– 10 –

 

At times like this, Mackenzie wished she could go back to the Faculty of Social Work and gouge out the eyes of some of her journalism instructors. They didn’t even teach the basics. Now she had to make up for it.

“Try to make your lips look normal, Mackenzie darling. Stop baring your lower teeth. Now let’s try that sentence again with the right emphasis.”

Mackenzie repeated the line: “More shocking news today as Statistics Canada reported a four hundred thousand per cent increase in hate crimes over last week.”

“Gooood, your delivery is fine, just fine. Teenage girls will really identify with your intonation. But we still need some work on your facial expressions.”

Facial expressions. J-school just didn’t teach the basics. And that wasn’t all that stood in the way of Mackenzie’s TV debut. Her hair wasn’t quite right, either. It wasn’t blonde.

Ricky suggested the obvious, but Mackenzie resisted. There was nothing phony about Mackenzie Taylor Mitchell, never was and never would be. No way would she ever dye her hair for any person or any reason at all. Not unless it was an absolutely necessary career move.

And if she made it without dyeing her hair — wouldn’t that cause a sensation in Toronto media circles? A white woman who wasn’t blonde becoming a TV newscaster? She would be the first within living memory.

Well, there were a few others, maybe, but they weren’t quite white. They were Italian or something, fairly dark and the kind of people Mackenzie and her friends sometimes called “basic.” So basic, and just dark enough, that they qualified for ethnic status and their men were exempt from the camps. One of CITY TV’s ethnics, Marcia Calabria, had actually taken maternity leave.

She wasn’t quite sure why white newscasters had to be blonde. Maybe it was to provide visual contrast to all those Asians, Orientals and blacks. But she supposed it went back, as did so many other things, to the Holocaust. She knew all about it, having seen a National Film Board documentary in her history course at J-school.

Those were the darkest days of Word War II, when Hitler was on the verge of world domination. All the regular Canadian soldiers had disappeared in combat. So an elite Canadian army unit consisting entirely of black men landed in southern Europe and fought their way north. Meanwhile another elite Canadian army unit, this one consisting entirely of blonde-haired middle class white women, landed in northern Europe and fought their way south. They met halfway, where they rounded up the surviving Nazis. Then came the big surprise.

Stripped of their fearsome Nazi weapons, Nazi helmets, Nazi insignia and Nazi paraphernalia, it turned out that many of the Nazi Germans weren’t German after all. They were white guys. Canadian white guys.

Yes, unlike black men and blonde-haired middle class Canadian white women (not to mention the Quebecois, the film carefully explained), Canadian white guys never fought the Nazis at all. They joined them. They helped carry out the Holocaust. It was a proven fact.

Maybe that accounted for so much of what Mackenzie saw on TV — the courage, intelligence and integrity of black men and blonde women compared to the cowardice, stupidity and dishonour of white guys. Whatever accounted for it, it had to be true. All those movies and TV shows couldn’t be wrong.

Brunette or not, Mackenzie felt she was with those women in spirit and, as she sat in her class transfixed by the documentary, in body too. She felt she was actually there, fighting Nazis herself, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with white women and black men to save the world. So strong was her identification with them, so confident was she of her abilities, that she almost knew she had fought evil there on the beaches of central Europe. Obviously the next step would be to continue the fight from the newsdesks of Canadian TV.

“Mackenzie, are you listening? Earth calling Mackenzie Taylor Mitchell...”

“Yes Ricky, what now?”

“Do try to stay focused, dear. Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean you can drift off into la-la land. Not on TV, anyway.”

TV. She just had to be there. For there were two types of journalists, Mackenzie knew. Those on TV and everyone else.

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