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A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists. In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of time A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists. In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times he had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, shaking the country to its core and catapulting its author into the public sphere. Cole used his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis. Both Cole’s activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We’re In. Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more. The year also witnessed the profound personal and professional ramifications of Desmond Cole’s unwavering determination to combat injustice. In April, Cole disrupted a Toronto police board meeting by calling for the destruction of all data collected through carding. Following the protest, Cole, a columnist with the Toronto Star, was summoned to a meeting with the paper’s opinions editor and informed that his activism violated company policy. Rather than limit his efforts defending Black lives, Cole chose to sever his relationship with the publication. Then in July, at another police board meeting, Cole challenged the board to respond to accusations of a police cover-up in the brutal beating of Dafonte Miller by an off-duty police officer and his brother. When Cole refused to leave the meeting until the question was publicly addressed, he was arrested. The image of Cole walking out of the meeting, handcuffed and flanked by officers, fortified the distrust between the city’s Black community and its police force. Month-by-month, Cole creates a comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality. Urgent, controversial, and unsparingly honest, The Skin We’re In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians.


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A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists. In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of time A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists. In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times he had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, shaking the country to its core and catapulting its author into the public sphere. Cole used his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis. Both Cole’s activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We’re In. Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more. The year also witnessed the profound personal and professional ramifications of Desmond Cole’s unwavering determination to combat injustice. In April, Cole disrupted a Toronto police board meeting by calling for the destruction of all data collected through carding. Following the protest, Cole, a columnist with the Toronto Star, was summoned to a meeting with the paper’s opinions editor and informed that his activism violated company policy. Rather than limit his efforts defending Black lives, Cole chose to sever his relationship with the publication. Then in July, at another police board meeting, Cole challenged the board to respond to accusations of a police cover-up in the brutal beating of Dafonte Miller by an off-duty police officer and his brother. When Cole refused to leave the meeting until the question was publicly addressed, he was arrested. The image of Cole walking out of the meeting, handcuffed and flanked by officers, fortified the distrust between the city’s Black community and its police force. Month-by-month, Cole creates a comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality. Urgent, controversial, and unsparingly honest, The Skin We’re In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians.

30 review for The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power

  1. 4 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Desmond Cole marries journalism and activism to bring forth stories of the ways anti-black racism is permeated in Canadian society and the ways that black people are resisting in Canada. I respect how he discussed how struggles overlap and intersect amongst the black and indigenous communities in Canada and why resisting is so important. You really can't discount how much we have to stand together in solidarity to create change and keep pushing forward the need to combat anti-black racism in sch Desmond Cole marries journalism and activism to bring forth stories of the ways anti-black racism is permeated in Canadian society and the ways that black people are resisting in Canada. I respect how he discussed how struggles overlap and intersect amongst the black and indigenous communities in Canada and why resisting is so important. You really can't discount how much we have to stand together in solidarity to create change and keep pushing forward the need to combat anti-black racism in schools, in the "justice" system, in immigration policy and practice and in our every day lives. Reliving some of the stories, knowing some of the people in the stories, being to some of the events and protests described in some of these stories - it was hard to go through a second time on the page. As a person in Toronto working with various marginalized communities, having people in your family going through the same/similar targeted policing and police violence, reading this book was comforting in a sense. To know that we have people like Desmond Cole out here documenting these struggles, documenting the harm that anti-black racism causes in Canadian cities, we have young black people out here telling the truth and standing tall and not letting respectability politics, attempts at silencing by the old guard, false promises of comfort and job security sway them; it really, really fucking touched me. How Desmond Cole paints our distinct Canadian picture is important. We're not trying to compare tragedies between the US and Canada, and I love that he doesn't attempt to do that - he's highlighting how fucked up things are here, how unstable and unsafe things are here, how corrupt policing is here especially when it comes to how the truth of police brutality and harm against black citizens gets hidden under layers of corrupt or zero data collection, backtracking or disinterest by problematic, posturing politicians and layers and layers of unchecked and uncontested with white supremacy. Justice for Abdirahman (March) was the hardest chapter of the book for me because I remember clearly when that happened and just how traumatizing it was, especially in the community that I lived in at the time which has a high Carribean and East African population. To go through it again on paper, hurt so much all over again. I had to stop and take a breath and come back to this book. I can't overstate how happy I am that this book exists and that Robyn Maynard's Policing Black Lives also exists; both capturing the truth of the matter of anti-black racism here in Canada. I'm glad Desmond Cole exists. I'm glad that he asks the hard questions. I have issues with his weaponizing his stance in the community against certain black women in the community (looking back to the last mayoral election). I could get into that deeper, but yo, that's for twitter and doesn't have directly much to do with this book. I highly recommend that people read this book. It's a critical look into a charged year (2017) in the GTA and it's surrounding regions. It's a critical look into Black Life in Canada. It's also a critical look into Black Resistance and the continued resistance of BIPOC/marginalized peoples in Toronto, in Canada and abroad.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Simmons

