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article imageOp-Ed: Rob Ford: Toronto's first black mayor

By Sylvannia Soulet     Jul 13, 2014 in Politics
Toronto - An opinion piece in defense of Toronto's most divisive and infamous mayor Rob Ford, and the city's brutal treatment towards him.
Rob Ford is Toronto’s first black mayor.
I’ll forgive you for thinking me visually impaired for making such a statement. Also, I would expect to defend myself from the imminent knee-jerk reaction of that being a “racist” comment; when I proposed the idea on Facebook, I was immediately accused of associating drug use, anti-intellectualism, bullying and deceit as predominantly “black” traits. What am I trying to say, that Rob Ford’s the Toronto version of Kwame Kilpatrick?
Make no mistake, dear reader — I do not intend to be a sensationalist. After all, former President Bill Clinton is often lauded for embracing the title as the "first black president", a title he so earned for being a politician of the people, a likeable man with arguably more charisma than the current (actually) black president residing in the White House.
In the sake of full-disclosure, I’ll be quick to admit how easy it was to join in on the anti-Ford rhetoric when I first moved to Toronto in 2011. It only seemed natural to lambast an elected official that was not only threatening my sanctuary of public libraries, but would also defend a brother that couldn’t even recognize author and national treasure Margaret Atwood!
But in the months following Crackgate, I’ve softened my stance on our mayor, and have even started to question the competence of reporting in Toronto, which is all too happy to delve into a media circus frenzy rivaling that of the tabloids in U.K..
The public is brainwashed by this constant stream of defamatory journalism (the Toronto Star jumped on the opportunity to reveal that the mayor was disruptive during his stint in rehab, relying on the accounts of individuals who can conveniently remain anonymous on the grounds of confidentiality) and is so quick to forget any of the good Ford had accomplished during his run. Whether you agree with his methods or not, Ford made a concerted effort through his conservative leanings to stave off the “gravy train” of government expenditures, a move the current council was all too happy to rectify upon stripping Ford of his power (attempting and failing at increasing their own salaries by 13 percent). Curiously enough, no one says boo about mayoral candidate Olivia Chow living in subsidized housing when it’s supposed to be for tenants in need — perhaps the supporters overlook this apparent “double-dipping" and consider it an act of altruism, like Pope Francis eschewing the papal apartments for more humble accommodations. Would Ford have been forgiven so easily forgiven?
Last Friday, Ford stopped on his way to the office to greet some schoolchildren, high-fiving them and signing autographs, while the half-naked social justice warriors crowed “Resign! Resign!” in the background. And let’s not forget his heroics in rescuing Canada’s oldest elected official from getting intimate with a salmon. No, that doesn’t mesh with the bumbling doofus of a crack-smoking wretch that sensationalist “news” channels like CP 24 insist on regurgitating ad nauseum.
My issue isn’t about Ford’s efficacy as the mayor, but rather why there is such a dedicated witch hunt to vilify him. Which brings me back to the reason why I consider Ford our black mayor.
The term “black” doesn’t exclusively prescribe to race. It could also be used to describe, as Collins English dictionary defines it, “something wicked or harmful” or “causing or deserving dishonour or censure.” There be Bobby in spades (pun vehemently NOT intended).
One could also consider Rob Ford the “black sheep” of Toronto politics or Canadian politics as a whole, inevitably conjuring up images of Chris Farley at the helm of one of Canada’s most prolific cities (it’s difficult not to make comparisons; aside from their similar girth, one would have to be somewhat light on their toes, be they a football player or an actor.)
The way I refer to Rob Ford as our black mayor has to do with how Toronto as a whole perceives him. As someone different from the fold. Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism and its celebrated diversity, That said, it is guilty, just like any other place on the globe, of the evils of discrimination or, in the context of this piece, “subtle racism.” While Canada does not adhere to the overt racism of the United States, it has its own insidious brand that socially ostracizes and isolates while simultaneously giving the appearance of acceptance.
Let’s be glib: Rob Ford is no one’s vision of a mayor. He’s the odd man out, he’s out of shape, and he has smoked crack by his own admission. The morally bigoted people of Toronto cannot oust him, so they employ their time-tested brand of subtle discrimination. Toronto opts to paint Ford as inferior to the citizens who bestowed upon him his very power.
Rob Ford not only evokes both the positive and negative stereotypes of black culture, but he also reflects back upon Toronto its own haughty nature. Its whole-holier-than-thou attitude, while not precisely the same as traditional racism, still portrays the city as harbouring the world’s most glass house stone-throwers.
So when October 27 rolls around and Toronto votes, it’s very likely they will choose someone else who more closely embodies the culture of their city, both in physical stature and in spending habits. But should it eventually come out that he or she misappropriates funds and spends as lavishly as a second Adrianne Clarkson, then perhaps the city will finally be remedied of its inherent smugness.
After all, it will have gotten exactly what it asked for and deserved.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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