SARcasm











Since the events surrounding the shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO (details on the incident can be found here and here), I have wanted to write a piece about the realities of raising young black men in today’s world – the world where Brown’s death, and the death of Trayvon Martin remind us that racism still exists, that it is still far more dangerous to be black today than white. But for a number of reasons, I haven’t really felt able to. For one, I have just felt too strongly about it to really be able to string my thoughts together into some narrative whole – it’s been easier to share others’ perceptions that I have found right on.

But perhaps on a deeper level, ultimately, what it has come down to thus far has been this: while our (adopted) boys are mixed-race (born to a white mother and a mixed-race father, is our best understanding), my husband and I are white, and can’t even begin to comprehend the realities they might have to face. While we can make vague claims to having been bullied or mistreated in our youth, in light of recent events in particular this feels woefully inadequate – the reality is, neither of us have ever had racial epithets flung at us. We will never know what it is like for people to assume we must be up to no good, simply because we are (a) young and (b) … well, Not White. Sure, as a woman, some of the bullying I’ve experienced has taken on a sexist/sexual connotation at times, and Ari has had some systemic issues and assumptions to deal with in terms of being Jewish, but let’s be honest – this is a whole different ball game.

That said, today my friend Anne Theriault (who is a phenomenal feminist blogger who writes over at http://www.bellejar.ca) had this piece, on teaching young children about racism, published at the Washington Post today, and in the ensuing discussion she mentioned that she would be interested in my husband’s and/or my perspective on raising children of colour. And while I can’t say I have any more of a cohesive perspective or message than I did beforehand, I thought I would accept her invitation as a challenge, and at least put to proverbial paper the (admittedly jumbled) thoughts in my head on this issue. This isn’t going to be the most eloquent piece I’ve ever written, but roughly:

  • First, I want to second just about everything Anne says in her piece. We are blessed to live in a neighbourhood that isn’t colour-blind, but diverse, and where our boys are ‘different just like everyone else’. Being “brown” can mean you are native, Arab, mixed-race, Indian, or any other number of things – there are a variety of cultures, religions, languages, and just about everything else in the rainbow that is their school, and just that exposure, in their lives, in the media they absorb, in the world they inhabit, is an important step to teaching the ways in which we are all both the same and different, and wonderfully so. In terms of the ramifications of these things – both privilege and marginalization – frank, age appropriate discussions of the ways in which they, we, and others are sometimes lucky, unlucky, and the struggles people can face for being different, can happen as needed and appropriate.
  • Recognizing my own privilege without becoming overly cynical or jaded. I grew up privileged to be able to trust the police. I was always taught that if I was in trouble or lost or scared or needed help, that the police were helpers and I could turn to them. And don’t get me wrong – I know there are good cops out there and it is a difficult and important job, and there are few people I respect more than a good cop who takes their job seriously and does it well. I want my children to be able to believe in those police officers, and trust in them to serve and protect. But the reality is also plain – perhaps plainer now than it has been in years – that this isn’t always the case, and especially for young men of colour. The reality is, someday our cute little brown boys will become brown teenage boys (although this unbiased mother assumes they will still be adorable), and this in itself can create distrust, fear, and yes, let’s call it what it is, hate. Racism. It might not even be conscious, but it’s there. So who do I teach them to trust, to look to for help? At the same time – I don’t want to raise them to inherently DIS-trust police either, or to be belligerent should a situation arise where a police officer might legitimately just be doing their job. But then, just being able to say that feels like it smacks of naivete, and brings home more than ever how I have never and will never live the experiences my sons might.
  • I take some comfort that we live in one of the most diverse areas of one of the most diverse cities in Canada, whose racism at least feels less dangerous, less charged, somehow than that which exists in the United States. But again … I don’t want to be naive about just how far that gets us. Even in Canada, black males are still disproportionately stopped by police in comparison to other members of the population. And even outside of the realities of law enforcement, boneheads exist here too. FACT: someday, somewhere, our boys will experience being called the N-word. Neither Ari nor I ever have, and there in some ways is nothing we can do to prepare them for that day other than breeding a strong sense of self in them, and keeping the lines of communication open – that we are there for them, and that we recognize we will never fully understand their experience, but we will ALWAYS fully try, and we will always support them.
  • And I guess that last is the ultimate thing I would add to Anne’s list. Expose the boys to multicultural and multiracial media, for sure, and ensure that they have friends from all walks of life, not just racially but economically, religiously, ability-wise etc. – but recognizing in the case of our family in particular education won’t be a one-way street. There will be a point where THEY communicate to US their own experiences of race – their experiences of being black children, and eventually, black adolescents and black adults. And it is our job to listen, to understand, to believe and accept the experiences they share, and not allow our privilege – the privilege of our skin colour, of our age, or what have you – to colour our perceptions of their realities. And on that score – the willingness to have our privilege and assumptions challenged – I think we’re on the right track. At least if the gut punch that Ferguson was to me is any indication – both in terms of disappointment in an institution (law enforcement) I’d always been brought up to respect, and more especially in terms of bringing home very potently that it can be dangerous, even fatal, to be a black man not that much older than my very own babies
My boys, ages 4 and 5.

