You can never let your guard down. Vicky Mochama on racism in Toronto

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - Vicky Mochama metro | Toronto

Toronto’s new ad cam­paign says, “In this city, it’s okay to let your guard down.”

Ap­par­ently not for Toronto ac­tress Wendy Olu­nike Adeliyi, who went to the Kingsway Theatre to see a movie on Fri­day and ended up hav­ing the po­lice called on her.

Theatre staff re­fused to sell her a ticket un­less she left her back­pack be­hind. She re­fused, and the theatre owner even­tu­ally called the po­lice.

Adeliyi, cur­rently star­ring in CBC’s TV se­ries Workin’ Moms, told my col­league that the owner de­scribed her to po­lice as “a black wo­man wear­ing black and be­ing dis­rup­tive.”

The owner, Rui Pereira, told Torstar News Ser­vice that he men­tioned her race to po­lice when prompted to de­scribe her by the dis­patcher.

Call­ing the po­lice and us­ing race to de­scribe a black per­son is a dan­ger­ous ex­er­cise in white supremacy. In a so­ci­ety founded by and for white supremacy, the po­lice are a tool of white supremacy. When de­scrib­ing skin colour, a caller knows, tac­itly or overtly, that in any en­counter the po­lice are likely to side with the white per­son.

To some that will seem like a wild state­ment. But it is true of our lives and backed by ev­i­dence.

White supremacy isn’t just hoods and burning crosses. It is also the choices made by peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions to keep non-white peo­ple afraid in pub­lic life.

At a school in Mississauga last Septem­ber, po­lice were called on a six-year-old who was throw­ing, as six-yearolds do, a tantrum. The black child was hand­cuffed.

At a gallery in Toronto, po­lice were called to a party where co-owner John Sa­muels, a black man, was tasered, ac­cord­ing to a Jan­uary re­port on Cana­dian Art’s web­site.

At a cof­fee shop in Ottawa, po­lice were called to in­ter­vene af­ter “re­ports of a man caus­ing a dis­tur­bance.” Ab­di­rah­man Abdi, a So­mali man, died. A po­lice of­fi­cer was charged Mon­day with man­slaugh­ter.

These are only a hand­ful of pub­li­cized sto­ries. This doesn’t in­clude the sto­ries black peo­ple share among them­selves.

To de­scribe to the po­lice “a black per­son” who is ques­tion­ing the rules is to know that the po­lice are a dan­ger to black peo­ple.

While there are ef­forts to change that, the fact is the po­lice re­main an ever-present threat to our lives.

In this city, you can never quite let your guard down.

Ac­tress Wendy Olu­nike Adeliyi says she was de­nied en­trance to the Kingsway Movie Theatre re­cently be­cause she was car­ry­ing a back­pack. Theatre owner Rui Pereira de­nies what hap­pened next was due to racism. ED­UARDO LIMA METRO

Jayme Poisson/TorsTar news ser­vice File

Kingsway Movie Theatre owner Rui Pereira was in­volved in an in­ci­dent with ac­tress Wendy Olu­nike Adeliyi.

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