By Muskan Sandhu
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
-- Langston Hughes, "Harlem," 1951
The African American dream has exploded. And the smell of its tattered skin is nauseating to the custodians of White privilege.
The cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by the police has proven to be a tipping point. As protests erupt across North America, Canadian ethnic media has come forward in solidarity with the Black community.
Image source: collage of ethnic media stories
Several media outlets shed light on the historically repetitive nature of police brutality and injustice towards Black people. Yvonne Sam of the Caribbean news outlet Pride, published from Ontario, wrote: “Another day in the United States of America; another White cop around; another Black man, face down on the ground; another mournful alert, about failing breath — all translated into yet, another death….For far too long, Black humanity has been denied on American soil.”
Similarly, on the Harjinder Thind Show, a Punjabi radio program aired on Red FM 93.1 from Vancouver, Thind commented that, “if America is burning today”, it is because of the complete denial of justice over the years in the institutional murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the lynching of Rodney King.
The Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha from Toronto pointed out that even though the world is preoccupied with COVID-19, long-standing issues are alive and kicking: “When we thought that there was no room for issues other than the COVID-19 pandemic today, we remember that structural problems may be temporarily hushed up, but they are still there.”
The Canadian prime minister may have had to bite his tongue in commenting on the neighbouring country’s president, but ethnic media outlets have not held back from denouncing, in straightforward terms, US President Donald Trump’s attitude. Vancouver’s Chinese newspaper Van People condemned Trump’s leadership during the pandemic and his prejudice against African Americans.
Eric Sifuentes from Toronto’s CHIN 91.9 FM Spanish program said that the situation is being exacerbated by the inflammatory comments of Donald Trump and some US governors have even asked Trump to please shut up. The Harjinder Thind Show pointed out that the president’s comment, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” is an echo of the statement made by a tyrannical police officer in the 1960s. Indeed, a chilling reminder of the legacy of Black oppression.
The media’s engagement hasn’t been a unilateral one either, and it’s actively participating in the process of introspection necessitated by such events. There is a call to look within their own respective communities and address uncomfortable, unspoken prejudices. Van People noted that “racial discrimination will only be eliminated when all discriminated races come together to fight”, adding that “if Chinese people value their Canadian identity, then they should value peace in the community and say no to racial discrimination.”
On the TV channel OMNI News: Punjabi Edition from Toronto, a Punjabi woman who participated in the protest in Toronto asked, “If we do not support one another, who will support us?” Meanwhile a student noted that: “People should talk with their family members at the dinner table about how we are complicit [in racist attitudes].” The host on the show added that this conversation should start in the school system and “parents should go to the school board meetings and listen to the perspectives of Black parents.”
In a similar vein, Wati Rehmat from Muslim Connect, a pan-Canada news platform for Muslim Canadians, wrote that it is great that the Muslim community comes out in outrage when crimes such as the murder of George Floyd occur. However, the community needs to reflect upon and address its own anti-Blackness and shadeism - “It is a slippery slope from when you regard someone with a darker skin as inferior or less desirable to tragically de-valuing Black lives.” Rehmat’s comments are incisive in the larger context of the deep-rooted desire for a fair complexion prevalent in several postcolonial nations.
The message across diverse media, then, is unadulterated: Black Lives Matter.
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