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Ferguson Riots: “We Should Confront our Stereotypes About Race”
New Canadian Media (2014)
  • Daniel McNeil
For better or worse, much of our Canadian media, culture and society can be understood as a response to the media, culture and society of the United States. In sickness and in health, Canadians distance themselves from the types of violence and racial injustice that they associate with their neighbours to the south. Following the death of Michael Brown – the unarmed 18-year-old black man killed in August by police in Ferguson, Missouri – the Canadian media reported violent protests that damaged the properties and businesses of their largest trading partner. Following the more recent decision of a U.S. grand jury not to indict the police officer who killed Brown,Canadian journalists emphasized the non-violent nature of Canadian vigils held for Brown and his family.   
Since it does not challenge narratives of Canadian peace, order and good governance, Canadian journalists have also been able to pay close attention to the different stages of grief expressed by Americans on the news. They highlight portrayals of angry American conservatives who treat the social activism of young people of colour as a threat to the harmony of their nation. They note the anger with which American pundits trot out the red herring of “black on black crime.” And they acknowledge the types of bargaining in which calls for truth, justice and the American way are replaced with pictures that are more in keeping with hugs, smiles and the sentimental way.  
Yet Canadians rarely stop to consider whether sentimentality – “the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion,” “the mark of dishonesty” and “the signal of secret and violent humanity” – might be a global problem rather than an American one. We don’t consider why America’s racial divisions are treated as a national shame when its multiracial military and cultural products are understood to be issues of global concern. We don’t ask why American journalists call for a national conversation about race even when their articles appear in global news outlets that discuss the fatal shootings of Black Britons by white police officers. Nor do we point out the arrogance of people in the West who bristle at the thought of comparing the United States with nations in the global South, and are shocked by statistics that show similar levels of racial segregation between Chicago and Johannesburg, or a greater wealth gap between black and white in the United States than in South Africa under Apartheid.
Publication Date
December 3, 2014
Citation Information
Daniel McNeil. "Ferguson Riots: “We Should Confront our Stereotypes About Race”" New Canadian Media (2014)
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