclude) and how his thinking on the question may be fundamentally corrupting his capacity to lead Canada's most diverse city.