iPolitics with Erin Tolley 06 April 2018
A call for an apology and widespread condemnation met Doug Ford’s comments about the black community on Friday.
“That’s disgusting and insulting,” University of Toronto Professor Rinaldo Walcott said in response to Ford’s comments that he has supported the black community by taking children to his cottage.
Ford’s comments were made in response to questions about why he isn’t attending Ontario’s first black community provincial leaders debate.
Ford said that he was the the most supportive politician of the black community, second only to his late brother Rob Ford. The proof he pointed reporters to on Thursday afternoon was that he had taken 80 predominantly black kids to his cottage over the last three years.
“These kids have never put their foot in a lake before, they’ve never been on a jet-ski before, they’ve never been out fishing up north in Muskoka. So I have massive support, I love ’em, they love me,” he told reporters.
While that comment is being condemned, his boast about his support for the black community is being met with a request for a retraction and an apology.
“There’s no other politician outside of Rob Ford that has supported the black community more than I have,” he said, also on Thursday.
Operation Black Vote Canada, the group organizing the debate, took exception to his comments saying they don’t hold up to the facts.
“I think he needs to apologize and take that back because it’s definitely not true,” Interim Chair Velma Morgan told iPolitics.
Pointing to the contributions made by politicians like Rosemary Brown, Lincoln Alexander, Jean Augustine and others, Morgan said other politicians “have done so much more than he’s done for our black community.”
“He needs to be able to deal with the real issues that we deal with on a daily basis and I don’t know if he’s actually taking that seriously,” Morgan said.
Ford was not made available for an interview. Instead his spokesperson Melissa Lantsman sent an emailed statement saying “Doug Ford is proud of his record of working hand-in-hand with the black community and looks forward to building on that relationship as premier.”
Asked if Ford would apologize for his statements, Lantsman said the emailed comment would stand.
The president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, Adaoma Patterson, said “the jury is out” on Ford’s support for the black community and that she was “disappointed” by his decision to campaign in Northern Ontario instead of attending next week’s leaders debate hosted by Operation Black Vote Canada.
‘Arrogance’ and ‘thoughtlessness’
“What Mr. Ford said yesterday betrayed his general attitude of arrogance, of thoughtlessness,” Walcott said.
Walcott, who is also the director of the university’s Women and Gender Studies Institute, said Ford’s comments reduce issues facing a community to stereotypes.
He said it perpetuates the myth that “the way you deal with black poverty is to offer them charity as opposed to sound policy on employment, housing, education and so on.”
It’s an important issue, he said, because Ford is hoping to become the premier of the province with the largest black population in the country and the largest poor, working poor and impoverished black population.
“He failed miserably in responding to a set of issues and concerns that are truly important that are truly necessary to be addressed,” Walcott said. Pointing to issues like education, incarceration rates and unemployment and underemployment.
Walcott also had choice words for the journalists scrumming Ford for not challenging Ford on his explanation of how he supports the black community.
“What worries me more though is that — the media — not one of those journalists seems to have followed up with anything substantive to ask him about what that would mean.”
Perpetuating the notion of ‘benevolent providers’
Ford’s comments are consistent with research that shows that in interactions with minority populations, majority populations often frame their role as that of “benevolent providers,” according to University of Toronto Assistant Professor Erin Tolley. But the “danger,” she said, of Ford’s statement is that is takes the power away from a minority and paints them as a charity case.
“It reframes them as a community that needs to be saved, that the white majority community is helping and basically giving handouts,” Tolley said.
She said his choice to campaign in Northern Ontario instead of attending the debate on April 11 comes down to a “calculation” about votes.
“There are more votes in Northern Ontario, more ridings and that’s the consideration that he’s making,” she said.
Ontario’s Anti-Racism Minister Michael Coteau said all parties share responsibility for the issues still facing the black community, but he said Ford’s ideas won’t help solve anything.
“What I’ve heard from people is they need access to childcare, prescription drugs for their kids and the opportunity for them to attend university. No one has talked to me about needing jet-skis and $20 bills,” he said in an emailed statement.