Black Lives Matter Told Toronto Mayor John Tory To ‘Stay In His Lane.’ White Media Pundits Take Note

People who've never experienced racism shouldn't be detracting from this fight.

Manisha Krishnan

Manisha Krishnan

It seems everyone has a hot take on the Black Lives Matter protest that took place during Toronto's Pride parade Sunday.

But at a press conference Thursday, the group of anti-racism activists essentially said, unless you're contributing to the movement, we don't want to hear it.

Addressing his comments to Mayor John Tory, BLMTO co-founder Rodney Diverlus, a gay black man said, "I want to make it very clear to Mayor Tory that he has no place in this discussion and he needs to stay in his lane."

Following BLMTO's demand that Toronto police floats be excluded from future Pride events, Tory wrote a letter to Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto Police Association, in which he said "I, for one, appreciate both the support for Pride and all that it represents coming from the police officers who march as well as the professional way in which they have kept Pride and its participants safe all these years."

He added that he was "confident" the police's participation in Pride would continue.

Diverlus accused Tory of politicking.

"We are not interested in his sound bites, we are not interested in his vapid interest in this community," he said. "This is a conversation that warrants real community investment, real discussion, real hurtful, painful, sad revelations. Politicking and his interventions have no place in that."

It's not hard to understand Diverlus' frustration. Especially because Tory is far from the only one spouting off "sound bites" without having any authority to speak about systemic racism.

Black Lives Matter Toronto is not here to make friends. When questioned as to why they would alienate allies by disrupting Pride—an event at which they were honoured guests—they replied "Are you serious, right now? Allies over community? Never." At their events, they ask white people to move back and give room to black people. During Pride, they didn't let white allies buy their We Will Win t-shirts. Why? Because these things aren't for white people. BLMTO is here to give the most marginalized voices—black voices—a platform.

And yet, many of the people weighing in this week are white boomers in Canadian media who—surprise—have been pretty critical of BLMTO's tactics and are empathetic towards the cops. Based on their insistence that having police around makes them feel so safe, these are people who've likely never had to worry about being carded, arrested, beaten, or killed because of the colour of their skin.

The Globe's Margaret Wente called BLMTO "bullies," while her colleague Marcus Gee, in a column published Wednesday, said "the organizers of Pride Toronto should stand up to the police bashing by Black Lives Matter and make it clear that uniformed police are welcome at Pride, floats, booths and all."

Using a term like "police bashing" seems shockingly tone deaf when you consider the current outrage and grief over the deaths of two black American men shot by cops seemingly without cause. When he was gunned down, Alton Sterling, a dad, was selling CDs in a spot where he had permission to do so, and cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile was retrieving his driver's license, his girlfriend and her young daughter watched him die. Horrific videos of both encounters are now being shared all over social media.

Those scenarios are a legitimate fear for black people who've lived their entire lives experiencing institutional racism, and yet, those who could never picture it happening to them still somehow feel compelled to say something—even when they admit they have nothing to add.

"What one does as a white straight person with no actual dog in the race (but of course for my share of the substantial city of Toronto, provincial and federal funding of the thing) is giggle stupidly," wrote Christie Blatchford in the National Post.

Maybe what one could do instead is shut up.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.