Desmond Cole’s ‘The Skin We’re In’
For Black History Month, Glossi Mag is profiling and covering creators and artists of color who are making their mark on the cultural industries.
In May 2015, the cover story of Toronto Life magazine shook Canada’s largest city to its core. Desmond Cole’s The Skin I’m In exposed the racist practices of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times Cole had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, went on to win a number of National Magazine Awards and catapulted its author into the public sphere. Cole would go on to use his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis.
Now almost 5 years later, the activist/journalist is looking back in his new book The Skin We’re In, chronicling the events of 2017 in succession ranging from the emergence of Black Lives Matter-TO (BLM-TO) protests, responses to the police killing of Abdirahman Abdi, critiques of the Canada 150 celebrations, the fight to remove police officers from high schools, the coalition to stop the deportation of Abdoul Abdi and the trial of the Theriault bothers charged with brutally attacking Dafonte Miller. As he unravels a narrative of systemic racism embedded within Canadian society, documenting first hand, the personal and intimate lived experience of being black in the true north, Cole challenges the smug and self-righteous assumptions that Canada is a tolerant and post-racial nation.
Cole’s weaves his personal experience within the context of the larger socio-cultural milieu, framing and contextualizing widely publicized events like the Ferguson riots and the Black Lives Matter protest during Toronto Pride with the critical theory that informs the basis of contemporary social justice movements. “White power works in concert with other forms of power”, he writes “including capitalism (the dominance of private profit over public benefit); ableism (the dominance of people deemed able-bodied); cisnormativity (the dominance of people who fit a strict male-female gender binary); patriarchy (the dominance of men); and heteronormativity (the dominance of people who, based on their postion in the gender binary, only accept heterosexuality as normal).
Urgent, controversial and deeply personal, The Skin We’re In challenges the insidious performative wokeness of Canadian culture that insists that racism only exists south of the border. In doing so Cole’s book is a rallying cry for allies and institutions alike to acknowledge and repair the schisms of racial injustice in our country.
Cody Rooney is a Glossi mag contributor.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.