One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other
For the record I don't think that being any of the above pre-disposes one to being a piece of shit any more than being none of the above pre-disposes one to being a good person.
In politics though, that tends to not be the case. NDP is a label. PC is a label. Liberal is a label. Labels can be useful...they can also be dangerous because they simplify an often complex world.
I wrote a pretty scathing storify article that apparently has made me some enemies (at least the online trolling kind aka none that matter) because of my "attack" on Olivia Chow and the NDP.
I was told "I'm the real racist" because I called Olivia Chow a racist (I didn't), I was told I was "red-baiting" because I used the term silk stocking socialist and it was apparent the attacker had no idea what the term meant or where it came from and had no intention of learning or even listening to why I used that term.
The crux of my article was that Olivia Chow's handgun ban stunt was destructive because of the harmful media narrative it constructs at a time when violence over all is down in the city. Too often People of colour and racialized, under-served neighbourhoods are used as backdrops for one political pronouncement or another without any real consideration of what the fall out may be when the cameras go off and the politicians go home (never to be seen again until the next photo-op).
I criticized the plan for being disingenuous and not the kind of strategy that a "progressive" politician should use, since progressives claim to be the allies of the downtrodden and marginalized. It wouldn't do one thing to help the situation since "handguns" aren't the issue, poverty is.
I wasn't the only person to speak on this. My buddy Andray Domise who's running for election in Ward 2 (against Rob Ford's nephew Michael Ford) also spoke up about it and was summarily slapped down by Warren Kinsella (a Chow insider and prominent "Progressive").
To her credit, Chow's response to this was to call Andray personally, apologize and have further dialogue.
Her supporters however, have continued to attack not only myself, but Andray as well for being "race-baiters" who are "playing the race card to further our own personal goals" (him to get attention for his city council race and me for my promotional business) as opposed to, you know...people who've spent their whole lives dealing with structural racism and marginalization and think we have something valid to lend to the discussion.
Now to say this is disappointing would be an understatement, but it does illustrate my point about labels and how destructive they can be to political discourse.
Olivia Chow herself used the comment "I'm not White & I'm not male"when asked what makes her different from David Miller. I'm assuming what she meant was that she's not at the top of the privilege totem pole and her not being either of those things gives her unique insight into certain issues that said privilege would insulate her from.
If so, her handgun ban stunt proved otherwise and legitimized my critique of the dangers of labels, be they "Progressive" or "Conservative".
Her followers reaction ranged from tone policing "You sound like a gigantic douchebag" "You may have a point, but being rude and calling people names isn't gonna win anyone over" to outright hyperbolic vitriol "You're the real racist!!! You need to get over your hate and stop looking for a free pass"...no, this wasn't coming from conservative tea partiers...this was coming from dyed in the wool "Progressive" NDP supporters.
None of this "really" bothered me because I know that when people can't attack the message, they attack the messenger. And that's cool. It makes me feel good to know that my point was valid...and it must have been, since like I said, Chow did call Andray and apologize and is meeting with him in the coming weeks to discuss things.
I was accused of calling Olivia Chow a racist because I pointed out the fact that just because someone wears a label like "Progressive" doesn't mean they are immune to the privileges that privilege bestows.
I also don't see the point in discussing "racism", since the real problem is systemic White supremacy...which lead to the same supporters telling me that "you're saying racism doesn't exist!!!!". Sigh.
Chow was wrong and her team was wrong. Her supporters, in continuing to defend the indefensible are wrong. Mainly because they wouldn't be privy to know of her conversation with Andray or the subsequent work that WILL come out of this to make our city a better place for all.
We live in a classist society. Olivia Chow is a privileged person. Her gender and ethnicity don't make her an expert or saint anymore than John Tory's gender or ethnicity make him a demon.
As Andray so eloquently put it,"I spoke on politicians having blind spots, which can be addressed through diversity & better representation. All of us have them".
And he's right. We all do. I may be straight, male and Black, but I for sure have privileges that being straight and male would insulate me from.
What I encountered from Chow's supporters (whether it be Warren Kinsella telling Andray he doesn't know what he's talking about and to piss off, then blocking him so he couldn't respond or the angry NDP guy on Reddit, telling me that I'm a racist, race card player who called Olivia Chow a racist for pointing out the inanity of her campaign stunt) are people who are so sure that they are "right" because they wear the label "Progressive" that they couldn't possibly be wrong. The irony that I was trying to explain that I "wasn't racist" and that "White Supremacy" isn't an inane theory to what most likely was a White male who just didn't "get" what I was saying wasn't lost one me, by the way. Funny how being a "Progressive" doesn't change that...but I digress.
What I'm also seeing is alot of them drawing paralells between John Tory and Rob Ford, because they share some of the same labels, but couldn't be any more different. And it's unfair and dangerous.
Just for some context and in the spirit of full disclosure...I'm a card carrying member of the Liberal Party Of Canada, I was told to "Vote fi Trudeau mon!" before I even knew what a Trudeau was and in the event that I couldn't vote for Trudeau or a Liberal, my next piece of advice was "Vote Hen DEE PEE! Dem good too!".
John Tory may be a "privileged, straight, white, male, Conservative", but that's about where the similarities between him and Rob Ford end. I first met him at Yonge-Dundas Square during "The Summer Of The Gun". He was with Peter Kent heading up an initiative called UTAG...Uniting Toronto Against Guns. His "answer" to the sweeping gun violence that occured that summer (and previous to the boxing day shooting that lead to the death of Jane Creba) was pulling together all the people who had something to lose with this problem. He had everyone there. Business leaders, community leaders, government leaders and the police.
His solution was a "big tent" one (sort of like the campaign he is running now) where he got everyone involved to work on the issue from multiple angles. It impressed me. I appreciated and was pleasantly surprised to see two "Conservatives" approaching the problem in a meaningful, smart, effective way.
Contrast that with Olivia Chows "call" for a handgun ban, that while not only being improbable was also harmful in that it sensationalized and entered into the Mayoral race something that isn't even a "current" issue in one of the most harmful ways possible.
Olivia Chow, to her credit owned this blind spot and I'm sure some fantastic work will come out of this teachable moment. For her. Her supporters that I've encountered on the other hand, well, they just don't get it. They are so caught up that I would dare to attack the label "Progressive" that they didn't even see the irony in the whole situation, their response to my critique of it or just how badly their privilege was showing...and it showed itself in the ugliest ways.
Olivia Chow may wear the label "Progressive" but that's about where the similarities between her and some of her supporters end. John Tory may wear the label "Conservative", but that's about where the similarities between him and Rob Ford end.
That's the thing about labels, they categorize, but they don't characterize.
One would do well to keep that in mind this election cycle.