    I will preface this by saying Desmond Cole is a friend. This book, man oh man, this book. It reads at once like a convo with Des, a call to action (you better fucking act), and a thoroughly-researched history. The narrative structure of a month-by-month account of Black activism in the year 2017 is a helpful device that gives the story a meaningful framework. Each chapter addresses a specific event or area of activism - immigration, Pride, police in schools, police brutality - but there are recur I will preface this by saying Desmond Cole is a friend. This book, man oh man, this book. It reads at once like a convo with Des, a call to action (you better fucking act), and a thoroughly-researched history. The narrative structure of a month-by-month account of Black activism in the year 2017 is a helpful device that gives the story a meaningful framework. Each chapter addresses a specific event or area of activism - immigration, Pride, police in schools, police brutality - but there are recurring themes: the system isn’t broken, it was built this way, the system is white supremacy and it is failing Black people. The historical references provide just enough context and detail for it to be clear: Canada has a lot of history we aren’t facing. Please read this book, so we can own these truths, and start to make change.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    A wide ranging look at the racism black Canadians face today. I really enjoyed the way the book was put together, looking at a different issue or case each month, but also showing the history of similar issues in Canada.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ameema Saeed

    Oh, what an incredible read. The concept of Desmond Cole’s “The Skin We’re In” is unexpected, unique, and unforgettable. It’s the story of Canada in the year 2017 - capturing a year of the systemic, social, and structural ways we (Canadians) have institutionalized and weaponized racism, especially anti-Black (& anti-Indigenous) racism: Cole uses his skills as a reporter, and a writer, seamlessly weaving together a month by month history of racism and resistance in Canada in 2017. Although it cover Oh, what an incredible read. The concept of Desmond Cole’s “The Skin We’re In” is unexpected, unique, and unforgettable. It’s the story of Canada in the year 2017 - capturing a year of the systemic, social, and structural ways we (Canadians) have institutionalized and weaponized racism, especially anti-Black (& anti-Indigenous) racism: Cole uses his skills as a reporter, and a writer, seamlessly weaving together a month by month history of racism and resistance in Canada in 2017. Although it covered painful and heavy subjects, this book was unputdownable, & incomparable. I even found myself dog-earing pages, so I could research further on topics and stories. Cole’s writing has always been impactful, and ‘The Skin We’re In’ is no exception. This is one of those books you think about for a long time after you read it - one that you find yourself referring to constantly. Definitely a must-read for all Canadians, especially those who like to use the refrain “not as bad as the U.S.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    2TReads

