Columnists stance ‘problematic’

December 14, 2016   ·   0 Comments

I regularly read Rob Bredin’s op-eds with a good deal of incredulity, but last week’s collection of self-righteous personal anecdotes really took the cake.

Entitled “Surely All Lives Matter The Same”, Mr. Bredin’s column references the Black Lives Matter movement with both condescension and troubling obliviousness. This insistence on “all lives” seems to me the equivalent of a pout, and it’s a problematic stance because it deliberately turns a blind eye to racial inequity.

I don’t mean to be facetious, but do I need to define inequity? The title’s tone-deaf assertion turned out to be the theme of Mr. Bredin’s column. He details an encounter in a McDonald’s, in which he witnessed a woman he presumes to be Somali warn her children that they must not trust the police. Rather then reflecting on this exchange and considering that perhaps her experiences with the police haven’t been as positive as his, he decides to chastise her in front of her children and other restaurant patrons, effectively announcing that her lived experience is less valid than his, and her autonomy as a parent is irrelevant to him.

Perhaps he feels entitled to insert himself in this discussion because she’s a woman? Perhaps because she’s a woman of colour? Perhaps because English isn’t her first language? He doesn’t tell us directly why exactly he feels so superior to her, but I’m going to take his lead and make the assumption that it’s all of the above.

While we’re on the topic of personal anecdotes, I recently had an interaction with the police. They and the other first responders I encountered were incredibly respectful, professional and empathetic. They made me feel safe in a moment of great stress. But I have also wondered if the encounter would have gone differently were I not white, middle-class and visibly pregnant.

I would hope not. But my experience does not define all experiences. Over the last month, Mr. Bredin has been railing against the scourge of “political correctness”, as illustrated by his reverence for the U of T professor who has been in the news for being unwilling to use gender-neutral pronouns. But at its most basic, political correctness refers to common decency and respect. It is the act of listening to an individual who has been marginalized and recognizing that their experiences, however foreign, are as valid as one’s own.

In telling us about his encounter at the McDonald’s, Mr. Bredin illustrates that he doesn’t have this capacity and indeed, has little interest in developing it. (In fact, he often seems more interested in portraying himself as the marginalized one, which, coming from a white man on a panel of exclusively white men writing op-eds for The Citizen, is almost comical.) Though I am confident that Mr. Bredin and I would find little to agree on, I am not unwilling to consider his viewpoint, were he able to do away with the cynical bravado, condescension and snark that seems to be his default tone. I invite him to give it a try.

Melissa McGrath

Orangeville ON

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