IN THIS CITY
You can never let your guard down. Vicky Mochama on racism in 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
Kingsway Movie Theatre owner Rui Pereira was involved in an incident with actress Wendy Olunike Adeliyi.