    Every word, sentence and paragraph resonated with me as I read this book. I may not have, as of yet, experienced overt racism in Canada. But I'm sure I have been looked at in that way that all delicately racist white people have of looking at a Black woman or man. ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾 I absolutely salute Cole for placing focus on the Indigenous and First Nations peoples of this land; their land, as he details our struggles as Black people in polite, nice, safe Canada. 👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽 Part memoir mixed with soc Every word, sentence and paragraph resonated with me as I read this book. I may not have, as of yet, experienced overt racism in Canada. But I'm sure I have been looked at in that way that all delicately racist white people have of looking at a Black woman or man. ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾 I absolutely salute Cole for placing focus on the Indigenous and First Nations peoples of this land; their land, as he details our struggles as Black people in polite, nice, safe Canada. 👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽 Part memoir mixed with social commentary and examination; The Skin We're In, yanks back the curtain on Canada: America's 'nice', 'welcoming', 'polite' neighbour to the north. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 Reading this book took me back to when I read, heard or saw these so called incidents where the police had to be called in, in order to restore order or apprehend a violent offender. I remember being very angry when most of those confrontations ended with a Black body being violated, hurt, beaten or killed. Rarely if ever do we see such force reflected on the news, when white perpetrators are involved--always the bodies seem to be Black and Brown. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 I am tired of being angry, but they refuse to see how they treat us from our point of view: the state, the police, even our neighbours. I am grateful that this book has joined the many others out there, that document the atrocities that Black bodies have gone, are going, will go through; that it is shining the spotlight on the rot that is at the core of this 'internationally-known-as-nice-country' 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾 Reading of the refusal to believe and counter protests of white people in this country just solidifies that when they nay-say and put us down (across the entirety of the spectrum), it is coming from a place of hate; a place where they are clearly saying, "you don't matter until we say you do". 👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽 Cole is ripping away cobwebs and tearing down the frosted glass that has been obscuring the view of the violence and racism that lurks throughout Canada. ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾 Great read. Uncovering, revealing and highlighting the hidden, obscured and insidious nature of Canada's racism.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Seriously such a fantastic read about Black activism in Canada in one single year. There was so much I learned about what was happening in my own community that I wasn’t aware of before, and really made me question some preconceived notions I had about activism and particularly Black activism. I also really appreciated how Cole included some stories and histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada and how that relates to the fight for equity and equality today - because Indigenous peoples have take Seriously such a fantastic read about Black activism in Canada in one single year. There was so much I learned about what was happening in my own community that I wasn’t aware of before, and really made me question some preconceived notions I had about activism and particularly Black activism. I also really appreciated how Cole included some stories and histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada and how that relates to the fight for equity and equality today - because Indigenous peoples have taken care, and continue to take care of this land for millennia, and without them we wouldn’t have this space to fight for the rights of others and ourselves. Highly recommend this new read to everyone - absolutely everyone - because we need to understand and recognize what is happening in our country, our cities, and our communities to many Black Canadians in order to truly call ourselves progressive and make our spaces welcoming and safe for everyone living in it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This book was an excellent resource for learning more about racism, colonialism, and activism in Canada. It was written in an understandable, personal style that really gripped me, and I was impressed by Cole's ability to communicate so much information in just one book. He addresses several different incidents from 2017, ranging from police brutality to Toronto Pride to deportations, providing necessary context and connecting them to systemic issues. I found that these connections were particul This book was an excellent resource for learning more about racism, colonialism, and activism in Canada. It was written in an understandable, personal style that really gripped me, and I was impressed by Cole's ability to communicate so much information in just one book. He addresses several different incidents from 2017, ranging from police brutality to Toronto Pride to deportations, providing necessary context and connecting them to systemic issues. I found that these connections were particularly effective because they provided a way for me to coherently understand the forces underlying what initially seemed like discrete events. My biggest takeaway from the book is that power is extremely effective at protecting itself and that nothing will meaningfully change without activism and intervention.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    This is required reading for all settlers in Canada, and for every white person anywhere.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alanna King

    Such a good book and so well argued! I’ll be using it in my English classes for sure. Thank Desmond Cole for teaching you about Canada’s anti-Black systems. There were so many things I learned about waves of Black immigration that I had no idea about. It was like reading a modern version of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Shaw

    Really excellent, required reading for Canadians (especially white people/settlers). This is a great introduction to the politics of race in this country and would be an eye-opening read for those who think that Canada "doesn't have a racism problem." I'm not sure if my library epub edition was cut short or what, but I did feel like it ended abruptly. I would have liked a conclusion, if only to hear more of Desmond's thoughts.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Avolyn Fisher