My boys, ages 4 and 5.



{November 10, 2013}   Rob Ford – My Thoughts

So I guess I’m a little behind the eight-ball on this whole story, but I haven’t really found a comfortable way to address it since it began. If I take the sympathetic approach, it’s disingenuous as I truly am no fan of and do not like the mayor of Toronto. However, when speaking of addiction and a life that is clearly in crisis, taking the schadenfreude, let’s laugh at the buffoon approach seems callous and cruel, even if the man on the receiving end IS extremely easy to dislike, espouses poor political policies and is in no position -for many reasons – to run any city, much less the fourth largest in North America. Whether sober or not, he would never have my vote … and yet I can understand in the depths of whatever compassion I can claim that he is ill, and badly needs help. To that end, I don’t know if my words that follow will strike the tone I’m hoping to, and I apologize for that in advance. But I have done my best.

First of all, I suppose, for those who find living under rocks comfortable, let’s recap – on Halloween afternoon, the Toronto police announced they possessed a video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, as described by several journalists and bloggers several months ago. Rob Ford spent a weekend responding with very general, vague, somewhat self-deprecating ‘We all make mistakes’-type comments before earlier this week admitting to having smoked crack cocaine “in one of my drunken stupors”. As Toronto city council moves to severely limit his powers, and the push for him to at a minimum take a leave of absence (which he steadfastly refuses to do … along with refusing to commit to sobriety in terms of his admitted drinking problem), and another video has become public of the mayor literally on a drunken, murderous rant, the story has ballooned out internationally, garnering attention not only on ‘real’ news, but Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart, and its sister show, “The Colbert Report”, hosted by Stephen Colbert.

I don’t live in Toronto – I’m all the way in Ottawa – but I have friends and family there, and honestly, it is a huge city with major influence in Ontario, so I can’t help but to have developed an opinion on this case, and it comes down somewhere in between those seeking to make fun of and/or condemn the mayor, and those who support him, appreciate his flaws and foibles, and think he’s done a great job in office despite, you know, the alcohol and drugs. My thoughts, in no particular order, with no particular rhyme or reason, go something like the following:

  • At the end of the day, this isn’t really funny, but actually incredibly sad. No, no I won’t get all holier-than-thou about this, as I’ve laughed at Stewart and Colbert’s jokes too – but really, if we examine our best selves, it’s sad and scary. This is a man with a family, and a huge city which is suffering from a soap opera side show circus instead of the governance it needs and deserves. A city with much to be proud of is becoming a laughing-stock, and a man who badly needs help seems determined to self-destruct in the public eye, and take the city he runs down with him, refusing to compromise on even so much as a leave of absence, much less stepping down. Common sense has been abandoned and there is suffering on both a personal level, and a political, city-wide level. It is in some ways infotainment run amok and we enjoy the show … but let’s not lose sight that these are real lives – a real man with a real family, and an extremely large city with a large citizenry and complex infrastructure – which are suffering.
  • I am actually inclined to be naive and give the benefit of the doubt that Mayor Ford’s smoking crack was a one time event that occurred in a drunken haze. However, he has a drinking problem. And if I, as a sickeningly non-confrontational, non-judgemental person who takes stories about people she doesn’t know with several grains of salt, can see that and know that – and he has all but admitted that – and yet he will not commit to abstaining from alcohol, he will not commit to rehab or to step down … that is bad news for the city of Toronto, and will absolutely do nothing, really, for Rob Ford or his family either. We all do stupid things when drunk – for some of us maybe that just means dancing poorly and telling embarrassing stories, for others it might be a bit more serious, going home with someone they don’t know for example – but I don’t think that smoking a hard drug is under the traditional list of ’embarrassing drunken mistakes made by all’. And remember – this man is a forty-some-year-old who smoked crack … as the mayor of Toronto … and the mitigating factor he cites is that he was in a drunken stupor. This shouldn’t be inspiring a great deal of confidence in Torontonians – any Torontonians – in terms of their mayor.
  • All of this said – right now this needs to be about damage control and not schadenfreude … and on a similar note, we need to focus on the issues. Drug and alcohol use insofar as they affect Mayor Ford’s job performance – and to the extent he doesn’t think these as problems need to be addressed in any meaningful way – are fair game, for example, as are his policies to those who disagree with him, including the hypocrisy that he has been known to take a hard line on drug users. I have no problem with anyone criticizing the mayor. But ‘he’s stupid’, ‘he’s fat’, ‘he’s a clown/buffoon/idiot’ … I figure we have enough concrete, tangible, job-performance-related things to throw at him at this point without having to be ‘mean’. At the end of the day, this man is a crappy mayor who is selfishly inflicting all of his problems on the city he runs; his weight, his plain-spokeness, his likability or lack thereof have nothing to do with it.
  • Bottom line; let’s not indulge the soap opera. Here are the facts that matter, bluntly without trying to take cheap shots: the mayor of Toronto has a substance abuse problem that at least includes – but is not necessarily limited to – alcohol. He has been drunk at official events a number of times, and has been drunk to the point he thought that indulging in illegal drugs was a good use of his time as mayor. He is not necessarily evil or bad for this, but he is sick. And in his stubborn refusal to admit as much, he is pulling the great city of Toronto down with him. And if Rob Ford truly loves his city and his constituents as much as he claims, he will think long and hard about them – as well as his family, friends, and those who love him – and realize the best thing he can do for anyone who cares for him – and anyone he cares for – would be to get help, so he can best serve the city he was hired to represent.

