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BEISAN ZUBI: This is why we need journalists of colour covering politics

 NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, shown recently campaigning in Ottawa Centre.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, shown recently campaigning in Ottawa Centre. - Postmedia News

The worst part for me is that I don’t see any Black or Brown faces telling me about Trudeau's 'brownface' episode. Because these people would come closer to understanding how complicated my feelings are, and while we’d never be monolithic in how we feel, I’d be less frustrated and alone.

I don’t want to write about what it was like being a Canadian Arab teen in 2001, because it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t want to write about what constitutes a good apology and what the statute of limitations on racist acts should be, because who cares what I think?

I don’t want to write about blackface or brownface, and try to compute my feelings about seeing our prime minister donning both as if I’m any sort of representative or bellwether for Black or Brown Canadians’ feelings, because I’m not.

I want to write about Canadian media, and how when these things happen, the worst part for me is that I don’t see any Black or Brown faces telling me about it. Because I’d know those faces would come closer to understanding how complicated my feelings are, and while we’d never be monolithic in how we feel, I’d feel less frustrated and alone.

Instead of that, I see pictures of the journalists covering the Liberal campaign plane, with not even the hint of a tan in sight.

I see the first responses from the CBC and the Globe and Mail from white voices, wholly unaffected by the issues they’re so quick to comment on.

I see reports that Justin Trudeau hasn’t apologized personally to Jagmeet Singh (who, even though he is Sikh, is not in reality the unofficial spokesperson of all Black and Brown Canadians).

I see Andrew Scheer being allowed to deliver his first statement on the issue without having to answer a single question on his own party’s Islamophobic or racist candidates, let alone his assertion from a few days ago that an apology would suffice for this type of thing anyway.

I see people of colour carrying the burden of not only trying to create representation and amplify non-white voices in a culture that only calls on us when it feels like it could be gauche not to, but also working through their own traumas in public and uncomfortable ways.

I see myself, cracking jokes about how every night is an Arabian Nights party when you’re an Arab, because honestly, I can’t do public anger anymore; it’s too damned exhausting.

But I can’t wait for the day I see something other than this. The day when journalists of colour aren’t tokens or rarities; when issues of race are covered thoughtfully and with nuance; when we think of how meaningful representation can be – that you need to see what you can be to believe you can be it.

But I can’t wait for the day … when journalists of colour aren’t tokens or rarities; when issues of race are covered thoughtfully and with nuance.

I’ll also admit that I’m waiting for a day when Arab Canadians can have a news cycle that doesn’t totally suck.

Until then, Canadian media need to do better. Put some journalists of colour on the political beat and let them exercise their judgment. Forget about trying to get the first responses to news stories about race, and focus on getting the best voices to discuss race.

Stop tokenizing Brown and Black voices and start truly working at diversity.

I want a Canadian media landscape that actually represents the Canadian cultural landscape, but what’s more: we deserve it.

Because I’m tired of having to make jokes about race; it’s a defence mechanism that feels a little too much like wearing a costume.

Beisan Zubi consults in corporate social responsibility in Waterloo, Ont.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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