    As someone who has grown up and spent their entire life in the U.S. with its fair share of problems, I feel ignorant to so much of Canadian culture, other than over the past four years of the Trump presidency, holding Canada to a higher esteem and perhaps jealous regard, thinking it was some paradise of moral reason and hope for the free world. Our news cycle is so choked by our own problems, I hadn't heard of any of the stories shared by Cole in this book, and was surprised to hear that racial p As someone who has grown up and spent their entire life in the U.S. with its fair share of problems, I feel ignorant to so much of Canadian culture, other than over the past four years of the Trump presidency, holding Canada to a higher esteem and perhaps jealous regard, thinking it was some paradise of moral reason and hope for the free world. Our news cycle is so choked by our own problems, I hadn't heard of any of the stories shared by Cole in this book, and was surprised to hear that racial prejudice among law enforcement wasn't limited to the United States. Yes, that's how unfamiliar I was when I began reading this book. This book isn't about me, and it's not about how I felt about it. But my experience reading this book was plagued by the fact that Fall of 2019 I was completing my Master of Science in Data Analytics from Villanova University and my program had decided to partner with the Toronto Police Service to complete the program Capstone that had historically been with commercial companies since our program was technically part of the business program. At first I was relieved that we weren't going to have to analyze clothing at Macy's and Free People until we went cross-eyed but my heart was still a little concerned having read Cathy O'Neil's book, Weapons of Math Destruction, that discussed in depth all of the pitfalls of working with police data. I tried to brush this concern aside and assured myself that my awareness of this pitfall would help me avoid it and besides, Canadian police and the Canadian government were different. I don't suppose I need to bore you with the outcome of our project results, especially since the data set we used is publicly available through the Toronto Police Service Public Safety Data Portal online, and our project was specific to MCI's (Major Crime Indicators). For the group I worked in, I was assigned to focus on Assault data. The hardest part of this project was that the data was so vague and obfuscated (in some cases for good reason to protect the individuals who were involved in these crime reports) that we couldn't really glean any insight. Now that it's over and I have my degree in hand, I would say it seemed more like a puff exercise. The data was so meaningless because it had been so stripped. We couldn't see the dispatch text and the reported information on what had happened in those instances. Addresses were blurred to the nearest intersection (to protect residents) even for instances that happened in commercial and public locations. When trying to determine 'recommendations' we could hardly come up with anything, which at the time felt like a massive failure, but after reading this book I can see why our efforts were so fraught and that any recommendation would have been likely useless after hearing the failures in this book around simple well-meaning programs that already exist to improve youth relations with police, and how they're often a guise for further oversight. This book is going to be with me for a while. I am stunned that despite googling information around Toronto Police to get some context and learning for example that Canada has one national legal code instead of the legal jurisdiction variations we see in the United States. They have some old laws around alcohol that seem a little silly. But I never came across these stories. In 'fairness' if it even exists in this situation, we weren't looking for these types of stories and we were afraid to even discuss race in our findings. Not only did our data not include the race of the people involved, we didn't even want to discuss the percentage of immigrants in certain neighborhoods with higher rates of crime because we didn't want to appear racist, but in hindsight it was likely a policing bias. On October 28th, 2019 Michael and Christian Theriault were being tried for their brutal assault of a black teen who ultimately lost his left eye from injuries sustained in this attack. Meanwhile I was giving my midterm on our research of policing data for TPS. I know I've largely spent this book review lamenting my experience analyzing data but it really is a hard lesson that not everything we hope to gather from data (in a world that is more often relying on data to tell the stories of so many) can tell an accurate story. Especially when events are un-reported and under-reported out of convenience for those in power. For anyone about to embark on the journey Cole has prepared for you, be prepared for a heavy heart, anger, confusion, and a reckoning with some hard truths about a reality we often refuse to see and turn a blind-eye to.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Scott Neigh

    The much-anticipated first book by journalist and activist Desmond Cole. He uses his experience of 2017 as a frame to talk about Black life and Black struggles in Canada. If you are someone who is glued to grassroots activist social media in the Canadian context, many of the incidents and struggles that Cole speaks about will be familiar. But whether you are or not, read it anyway: He puts it all together in a way that is highly compelling, that tells cohesive and engaging stories that the tumul The much-anticipated first book by journalist and activist Desmond Cole. He uses his experience of 2017 as a frame to talk about Black life and Black struggles in Canada. If you are someone who is glued to grassroots activist social media in the Canadian context, many of the incidents and struggles that Cole speaks about will be familiar. But whether you are or not, read it anyway: He puts it all together in a way that is highly compelling, that tells cohesive and engaging stories that the tumult of Twitter can never match, and that places them firmly in broader contexts. It is written with all the care and precision of well-done long-form journalism, while the narrative is driven forward by its grounding it Cole's own experiences, his involvement in struggle, and his passion for justice and liberation. I think the best part of the book is how it moves. As I said, the anchor is the frame of the year, with each chapter organized around a month, and Cole's own experience is the thread to which it constantly returns, but then within each chapter it weaves across different scales, issues, paces, voices, times, and sources in a way that really works. Readable, powerful, infuriating, and essential to anyone who wants to understand this country and the struggles made necessary here by white supremacy, settler colonialism, and anti-Blackness.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Colinda Clyne

