Jamil Jivani: The Black victimhood narratives that ignore actual progress


Take the University of Toronto’s Akwasi Owusu-Bempah as a clear example. Owusu-Bempah is quoted by the Star as one of the «Black voices» who reject Chief Ramer’s apology. He complains in one article that «there’s nothing new in this news.» However, just a year ago, Owusu-Bempah told CTV News that an apology for racism is exactly what he wanted. Owusu-Bempah is telling one journalist that a government apology would do wonders for Black people, and then a year later is quoted in an article about how the police chief’s apology ought to be rejected.

Years ago, Quillette introduced the term «racism treadmill» to explain the phenomenon of certain institutions and individuals refusing to acknowledge progress on matters of racial inequality. The idea is that some people insist we’ve been on a treadmill going nowhere, and racism is an unchanged threat to our communities, even after decades of activism. I’d argue that there is also an economy built on the racism treadmill. For news media companies that generate revenue from polemics or professors who think media hits can strengthen their push for tenure, there’s an economic incentive to encourage racial grievances and downplay narratives that would give power to working and middle class families to speak for themselves.

In none of its reporting on Chief Ramer’s apology does the Star discuss crime, nor do they mention that the chief might consider apologizing for the racial disparity of Black people being disproportionately victimized by violent crime. An honest attempt to move the conversation to solutions must acknowledge all racial disparities, not just the ones that align with a chosen media narrative. But moving to solutions doesn’t appear to be the Toronto Star’s objective. It seems they would rather Canadians, and Black Canadians in particular, just keep running in place.


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