I am withdrawing from The Canadian Journalism Foundation fundraiser titled “The Media as Opposition: Covering Trump in a Post-Truth Era.”
As the event changed and took shape, I raised concerns about the lack of diversity with the organizers, as did other panel members. Those concerns, unfortunately, were never addressed with the seriousness they deserved.
I was persuaded not to withdraw because this is an important fundraiser for the organization. That was a mistake. I want to thank the individuals online who pointed out that now is the last time we should be having high-profile discussions about media as opposition without the voices who are most targeted and most at risk from this administration: Muslim journalists, Black journalists, disabled journalists, immigrant journalists, and more. The Vancouver-based writer and organizer Harsha Walia put it particularly well in a tweet today: “in an age of trump and white supremacy how can you possibly justify an all white panel as oppositional politics?”
In truth it cannot be justified. Not on this topic, or frankly on any other. There are many high-profile journalists of colour covering Trump who could have been invited to be part of this discussion. And though I recognize that much has been determined by who happens to be in town on tour in any given moment, it doesn’t change the fact that they should have been invited. The audience deserves it.
I am pulling out and opening a spot on the panel in the hopes that this mistake will, in some small way, be corrected. I should have made this decision as soon as I saw the line up.
This week, we received a powerful and painful reminder of how systems of privilege reproduce themselves in media: Canada’s highest profile Black columnist – Desmond Cole – was forced to give up his crucial platform in The Toronto Star because he was being chided for engaging in the kind of political activism and advocacy that white columnists like me have engaged in for decades. We all need to do better, including me.
For those who bought tickets, I have absolutely no doubt that a course correction will make for an even better night. Unlike the other panelists (who are all heroes of mine), I live in in this city – Torontonians can hear from me anytime.
I’m sorry I did not make this decision earlier.