    Must read. We must be having these conversations around anti-racism, and it can start by knowing truths, with many specific examples presented here. Listening to Cole talk about the many ways that the education systems across this country have failed Black students is breaking my heart because I know it’s all true, the same for Indigenous youth, anyone in the margins. So many quotable moments. One that is staying with me: “White supremacy keeps stepping on your toes while insisting it was an acc Must read. We must be having these conversations around anti-racism, and it can start by knowing truths, with many specific examples presented here. Listening to Cole talk about the many ways that the education systems across this country have failed Black students is breaking my heart because I know it’s all true, the same for Indigenous youth, anyone in the margins. So many quotable moments. One that is staying with me: “White supremacy keeps stepping on your toes while insisting it was an accident.” I also appreciated the attention given to Indigenous peoples, absent from Kendi’s How to be an AntiRacist, about how we “are distinct and complex as Black and Indigenous peoples but our ancestral histories have placed us here together and we need to cultivate listening and solidarity to carve out better collective future.” Yes please.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    While I'm pretty well informed about Black issues in the US, I'm largely ignorant of what's happening to Black folks in Canada. This book was my first step toward remedying this. And, when you read it alongside contemporary events (pipeline protests and the militaristic government response), the parallels to the US are even more apparent. A must read for anyone wanting an inside perspective on race relations in Canada.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Possibly not the best book to read while you're covering an agricultural crisis in the middle of a pandemic. Anyway, this is a fantastic book. Desmond Cole is a cultural journalist and he covers a year in the life of Black Canada. This book really reveals systemic racism against Black People in Canada. It's thorough and well researched and should be read by everyone. My only complaint is that I wished there had been a closing essay to wrap everything up. The book just ends rather abruptly.

  16. 4 out of 5

    The GrownUp Millennial

    This book provides the kind of unsettling narrative you need to realize that there is really no space for neutrality as we aim to end anti-black racism. Desmond Cole is a Canadian journalist and author. In this book he refutes all the claims that "racism doesn't exist in Canada". For every month of the year 2017 he talks about instances of violence, oppression, institutional racism that faces black immigrants, indigenous peoples and other people of colour. Everyone should read this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    This should be mandatory reading for every Canadian.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anwesha Bhattacharjee

    That racism exists in Canada, and that Canada likes to hide behind USA's hideousness, just to remind people of color - we could be like them, we could be worse. What a powerful book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Luke Spooner

    A must read for all Canadians

  20. 4 out of 5

    ninkasi

    Wow

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karan

    Well this was an education, had my jaw hanging, and made me angry, as well as aware of how quickly I move on (forget) from news reports. I shake my head.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann Armstrong

    Desmond Cole does an excellent job debunking the belief that somehow Canada is not racist. He tells many powerful stories about the reality of being black in Canada. He draws on historical and current examples that make it clear that Canada has been - and continues - to be racist. Cole's book also links the treatment of blacks with the treatment of Indigenous people. He makes strong arguments that show how Canada cannot be self-congratulatory about its diversity and inclusion. Cole makes the imp Desmond Cole does an excellent job debunking the belief that somehow Canada is not racist. He tells many powerful stories about the reality of being black in Canada. He draws on historical and current examples that make it clear that Canada has been - and continues - to be racist. Cole's book also links the treatment of blacks with the treatment of Indigenous people. He makes strong arguments that show how Canada cannot be self-congratulatory about its diversity and inclusion. Cole makes the important and thought-provoking point that inclusion requires the power to exclude (p.109). I highlighted many passages and recommend that all Canadians read his book. It is well written: it has a journalistic clarity coupled with passionate advocacy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Klassen

