– 5 –


“A little less sneer please, Mackenzie. Actually can you change that sneer to a smirk? A little smirk’s okay. When you get to the last line, drop the smirk and try to furrow your eyes just so. Lift your chin a bit. Now, now’s the time to sneer, but just a little. Just a hint of sneer. Keep looking directly at the camera. Look judgemental. Pretend you’re looking at a white guy.”

In an old-fashioned sense, Ricky was a white guy himself. But his bearing and his clothing — the lavender look, it was called — showed he was a victim of homophobia. That’s why he didn’t have to dress in baggy orange coveralls or live in a camp like the other white guys, the oppressors.

But if he was a victim, why did Mackenzie find him annoying? Partly because he was telling her what to do, she decided. That’s something Mackenzie very rarely heard, ever in her life. But as a journalist there were some people you did listen to, and Mr. Reuben said she needed the training before she could go on TV.

At least he sounded encouraging. “Work at it, Mackenzie,” Mr. Reuben had said. “Someone as astute as you really belongs on TV.”

“Okay, that’s it for today, Mackenzie darling. You’re making tons and tons of progress but we still have a ways to go. Same time tomorrow? Have a really good one.”

Mackenzie left Ricky’s little studio and climbed the stairs back to the newsroom. It didn’t seem to matter where you were in this building, she thought, you could still hear the bass. No other instrument, just that relentless boom bass in the background. The noise often gave Mackenzie headaches and, even worse, a vague feeling of apprehension. During the rush to evacuate downtown, the Star neglected soundproofing.

It was a bad decision. It followed another bad decision — to bring the others. There was no need to. They could have survived downtown.

But if the noise problem couldn’t be fixed, the Star might have to move again fairly soon. This time it might be better to keep the two departments in separate buildings.

The subject came up in editorial meetings, executive meetings, networking meetings, empathy meetings, crisis management meetings and all the other meetings that took up most of Mackenzie’s time. It was a sensitive issue, of course. The newspaper’s commitment to employment equity meant they had to be hired. But everyone agreed they were happier on their own, in their own section of the building. No one in Mackenzie’s section really knew what went on over there. They’d probably forget about the others were it not for that relentless bass.

And, in Mackenzie’s case, the gnawing feeling it left in her gut. She knew the apprehension was irrational, no doubt another racist white guy legacy. There was really nothing to fear. Those feelings were just another way that Mackenzie was victimized by Smith and his ilk, the white guys in baggy orange coveralls and their vast, oppressive power structure.

Back in the newsroom, Mackenzie looked out the east window towards the downtown office towers, or what could be seen of them through the smoke. That gnawing feeling became worse. She had some tranquilizers, but her doctor told her to cut back. The evacuation had been traumatic, she told Mackenzie, but you can’t keep medicating a problem like this. Mackenzie knew she had to get a grip on herself.

She turned, looked out the west window and felt a bit better, relieved actually, on seeing again the fortified wall and armed guards just a few blocks away on Dufferin Street. Beyond that she saw the neighbourhood of Parkdale and her mood shifted again, this time to what she liked to think was her characteristic defiance. As she looked toward Parkdale she thought again about the old Canada.

She didn’t like it. She just didn’t like it, especially lower class neighbourhoods like Parkdale. She especially didn’t like lower class white people.

For some reason she never felt comfortable around them. They were scummy. She didn’t like scummy people. She didn’t like the scummy way they dressed, the scummy way they talked, the scummy way they acted.

And their values were scummy too. It just didn’t seem important to them that she was important. They seemed to inhabit a different universe, one that didn’t revolve around her. But it wasn’t just Mackenzie who considered them scummy. Scummy was their portrayal just about any time the news or entertainment media acknowledged their existence.

Wow, did their scummy little universe ever change when blacks started pouring in. Did they ever get their comeuppance.

It was the people in neighbourhoods like Parkdale who experienced mass immigration first-hand, especially black immigration. Unlike other Torontonians, people in those neighbourhoods got to know blacks at work, on buses and the subway, in stores and cafes, in taverns and restaurants, at schools and playgrounds, at the laundromat, down the street, in the elevator, up the stairs, across the hall, next door.

Were they grateful? Far from it. With appalling unanimity, lower-class whites started spreading the most ridiculous racist myths. Blacks were lazy, they said. Unco-operative, inconsiderate. Noisy, very noisy. Stupid. Sullen, miserable, touchy, belligerent. Very belligerent. Quick-tempered, hateful, violent, extremely violent, exceptionally violent, vicious — and even (this was so unspeakably outrageous that it was sick) blacks were sexist and racist.

Blacks were sexist and racist? That was a complete contradiction, a total inversion, a pathetic perversion of everything known to be absolutely true. Could anything be more ridiculous?

Luckily, the really smart people came to the fore. Those were the other whites, better off, more sophisticated whites like Mackenzie, who recognized mass immigration for the blessing it was. All the really smart people loved non-whites, especially blacks. Especially Caribbean blacks. Especially Jamaican blacks. All the really smart people knew that if any proof was needed that mass immigration was both a necessity and a blessing, a virtue in itself, that proof consisted of Jamaican blacks. And no Jamaican better exemplified virtue than His Magnificence.

All the really smart people worked tirelessly to set the record straight about immigrants, especially non-whites, especially blacks, and most especially Jamaicans — and to make sure nobody, absolutely nobody, ever so much as suggested a contrary view again.

The message quickly became the mainstay of Canadian culture. It didn’t matter whether you read a novel or a textbook, watched a sitcom or a soap, listened to a speech or a pop song, pored over a doctoral dissertation or a comic book, they all extolled the benefits of mass immigration and multiculturalism, not to mention the undeniable fact that black people, especially Jamaicans, were morally superior to lower-class whites. Who would dare disagree?

Certainly not a journalist. Mackenzie didn’t get to be one of Toronto’s top political and social analysts by questioning the obvious.

No need to, when she understood the issues so well. Although she knew Canada no longer had any such thing as an ethnic hierarchy, she had no trouble acknowledging that Jamaican blacks were the ideal immigrants, preferable to all other ethnic groups. Anyone who grew up on American TV knew that there was something very special about blacks and it was high time Canada had them too. Mackenzie also knew, sort of knew, maybe in an inchoate manner, that Jamaicans were the people most different from the old Canada, and therefore the people most likely to transform this country. And she really thought it was cool that those scummy lower-class whites finally got what was coming to them — and from Jamaicans, whom those scummy lower-class whites could only describe as quick-tempered, ultra-violent, etc., etc., etc.

It was irrational, totally irrational, hateful and racist. Mackenzie knew that from personal experience. She had met blacks herself. Black TV newscasters were perfectly safe.

That’s not to say Mackenzie didn’t care for other non-white immigrants. Not at all. She was especially fond of those little Filipina women. Short, quiet, conscientious. Obedient. Like most of her friends, she always hired them as her housekeepers.

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