Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What If Rob Ford Wasn't White?

It has been a while since my last entry, but with the madness circulating media outlets with the events unfolding in Missouri, I felt compelled to add my two cents on the topic of racial bias and how it is affecting the direction of our society.

As per usual, the media seems to always find a way of provoking outrage among the public by focusing on racial tensions and differences. Unfortunately, society makes this task quite easy, as one does not have to look very far to witness racialization among different cultural groups.

The police are often the easiest target regarding this, mainly because of the recent expansion allocated to their budgets and directives. A police officer in modern society packs more heat than the average GI in WWII, while this isn't surprising via a technology standpoint, it does invoke anxiety looking at it via a social and political standpoint.  Give someone enough firepower to knock down a house and act surprised when they actually do it?

Looking back at the scandal that surrounded Rob Ford and directly gave him infamy both in Canada and the United States, one has to question if his experience would be different had his skin colour been much darker. Many of the individuals starring in the crack videos with Rob Ford have either been incarcerated or killed, granted "workplace hazard" is common in the drug trade.  Even that phrase though, I saw the tape and Rob Ford's "friend's" had dark skin and the first thing I associated was a politician and his drug dealers as opposed to a politician and his friends doing drugs. CBC and other media outlets made sure to specify that those other individuals identified as members of the drug trade, but the connections have become way to common for my liking.

You could argue that individuals of colour have been in politics before and have been caught doing drugs, but have also came out on top. One good example being Marion Barry, former Mayor of Washington DC, who was also taped smoking crack cocaine. He eventually admitted to his offence, paid the price and later ran and won re-election. While his story is one of trial and tribulation, I cannot easily compare him with Rob Ford. Barry was deemed a civil rights success when he won his election and became famous because of it, later losing some of that fame due to his drug use. Ford on the other hand became famous due to his drug use as opposed to his election as quite possibly the dumbest mayor in Toronto.

Sadly, I believe had mayor Ford been of a minority group within this country, his process would have differed greatly. I cannot say for sure exactly how it would have played out, but I am quite positive he most likely would have been dealt with more severely and probably would have been arrested by now.

The question that remains is not only if this is a sign over a greater issue regarding racial stereotyping and punishment, but if political society in and of itself is still centered on the notion of white elitist males who can essentially do no harm. Frankly, it could be a little bit of both.

Ask yourself, would you line up to have your photo taken with Rob Ford if he was an over weight black man having admitted to crack? I look at most of the fan culture related to Ford's embarrassing show and the majority of people taking photos seem to be young and white. Which would explain the pop culture attraction Ford has created via his stupidity. Another question that stems from this is how it will impact political culture if he actually wins in the upcoming election? What precedent will be set if a politician admits to drug use and doesn't quite change completely, yet still retains his ability to run? Are we supporting a double standard in society that has probably existed for a long time now, but needs to be questioned?

While Marion Barry was lucky to win back the support of his constituents after his crime, one still must feel weary regarding the conduct of the officials we are electing to run our cities, provinces and country as a whole. I mean, there is no entry exam to determine political eligibility aside from an election, but come on! If our politicians are the physical embodiments of the very issue causing division and inequality within our society, where are we going from here?

How can we address racial bias and where do we draw the line to racialization if we hope to evoke positive change? In the Missouri example, we have blatant racism crossing the line from an accident to a full blown cause and effect situation. However, how can American society as well as Canadian society truly transcend when the very images and stereotypes that our society is tormented by are acceptable in television, movies and music. A "white" man cannot call a "black" man the N word, but we still see "black" men empowering themselves by calling each other it! This I believe has to stop in order to make actual progress.

Mayor Ford really fell into a stereotype himself and probably didn't even realize it. He continually states that he enjoys befriending individuals of certain cultural groups and then after being accused of crimes that are often stereotypically attributed to those groups, gets off with little to no punishment. Meanwhile, the irony of it all is that the very individuals he calls friends video taped the ordeal, only to have it backfire on themselves. Ford may seem like a dirty politician, but ask anyone how they feel about politicians in general and you will most likely witness dirty in the explanation anyways.

Will Rob Ford learn from this mistake? Will the people of Toronto learn from this mistake? Can society learn from it's own mistakes and bring all sides together to transcend a problem we should have transcended fifty years ago? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you for sure.

What do you think? I would appreciate some feedback on this and am interested in hearing how racial stereotypes have affected you and more importantly how you feel when people in power are treated differently based on their status and culture?

Until Next Time!