    The Skin We're In battles the myth that Canada is more inclusive, welcoming, celebratory of diversity than the USA. Desmond Cole breaks down his work into the twelve months of a year of interrogating the white supremacist structures of the Canadian government, legal system, and law enforcement system. There is no equality in Canada. Black Canadians face the same kinds of harassment, intimidation, police monitoring, and racialized violence that Black Americans do. They lose their jobs for being ' The Skin We're In battles the myth that Canada is more inclusive, welcoming, celebratory of diversity than the USA. Desmond Cole breaks down his work into the twelve months of a year of interrogating the white supremacist structures of the Canadian government, legal system, and law enforcement system. There is no equality in Canada. Black Canadians face the same kinds of harassment, intimidation, police monitoring, and racialized violence that Black Americans do. They lose their jobs for being 'too black', they get stopped frequently by police to be carded. They get physically assaulted by police when they've committed nothing to warrant that treatment. Cole shows us through that cops are little more than thugs hired by the government to police 'dangerous bodies'. He shows us the attacks on black people in Canada that our media hide from us. Because of course they are happening. He also taps into the solidarity of BIPOC in Canada for one another. An entire chapter in his book on black resistance is devoted to the struggles for autonomy by indigenous people. He recognizes that this is occupied territory, a settler state that oppresses BIPOC people and policial dissidents. This solidarity made me so happy. Some really stand-out radical thoughts going on in this. He makes me want to burn it all to the ground in the best way. A must read for all 'Canadians.'

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tate

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm v glad this book exists. I think it's the perfect length and it thoughtfully and succinctly addresses many of the common criticisms against him. I've learned much and I still need some time to process what I've read. I have two favourite bits: 1) How critics focus more on the means of advocacy, rather than the substance of the advocacy itself; and 2) how people who choose to participate in the system inherently cannot be as effective advocates. Still thinking.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Abarna Nathan

    Phenomenal book! An essential read for Torontonians, Ontarians, honestly, Canadians overall. All those folks who claim we're much better than the States and ignore the sheer volume of gross injustices that occur in this country. I continuously commend and look up to Desmond Cole and other BIPOC activists. I hope to stimulate as much change throughout my life. My heart hurt while I read this book, even with the instances that I followed in real time, just to hear it all out there again. But I'm s Phenomenal book! An essential read for Torontonians, Ontarians, honestly, Canadians overall. All those folks who claim we're much better than the States and ignore the sheer volume of gross injustices that occur in this country. I continuously commend and look up to Desmond Cole and other BIPOC activists. I hope to stimulate as much change throughout my life. My heart hurt while I read this book, even with the instances that I followed in real time, just to hear it all out there again. But I'm so grateful for activists for fighting for justice. #BlackLivesMatter justice for racialized folks!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Venessa ✨

    After reading dozens of books about racism written by Americans, this is the book I've been waiting for. Desmond Cole expertly shines a light on the racism present in Canada, a country that, for some reason, believes it's a racism-free utopia. He mainly sites racist incidents in Toronto and the GTA, which Canada touts as the poster child of multiculturalism and acceptance. Thanks for bringing us back to reality, Desmond. While the stories are heartbreaking and infuriating, we need to hear them. I After reading dozens of books about racism written by Americans, this is the book I've been waiting for. Desmond Cole expertly shines a light on the racism present in Canada, a country that, for some reason, believes it's a racism-free utopia. He mainly sites racist incidents in Toronto and the GTA, which Canada touts as the poster child of multiculturalism and acceptance. Thanks for bringing us back to reality, Desmond. While the stories are heartbreaking and infuriating, we need to hear them. I really appreciate that in addition to covering the rampant anti-Black racism that is unfortunately present all over the world, he also talks in depth about the racism faced by Indigenous populations, which is a problem more unique to North America that often gets glossed over in these types of books. I also appreciate that the "memoir" aspects of this book are primarily focused specifically on activism, rather than personal experiences with racism. Nothing wrong with the latter, but I think the activism portion strengthened the narrative. This is a must read for Canadians who are passionate about addressing racism in our country.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sinéad O'Brien

