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5.0 out of 5 starsImportant reading for all Canadians
Reviewed in Canada on June 13, 2020
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole was eye opening for me. Here in Canada sometimes we feel like racism is less of a problem, but it really isn’t. The Skin We’re In follows a monthly format where the author shares an incident that happened in that month and explains the back story and details that connect him to it. There were so many details that I did not know about at all and even some whole major issues that I had never heard of.
I am just finished the first of 13 chapters and I am crying. I have read Desmond Cole as a Toronto Star columnist since he started writing there, so I do know him in that way. I certainly agree with all the 5-star reviews here. Why? He writes well, with personal knowledge, emotion and conviction. I really like his breadth and desire for context - especially his incorporation of the indigenous people's history and experience. Those who read his book will realize where that starts from in his life, and it's very Canadian. Oddly it's also very American, in a similar but different way. In Colonial days escaped slaves took refuge with natives to an extent that frightened the European colonists - from the Carolinas to Louisiana, and elsewhere I'm sure. Of course that heightened the White fear and mistreatment of both races. Another fact that should make Americans cringe is that it was not uncommon for white colonists, both male and female, to escape to "Indian" villages and happily stay there, finding their societies to be more civilized and more respectful of women. In some cases white "rescuers" forcibly ripped such women away from their families. And it is well known that George Washington did lots of scouting & land-speculating west of the crest of the Appalachians, where the British had "no-colonizing" treaties with the native tribes. It worked out very well for him after the Revolutionary War. Also there is the fact (seldom taught in American schools) that much of the reason for the Revolutionary War was: (i) the desire to colonize west of the Appalachians and get rid of the "Indians", (ii) the debts many colonists had to Britain or to British landlords or employers (easily fixed by overthrowing the Brits), and (iii) the desire of the southern colonies to escape the about-to-happen British ending of slavery (it ended the slave trade in 1807). Before the Revolution started a third, at most, of American colonists had any interest in independence - most wanted their "Rights as Englishmen". So much for American patriotic idealism, at least racial equality based. Maybe Tom Paine and Ben Franklin a little bit - hardly anybody else. No, Canadians shouldn't be smug about racism, whether concerning indigenous people or African Americans (or Asian immigrants for that matter). But Americans WERE worse in a number of ways. The natives knew that - so they were on the British side in both the Revolution and the War of 1812. They knew what was coming under American rule. They fled north after the Revolutionary War (and so did many white "Loyalists"). The War of 1812 ended with a "status quo ante" agreement with the exception that the British (to their shame) gave up their demand that the Americans respect the native nations south of the border as had been recognized by the British. Yes, many native people died in what was to become Canada but it was mostly by disease not genocide. Yes, white Canadians stole a lot of native land, and the treatment of the Metis by the federal and Ontario governments was shameful. The Ontario part was continued recently by racist Premier Mike Harris and by various Ontario governments re. the Northwest Angle Reserve and the too-long mercury poisoning of the Grassy Narrows community on the English-Wabigoon River system. But Louis Riel is now the "Father of Manitoba" (though he wouldn't have been so designated by the current right-wing Manitoba provincial government). Canadian courts have usually followed the law (an un-American activity) and respected the "nation-to-nation" treaties that were made. That is quite unlike the history of American treaty-making with native people (or anybody for that matter). American governments have abided by treaties only when they have wanted to - either because the treaty benefited the U.S. or because the U.S. wasn't sure it would win a conflict with the the other party. So yes Canada has been better at racial equality & general decency than America has. But a native person in Saskatchewan or NW Ontario might have to squint very hard to see the difference. Or a black person in Toronto's Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Not enough difference for Canadian smugness. Thanks, Mr. James.
5.0 out of 5 starsAn excellent read and extremely eye-opening!
Reviewed in Canada on June 8, 2020
I highly recommend giving this book a read. The author devotes a chapter to each month of 2017 and provides context of events before and after that lead to the experiences outlined in those months. For anyone who doesn't think Canada is "as bad" as the USA in dealing with racism, this book will be extremely eye-opening and challenge all of us to do better.
5.0 out of 5 starsOne of the Best Books I've read!
Reviewed in Canada on October 14, 2020
I wanted to read a book that could enlighten me about racism in Canada. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, I wanted to know more as an immigrant of colour who knew very little about racism in Canada besides the odd news stories. I never experienced blatant racism having lived in a ethnic country, where classism was more prominent. This book was well written and spoke to the heart of the problem. It covered the full spectrum of racism and included other marginalised groups such as LGBTQ. It spoke about the dominance of power and how this affects institutionalised racism, marginalisation and resistance. Book is filled with real life cases and stories. I admit, some parts got me teary. The author is a brilliant writer, the chapters flowed and the book is very well written.
4.0 out of 5 starsSeeing the truth of BIPoC living in Canada
Reviewed in Canada on July 16, 2020
This is a powerful ‘pull back the covers’ look at what Black, Indigenous & People of Colour living in Canada experience. D.Cole’s relentless and unblinking telling of some of those experiences can’t help but alter the perception of the reader... unless of course they already live those traumatic experiences. Thanks to author Cole for presenting this in an engaging, informative and uncompromising manner. Now more than ever, this is a ‘must read’.
This book is amazing. The author did such a great job of taking his own experiences, factual data, news stories and anti-black activism and made it very easy to read while still spreading a very strong and important message. I loved how he explored so many topics affecting black Canadians. For instance, excessive school suspensions, carding, lgbtq+ not getting equal representation by pride, cops in schools with more black students, deportation, and indigenous people's loss of land and life. So much was explored in such an eloquent way. Highly recommend!