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Importing the Perception of Systemic Racism into Canada
From Rodney King to George Floyd
By James Pew and Mr. M, for the series The Great Illiberal Subversion: How Radical Activists Ru(i)n Western Democracies.
“Illiberal subversion, as it regards this series, refers to the “work” of radical activists and social agitators who force their will on society through a long on-going web of processes involving incremental efforts that chip away at the pillars of western democracies. Attacking and undermining public institutions as Gramsci had it - “a revolution from within” - through a drawn-out complex of affairs perhaps best viewed as death by a thousand cuts, the radical activists entrench in individual departments until they colonize an entire organization and effectively wield enough power to shape its directives. Once this happens to enough of the institutions (or pillars) of society (and it already has), the radical subverters effectively wield power over everyone, the power to shape social right and social wrong.” - The Ontology of the Great Illiberal Subversion
Last week I published The Radical Subversion of Canadian Education to my substack The Turn. It marks the first in a loosely structured series documenting the development of critical social justice (CSJ) in Canadian education. What you are reading now is fair to call the second edition. Last week’s edition dealt with the same era we are discussing today: the late 1980s to early 1990s.
It was shocking to me when the research group we call Lighthouse Think Tank, put the historical material together which detailed the beginning of government mandated anti-racism and equity in Ontario. Legislation in the early 1990s marked the entry point of CSJ in Ontario. This was during Bob Rae’s NDP government (1990 - 1995), but the ideology was rolled back when Mike Harris’s 1996 conservative government removed all the anti-racism and equity efforts from Ontario schools. Apparently, not for long. More on Mike Harris in a future post.
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“Anti-black racism has become systemic in Ontario and must be rooted out.”
Surely the above quote originated from a Black Lives Matter supporter, sometime after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd. A fair assumption. It’s what I would have thought had I not discovered it as the leading line from an article published in the Globe and Mail on June 10, 1992. What is also interesting, is that this conclusion regarding systemic racism was referring mostly to police killings of black people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). As today, activists like the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), worked hard to convince the public of systemic anti-black racism. Their argument focused heavily on five police killings of black people from 1978 to 1992.
In most cases those killed were not complying with police, to the extent that some were killed in the process of armed attacks against police. But regardless, in the GTA over the 17-year period from 1978 to 1995, 9 black people were killed by police1. That does not seem like a systemic issue at all when you consider the size of the Greater Toronto Area. In 1992, the population was 3,976,000, with a black population in the hundreds of thousands.
During the subsequent period from 1996 to 2017, a span of 21 years, thirteen black men were killed by police2. While all deaths by police are tragic and unfortunate, these numbers do not come close to characterizing systemic racism. Quite the opposite. Especially when you consider 2016 census data puts the population of black people in the GTA at 442,0153. But activists have tools to twist the truth into a narrative that suits their needs.
The truth being that race troubles experienced in Toronto in 1992 were a direct result of the more serious troubles south of the border, involving the vicious assault of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department, and the verdict of not guilty for the four officers who were caught on camera beating him with their batons. The verdict sparked the infamous LA riots. The Toronto activist group, the BADC, used the Rodney King verdict and a Toronto police killing that occurred around the same time, of a 22-year-old black man named Raymond Lawrence - who had “brandished” a knife while resisting arrest - as the justification to hold a protest in downtown Toronto. It started out peaceful but turned into a full-on riot that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage.
Known as either the “Young Street Riots,” if you condemned it as an act of mindless mass vandalism, or the “Young Street Uprising,” if you were sympathetic to the cause of black activists as many were, including the media. There is a parallel between the George Floyd murder of 2020 - which posited that the killing was endemic of something far wider - and its resulting rush to pass through sweeping anti-racism policies in grand gestures of atonement and racial reconciliation, with the early 1990s era of Rodney King, which also inspired an urgency to pass anti-racism legislation. In both eras, individual police killings and beatings are the sad stories focused on, but systemic racism is the narrative that results.
Rarely does the story put the extreme infrequency of fatal police shootings into focus. Instead, those with an agenda strive to mold the story and present it as something systemic.
Somewhere in the post-truth spin of the activists and media, a story emerges pre-shaped into a form that, if effective, the public will believe without question. In too many cases, what we believe is what we find acceptable, after activists manipulate the naive and credulous media into making it so.
After the riots, premier Bob Rae appointed social democrat and lifelong Marxist, Stephen Lewis to investigate the state of racism in Ontario. This resulted in the 1992 Report of the Advisor on Race Relations, hereafter referred to as the Lewis report. The possibility that the riots were caused by radical black activists and social dissidents fomenting discontent throughout the community was not even considered. This is shocking since the low number of black people killed by police in Canada’s largest most multicultural city was nowhere near a rate commensurate with a systemic issue, as claimed by the BADC. It seems the trend from the early 1990s up to today is to both assume racism is endemic, and to exaggerate and conflate the root causes with the systems that order society, like policing and education.
