Photo by Andre Furtado on

Where do I begin?

How does one encapsulate an experience? Share someone’s truth? Honour anothers voice?

Very. Very. Carefully…

What does it really mean to be Black in Canada? How do you combat the belief that there’s no racism in the Great White North? And I’m not only referring to our infamous Winters.

What do you say to someone who believes that those “horrible incidents” that happen to Black people only happens in the States?

For many people of colour, we’ve become tired of saying anything at all, feeling we have to justify our lived experiences, validate our truth somehow. It has not only become tiresome to always have to “explain” our existence; it has led to feelings of frustration, hopelessness and emotional exhaustion.

How does one accept the skin they’re in when it’s that very skin that is viewed as something negative?

You become an advocate for change. Someone who fights to break down the foundations of society that were built to benefit one group over the lives of others.

Desmond Cole’s book, The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, may be shocking to some, yet hauntingly familiar to others.

Born in Red Deer, Alberta, Cole grew up in Oshawa, Ontario and was introduced to the subtle aspects of instituional racism at a very young age. From crayons that were beige-ish pink named “skin colour”, to classmates and strangers at the bus station asking him if he had a brother, as if “Black people in their city were related”, Cole became aware of his blackness. Even ashamed (Cole, 15).

Struggling with his identity for most of his adult life, Cole learned to embrace his “skin”, his “ancestry”, his “struggle” and began to use his platform as a journalist to shed light on the current state of “being Black” in Canada, more specifically Toronto.

He embarks on a journey to raise awareness of the Toronto Police force and their discriminatory and often violent treatment of Black people and fights against policies that continue to support racist actions.

On his journey, Cole encounters people and organizations who have taken up the fight to end anti-Black racism in Canada. Groups such as Black Lives Matter.

He also encounters a lot of push back from the newspaper who once supported him and the police organization he repeatedly challenges.

As a person of colour, there were so many instances where I nodded my head in agreement or felt my stomach constrict with shared pain and anxiety.

This is why The Skin We’re In is required reading for ALL Canadians, as it challenges you to see things through a different lens, a different perspective, a different mindset.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on

Are we better off than we were a hundred years ago? I’m not sure how to answer that because the reality is that Black lives do not appear to matter. Slavery has morphed into an entirely new entity, one that continues to deny Black people basic human rights. The right to walk or run down a street without being harmed or killed. The right to live where we want, get a house or a job where we want based on our qualifications not the colour of our skin. The right to say and do what we want. The right to wear our hair how we want. The right to be innocent without the assumption of guilt.

The right. The right. The right….. Why does right sound so wrong?

The right to just. BE.

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