Jennifer recently read The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole, a bestselling non-fiction title that documents examples of anti-black racism in Canada. Here is her review:
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole documents the racism that Black Canadians face every day. Every chapter represents a month from the year 2017 and for each month Cole catalogues a racist incident that occurred. The series of once forgotten news stories now returned to public spotlight for scrutiny compels the reader to acknowledge the nonstop nature of the struggle for racial equality for Black people in Canada. As one reviewer put it, Cole “punctures the bubble of [White] Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation.”
It becomes clear in this chronicle (2017) that racism is an inexorable part of Canada’s historical record. Every story reflects the legacy of white supremacy in Canada. The litany of facts shatters myths like “it doesn’t happen here.” Not only does it happen here, it happens regularly, and it has a long history in our country.
Cole places each news item in context by tracing the buildup to some incidents through the years, speaking to the volume of abuse Black Canadians suffer at the hands of the dominant White Canadian majority who choose to look the other way. The overwhelming body of evidence proves that the lived experience of Black people in Canada is measurably worse than what White people in Canada imagine it to be. It directly confronts the myth that “it’s not as bad as the U.S.”
This important work problematizes our claim to be “better than” other nations. We are not the version of ourselves that we pretend to be. Cole challenges us to own our racist society in the broader political discussion. This #ownvoices account of news items urges White citizens to check their privilege — diversity as we know it is a facade — to acknowledge the reality of our racist culture in as many ways as we can and take action to right the wrongs regularly perpetrated against Black Canadians.
Cole rounds out each account by sharing a personal example of a similar racist aggression he has experienced. The reader realizes that these documented acts of racism against Black Canadians are just the tip of the iceberg. If it were possible to note all of the unreported racist aggressions against Black Canadians it would easily overwhelm a daily calendar. This is not news to Black Canadians. Black Canadians bear the brunt of a white supremacist culture.
Further, Cole’s incisive commentary describes how each incident impacts Black Canadians. These explanations for the benefit of the majority of White Canadians offers a portrait of what it feels like to have your aspirations stifled in myriad ways on a regular basis.
Cole’s presentation of facts, revelations of personal vulnerability, and reconstruction of the historical struggle urges Canadians to reconsider their complicity in a racist society.
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