    This is essential reading to understand the existence and scope of systemic anti-Black racism in Canada. Desmond Cole is thorough, thoughtful and incisive in his analysis of Black life and the barriers and violence faced by Black communities at the hands of the Canadian state. He is mindful of those he writes about - centering their perspectives and voices - and rarely centering himself. Cole continually makes reference to the reality for Indigenous folks under the Canadian state and artfully ti This is essential reading to understand the existence and scope of systemic anti-Black racism in Canada. Desmond Cole is thorough, thoughtful and incisive in his analysis of Black life and the barriers and violence faced by Black communities at the hands of the Canadian state. He is mindful of those he writes about - centering their perspectives and voices - and rarely centering himself. Cole continually makes reference to the reality for Indigenous folks under the Canadian state and artfully ties their position to anti-Black oppression. His aim focuses on the contradictions of so-called Canadian society and identity as that of a "peaceful" or "post-racial" nation. Desmond himself has been a tireless advocate for years who has inspired many people in Toronto with his Black liberation work, as well as his continued support for Indigenous sovereignty and liberation. This book is a testament to that work, his gift for listening and his willingness to sacrifice for justice and equity for Black and Indigenous peoples. A commendable human being and a commendable work (that everyone should read).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Chang-Richardson

    The path to reconciliation is truth, and Desmond Cole's debut book is full of truths. In a country where we often look to the USA for comparison, it is a visceral experience to sit down and face the hard facts of our own reality. It is a hopeful notion but perhaps from facing facts we can begin to move towards proper reconciliation. I'd say pick one up and read it today.

  29. 5 out of 5

    T

    I don't think people should review their friends' work so I'm not going to do so, but also I think you should read this book. It's very good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mugoli Samba

    Wrote a review of this book for Broadview Magazine! Here’s an excerpt: “The Skin We’re In proves that oppressive systems rely on silos to uphold their power: the fact that injustices are rarely mentioned in relation to one another in popular discourse allows patterns to remain hidden. But it is impossible to ignore the similarities between the stories of Abdirahman Abdi, the Ottawa Somali man who was killed by a police officer in 2016, and Andrew Loku, a Toronto man of South Sudanese origin also Wrote a review of this book for Broadview Magazine! Here’s an excerpt: “The Skin We’re In proves that oppressive systems rely on silos to uphold their power: the fact that injustices are rarely mentioned in relation to one another in popular discourse allows patterns to remain hidden. But it is impossible to ignore the similarities between the stories of Abdirahman Abdi, the Ottawa Somali man who was killed by a police officer in 2016, and Andrew Loku, a Toronto man of South Sudanese origin also killed by a police officer in 2015, after they are brought together in this book — both men lived with mental health issues, and both were engaged in conversation with a civilian who was “listening and de-escalating, immediately before the police acted violently.” Cole also emphasizes that the treatment of Black people in Canada cannot be separated from the fact that this settler state exists on Indigenous lands — our oppression is but a continuation of this colonial legacy. Through illuminating parallels like these, Cole shows how “white supremacy thrives in large part by avoiding being named or identified.” He leaves no room for such evasion in his work: education, policing, immigration, border services and all levels of government are implicated in his critique of systemic racism. “White supremacy has a mission for all of us, if we choose to accept it,” Cole writes. His book demonstrates that Canadian institutions have chosen to play their parts well. By documenting Black resistance, The Skin We’re In also maps Black activism across the country: countless advocates, community members, artists, parents and youth whose names we often ignore contribute daily to our collective history by demanding it become more just. Recognizing these people and their struggle combats revisionist versions of Black history, past, present and future. The Skin We’re In is bound to become a staple of Canadian writing at large, and of Black Canadian writing more specifically. Cole writes about events so close we remember seeing them on our social media timelines, moments so real they are still palpable — there’s no hiding behind the veil of values from times past. The Skin We’re In asks us to judge our society at face value and acknowledge our role in upholding white supremacy, because we were all here when these things were happening. The truth is here and it speaks, Cole reminds us, if we only have the courage to pay close attention, to truly listen and to understand what it has to tell us.” https://broadview.org/desmond-cole-th...

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