It is very interesting to see the ways in which the media perceives Black Lives Matter, at sometimes they are viewed as protestors fighting for injustice and other times they are viewed as annoyances or bullies. It makes you think, why are they portrayed in these two lights when they are fighting for important changes? Why is it that they are questioning and demonizing their right to protest? Does it make the public feel uncomfortable knowing that marginalized groups are still oppressed?
In a series of interview conducted by Peter Jackson for his research on the Construction of Criminality, he interviewed community members, organizations and political leaders. One of the respondents provided a statement about protest and the need for justice. Hugh Evelyn, a black parent in Scarborough had this to say:
…each time there is an outcry for justice from black community, there is an attempt to discredit those who come to the fore, by labelling them ‘agitators’. The Dudley Lawses of this society [spokesperson for Back Action Defense Committee] have as much right to peaceful protest as the Art Lymers [Former President of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Association] (Jackson, 1994, p. 233).
This comment is echoed by many others in the movement, it is clear that the media does have a bias when reporting the news, especially concerning Black Lives Matter. The group has both been applauded and demonize in the Canadian media. In the Toronto Star one journalist applauded the work of the organization and that the criticism they face is a form of racism. The article states “as the Star has argued before, criticism of BLM Toronto and its methods often been nothing more than thinly veiled expressions of racism (Toronto Star, 2016).” However, in that same paragraph they criticize how the group gains attention and the tactics they use.
In another article from the Globe and Mail, the journalist Margaret Wente demonizes the group by calling them bullies. She writes:
The new bully on the black is Black Lives Matter, a tiny group of noisy activist who borrow their branding and their belligerence from the United States. They’ve proved they can bully just about anyone, including city hall, the mayor, and the provincial Premier. The Pride Parade was a pushover (Wente, 2016).”
This statement from Wente is problematic, where she labels the organizing and protesting from the group as a form of bullying, which it is not. Black Lives Matter Toronto are protesting for valid reasons, to remove all forms of anti-black racism. Wente is ignorant by brushing these claims overs and reducing the work by the group as noise. It is despairing to read that a marginalize group wanting anit-black laws and policies remove at all levels of government and the response from this journalist is that their bullies.
The group did receive some positive attention from a senior editor from The Huffington Post, Joshua Ostroff wrote an article regarding some the public and medias outcry for the protest at Toronto’s Pride by Black Lives Matter Toronto. He writes:
“So instead of griping about a 25-minute delay, or complaing when people bring up issues that don’t personally affect you, how about adding a little empathy to your pride instead of prejudice? LGBT rights have progressed because of protest and people who have benefited from those actions should look beyond themselves and consider the struggles of those still fighting because Pride is, always has been and always will be, political (Ostroff, 2016).”
After the tragic shooting of Candice Rochelle Bobb in Rexdale, a mother who was pregnant with her son, some of the media began to ask ‘what is Blacks Lives Matter Toronto doing about black on black crime.?’ During a 640 Toronto call-in segment, both the host and callers provided not only inaccurate but racist reasoning for violence in Rexdale. They link the violence in Rexdale due to absentee fathers, the removal of carding, and black on black violence. All of which are incorrect. The first assumption that crime committed in the area is done by black youth due to the lack of black fathers is incorrect. Absentee fathers in the black community is an extremely racist myth, black fathers and black father figures are very much involved in their families. The notion a majority of violence in the area is due to black on black crime and that Black Lives Matter should care more about their community is dismissive. Flynn and Shihadeh (1996) argue that “spatial unevenness is positively associated with serious black violence at the city level (p. 1325).” They also mention that there are factors with the combination of isolation that leads to violence, they include “rates of unemployment, poverty, youth institutional attachment, and female-headed households (p. 1325).” They note that even in communities where black isolation is medium to low there is still a chance for serious violence to take place. Flynn and Shihadeh suggest that “black isolation can also divest black urban communities of the advantages of pluralist politics and makes them vulnerable to economic downturns and government cutbacks (p. 1325).” Communities may not be as polarized as they are in the Unites States, but examining our neighbourhood improvement areas there are some striking similarities. From what Flynn and Shihaded argue there are a number of factors that lead to black on black crime, with spatial uneveness and isolation being the dominant factors. Further, there are other organizations in the Greator Toronto Area and in Rexdale that give those living in this area opportunities instead of turning to crime. Lastly, there is no relationship between stopping racialized individuals and an increase in gun violence. There is nothing that shows that carding, which is a discriminatory policy actually helped to reduce crime (Ontario Humans Rights Commission, 2016).
It is sad to read articles or listen to talk radio that either dismiss the work being done by Black Lives Matter Toronto or to say that they do not belong in Canada, since Canadians are not facing the problems as Americans, this is not true. Media bias can influence how the public perceives issues and organizations like Black Lives Matter Toronto, so it is harmful when there are news sources branding the group ass bullies and nuisances. How do we combat this? If you can, do your own research on Black Lives Matter Toronto and the oppression many marginalized groups face in Canada. Try to diversify how you receive the news, by reading from a number of newspapers both mainstream and independent.
Black Lives Matter should think twice about making outsiders of allies: Editorial. (2016, July 5). The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2016/07/05/black-lives-matter-should-think-twice-about-making-outsiders-of-allies-editorial.html
Flynn, N., & Shihaded, E. (1996). Segregation and crime: the effect of black social isolation on the rates of black urban violence. Social Forces, 74(4), 1325. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T002&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm¤tPosition=4&docId=GALE%7CA18538588&docType=Article&sort=RELEVANCE&contentSegment=&prodId=EAIM&contentSet=GALE%7CA18538588&searchId=R1&userGroupName=yorku_main&inPS=true
Jackson, P. (1994). Constructions of Criminality: Police Community Relations in Toronto. Antipode, 26(3), 216–235.
Ostroff, J. (2016, July 4). Black Lives Matter Protest Proves Pride Needs More Empathy, Less Prejudice. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/joshua-ostroff/toronto-pride-black-lives-matter_b_10801712.html
Mandhane, R. (2016, February 4). Don’t blame the end of carding for an increase in gun violence. Ontario Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/dont-blame-end-carding-increase-gun-violence
Wente, M. (2016, July 4). The bullies of Black Lives Matter. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-bullies-of-black-lives-matter/article30746157/