Also as seen above, the 1992 Globe and Mail piece which quoted Lewis, used the term “anti-black racism,” as did the Lewis report itself. This was a new term at the time, coined by the BADC, and popularized by black sociologist Akua Benjamin, a radical activist professor from Ryerson University in Toronto. "Coined during the 1990's by grassroots and working-class intellectuals in Toronto’s Black community, the concept of anti-Black racism emerged as an analytical weapon in the struggles against racism in policing by the Black community."4
The Black Action Defense Committee was founded in the GTA by Dudley Laws, a black nationalist and devotee of the U.S. black nationalist icon Marcus Garvey. As a black nationalist, Laws put black identity first and foremost, and believed in things like afro-centric schools. The Lewis Report reads as if it were co-written with Laws or other members of the BADC. When we consider how the sequence of events leading to antiracism and equity legislation intersects with the BADC, something like the following takes shape: In the wake of the Rodney King verdict, the BADC organized the protest that led to the Young Street Riots. The riots in turn led the NDP government to conclude through the Lewis report that one thousand plus angry rioters somehow equates to systemic racism. This led to the passing of bill 21, the NDP government’s antiracism and ethnocultural equity bill, which included the radical language of BADC, such as their own term “anti-black racism.”
The entire story of systemic anti-black racism in Canada was, and is, constructed by radical academics and activists, including black nationalists with a mission to undermine the social fabric and liberal order of Canadian society. They are very slick about it. In doing so, they evoke feelings of guilt weaponized to influence the public, and the idiotic media and politicians, into supporting policies that forward their disruptive semi covert black nationalist radical agenda.
Interestingly, the Lewis report - which provoked the passing of Bill 21 inserting antiracism training in Ontario schools - followed the rhetoric and terminology of retired supreme court judge Rosalie Silberman Abella. In 1984, judge Abella - who was often described as an activist and a feminist judge - chaired her own commission on employment equity and wrote a report called "Equality in Employment: A Royal Commission Report,” serving as the impetus for the 1986 Federal Employment Equity Act.
In the 1984 report, we see the first ever use of the term "visible minority" - a term which only exists in Canada, and which had been created by black feminist radicals like Kay Livingstone, but wasn't instantiated into policy and legal practice until judge Abella's report in 1984, and the related act in 1986.
Lewis’ "findings,” much like judge Abella’s, were produced more than anything from consulting black community representatives (read radical black community activists). The Lewis report invokes judge Abella’s sentiments by centering problems of "systemic discrimination" effecting "visible minorities.”
“The eight shootings over the last 4 years, and the sense, real or imagined, of unpredictable police encounters with Black youth has many families very frightened. I will admit to you that nothing left so indelible an impression on me as the expressions of apprehension and fear.” - Stephen Lewis (Report of the Advisor on Race Relations to the Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae June 9, 1992)
In the quote above we can detect in the language of Stephen Lewis his reliance on the postmodern relativism of individual truths and lived experience. While it may be true that black families were frightened, in reality the issue may have been consistent with the possibility admitted but seemingly dismissed; that the reasons for the fear were not true, but imagined. The over reliance on the stories of community members, coupled with the fact that most were not regular community members, but black activists with a grievance, is not something the public was ever made aware of.
Socialist politicians, the media, and the tiny fraction of aggrieved community activists repeated their mantras of “antiblack racism” and “systemic racism” until a compliant public accepted them. It doesn’t require much effort or resources to pull this off. Small groups of people, having their own ambitions, interests, and agendas, come together in tacit agreement that an enormous and awful problem definitely exists, regardless of the stats and facts - they know it undoubtedly because someone has assembled carefully curated personal stories which emphasize emotions, not empirically verifiable data. People are upset and scared, they say. It’s definitely white supremacy and there is no need to argue about it, we need government mandated equity and antiracism right away and anyone who tries to slow us down or get in our way, is nothing but a far-right bigot.
We can’t address the problem in a meaningful way until the public becomes thoroughly sick of hearing this tune play over and over. Antiracism is an opportunistic exaggeration. It is anti-white. It is pro-black nationalist and anti-liberalism/anti-capitalism. It's worth noting that it is always left-wing politicians and media that rush to support the radical identity politics of these subversive movements built on false problems created by opportunistic activists. In 1992 the Rodney King story was imported from the United States, to convince Canadians that they too were just like those evil cops beating the crap out of Rodney King.
“In the spring of 1992, the jury acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers caught on tape beating Rodney King with nightsticks sparked riots across south central Los Angeles and demonstrations elsewhere, including Toronto. Two days before a planned protest by Canada’s Black Action Defence Committee outside the city’s United States consulate, Toronto police shot and killed Raymond Lawrence, a black 22-year-old man they said was selling drugs and brandished a knife when chased. It was the fourth killing of a black person by police in the area in as many years, and became the focus of what initially began as a peaceful march. Over the course of that early May afternoon, the crowd of demonstrators quickly swelled to more than 1,000 people as vandals and looters joined, breaking windows and turning over hotdog carts. The event came to be called the Yonge Street Riots."5
This whole debacle marks the beginning of an era we are still stuck in, where activist-dictated antiracism is forced on Canadians (who are not racist). In 1992 the media could have pushed back on claims of systemic racism. They could have pointed out that five black men killed by police within such a large population over 14 years, does not meet the level of “systemic”. They could have asked, besides stories from mostly black activists and social agitators, what are you basing the very serious claims of systemic racism on?
But they didn’t mention or ask any of those things, and they still don’t.
Thanks for reading. Here is the next essay in the series - Charting the Great Illiberal Subversion in Canadian Education (substack.com)
For a complete index (with summaries) of The Great Illiberal Subversion series of essay’s, check out The Ontology of the Great Illiberal Subversion.
Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System, 1995 pg. 378
2004 dissertation of Akua Benjamin (a Marxist feminist sociologist)