Recently, the online version of the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian, published an article entitled "Why I hate being a black man." The article is by the black Canadian poet, essayist and documentarian, Orville Lloyd Douglas. Judging from the flurry of online comments, brother Douglas' lament of self-loathing is garnering a considerable amount of attention.
Since the publication of Douglas' piece, there have been spirited and interesting reactions by writers for prominent African-American-focused media outlets. Even CNN's Don Lemon caught wind of the piece which prompted an in-depth interview with brother Douglas.
As of the submission of this article, however, no similarly prominent Canadian media outlets have provided a much-needed black male Canadian's reaction to Douglas' piece. Actually, no Canadian perspective of any sort has been offered space within mainstream media. The deafening silence of is curious, telling and typically Canadian.
Douglas' article is expressly grounded in his experiences as a black male living in Toronto. What pushed brother Douglas to publish this polemic is his experience being the last person individuals want to sit beside on crowded Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) buses, subway trains and streetcars.
In his essay, Douglas even calls the Canadian sacred cow of multiculturalism a façade. He elaborates further in his interview with Don Lemon saying, "Canada is a very Eurocentric country," and expresses his frustration with the fact that Canadians (black and otherwise) are afraid to talk about race.
Douglas' reflections become especially interesting when he suggests that his self-hatred as a black male Canadian is significantly compounded by popular culture and the Canadian media's incessant association of black men with violent crime, social deviance, anti-social personalities and negativity. Douglas alludes to this as being a contributor to the marginalization of black peoples and experiences within Canada.
The climax is Douglas' revelation that he contacted a Canadian newspaper to publish his piece and heard no response.
So to recap: A profoundly important 21st-century reflection on the hardships of being a black male in Canada was published in a British national publication. This reflection has sparked a serious debate in the UK. This debate has boomeranged across the Atlantic to the U.S., has gone viral within African-American circles.
Even now as Douglas' reflection on being a black male in Canada is propelling a serious discussion on black male experiences among British and American folks, Canadian mainstream media outlets, journalists and personalities remain completely mum on Douglas' article and what it has to say about our country's fear and rejection of black men.
Whether I agree to the word with Douglas' reflections on being a black male in Toronto/Canada is secondary to my full agreement with his assertion that the Canadian media is absolutely guilty of facilitating, fostering and encouraging deep senses of self-hatred within blacks in Canada, especially black males.
This fact has been written about academically, and by the media itself. There are also books on the topic. For example, Ethnicity and Human Rights in Canada, The Colour of Democracy: Racism in Canadian Society, and Race & Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes and Activism of African-Canadians.
As I write this I'm already imagining the possibility of the Canadian media's usual suspects, including at least one black Canadian blogger, scratching their good Canadian itch to minimize, discredit, silence and/or even seek to embarrass and ridicule Douglas, myself and other blacks in Canada who dare to openly testify to the insidious role of Canadian media in negatively impacting black peoples' sense of self in Canada.
Indeed, there is a learned reflex within Canada to unleash a disproportionate backlash against black peoples' articulations of anti-black racism in Canada. It is truly a Canadian reflex that I'm sure will reveal itself in reactions to this very article. Think, for example, about how significantly much of Canadian society came down on black parents in Toronto and the Toronto District School Board for supporting Afro-centric schools as a way to combat institutional racism in the mainstream curriculum and general Ontario school system.
To be sure, it must be recognized that Canadian media is bolstered and encouraged in its anti-black perniciousness by other governing institutions such as our systems of education, justice and politics. They also operate on ingrained notions that perpetually characterize blacks in Canada as the default undesirable, pathological, crime-prone, dishonest, poor, violent, irresponsible, immigrant "other," whose only saving grace outside of sports and entertainment is the exotic foods, festivals and fashions they bring to Canada.
While there is blame to go around, what makes the media different is its unparalleled, direct, immediate and ubiquitous psyche-shaping presence in the lives of Canadians. And according to Canadian media, being a black male is something overwhelmingly negative and threatening. This makes Douglas' highly public and now international expression of black male Canadian self-hatred a natural and understandable outcome.
I am a firm believer in the imperative of black peoples resisting the onslaughts of an anti-black media and society by doing everything within our power to exercise our individual and collective agency by developing our own understandings of what it means to be black. That being said, I cannot fault brother Douglas for his self-hatred, although my own love of being a black Canadian man initially made me want to do just that and more.
On deeper reflection, I can only commend brother Douglas' bravery. Douglas decided to use his words and access to British media as the vehicle for the expression of his black male Canadian self-hatred, and now this constructive and important debate is taking place.
Contrast this with the fact that every day there are too many black brothers out there in the streets of the Greater Toronto Area, using all forms of subtle and serious violence against themselves, black women, their families and communities, as a way to express the self-hatred felt they feel as black males in Canada.
What's left to be seen is whether Canadian media will own, condone and continue in its role of facilitating self-hatred among black men in Canada by either remaining silent on this story or covering it with its traditionally anti-black and unbalanced biases.
My sincerest hope is that this will not be the case and that Canadian media would use Douglas' article to turn the page, and finally begin governing itself by its moral and professional obligations to provide fair and balanced reporting on Black experiences in Canada.
Where's Canada's Don Lemon? Therein lies the rub...