Again, this is all just extemporaneous first draft stuff, so if it’s wordy, or babbly I apologize. I am just filled in equal parts with sadness, concern, frustration, anger, and yes, if I’m honest and not polishing up my halo too much, a touch of schadenfreude … and I just want those who are sick to be well, and those who need to be looked after in the meantime, to be looked after. My very best wishes to the city of Toronto as they face, frankly, a concerning and tricky time in their city governance, and yes … I also wish the best for Rob Ford as he is, again, clearly in crisis, and I hope for his sake and that of his wife, kids, and family, as well as ‘the city [he] love[s]’, that he searches his soul and finds the way out.



Despite being woefully late to this dance I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the last 10 days or so; as this blogging absence has not been the typical ‘busy and distracted’ absence. As I’m sure we all know, last Monday, there was a terror attack in Boston at their annual Marathon. The week that unfolded, as three people died in the initial attack, a police officer was later killed, and a 24-hour+, city wide manhunt resulting in gunfire and explosives Thursday/Friday kept the city, the nation, and the world riveted, frightened, and confused. You could not write a week like Boston just had. And I wanted to write about it – to write about anything else would seem trite and inappropriate – but I had absolutely nothing novel or creative or original to offer. How awful? What monsters? This is surreal? A warning against condemning all Muslims, to not jump to conclusions and assumptions? Lamenting the woefully inaccurate coverage on CNN? It had all been written.

It is now ten days later; it turns out two self-radicalized brothers were the perpetrators. The eldest is dead, the youngest in serious condition but in police custody and answering questions. Memorials and moments of silence have been observed. For all intents and purposes, the nightmare is over, and I have been silent. Here, anyway – as anyone in contact with me on Facebook knows, I have offered thoughts, prayers, condolences, and shared practical advice offered by others for help in a crisis. But nothing of substance here, out of some self-conscious, self-absorbed desire to produce something smart, pithy, emotional, ‘right on’. And now it feels like it would have been better to add even unoriginal words to the chorus, than to have said nothing.

On the other hand, perhaps I can put my tardiness here to good use. As so often happens, there is also the risk now that ‘The Story’ is over that people will go back to their lives while there were still – as of Monday – at least 50 victims of the bombing still in hospital. And more to the point, even as Boston recovers, there are others all over who are ill, injured, organizations which do good work, help that can be given. So I think at this point, I want to offer the following:

  • Let’s not forget the victims mentioned above, and whether or not there might be tangible things we can do to help. Donations to the American Red Cross, donations of blood, etc. are all worthy causes. ‘Thank yous’ to the men and women who kept Boston safe I’m sure would also be appreciated. Just because a week has past and the news cycle is (or shortly will be) moving on, doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there whose lives will be changed forever; they still deserve a place in our thoughts and prayers and – where appropriate – actions. And remember, there is always a glut of donations, both monetary and in terms of volunteer time, blood etc. – to organizations like the Red Cross in the process and immediate aftermath of tragedies; it is often times like this, where there are still people in need but the rest of us are moving on – that it’s most critical to donate. So please give what you can in that regard.
  • While I will by no means and in no way get on any kind of sympathy trip for the perpetrators of this crime, I am thankful that justice seems to have worked out here, that a day in court will be had. In the meantime though I want to express my condolences to the Chechnyan community in particular and the Muslim community in general who I fear might be in for a renewed hard time in light of recent events; I want to praise the many I saw on Twitter in light of this incident reminding us all not to demonize the Islamic community, and I want as well to pray for healing for those in the Tsarnaev family who were innocent – in particular Tamerlan’s 2-year-old-daughter whose life has been changed so much at such a young age by her father’s despicable choices.
  • Let’s not forget the lessons all events like this teach us – the lessons that life can change in a heartbeat, to pursue our dreams and goals, to hold our loved ones close, to spread compassion and to help one another in times of need – Boston exemplified all these things beautifully over the last ten days and have set an example for us all as a city which handled a horrible situation with class, grace and justice. Let’s all strive to be Boston Strong!

Be well. XOXO



et cetera