By Shafniya Kanagaratnam
“The constant denial of these anti-Black conditions, means that Black people must take extraordinary risks just to expose the violence we experience.”
Desmond Cole is a journalist, radio host and activist originally, from Red Deer, Alberta, now based in Toronto, Ontario. The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power documents his journey and experiences through the year 2017 against anti-Black racism in Canada. He covers the story behind his departure as a columnist for the Toronto Star, the rise of Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO), his arrest during a police board meeting, his fight against Canada’s deportation and immigration policy, as well as his own personal experiences with anti-Black racism.
Throughout each chapter, Cole reminds us of the importance of activism and the fight to combat anti-Black racism. Cole often wrote about the solidarity gained when people mobilized for a cause and how activism provides an opportunity for those in the Black community to heal together, which is often forgotten when we hear stories of activism. One story that stood out to me was his involvement in fighting against the deportation of Abdoul Abdi. Not only did he exemplify the impact of his work, but the constant resilience of the community (even questioning Justin Trudeau in a town hall meeting) that decided to fight it also uncovered an unfair immigration system designed to work against Black refugees and children in Canada.
I like how as readers we are able to journey through Cole's personal development as an activist. In this personal development, what I found as his defining moment was when he described the moment of inspiration that came from the efforts of Anishinaabe protesters in Ottawa. Even though the book focuses on the lived experience of anti-Black racism, Cole provides historical references, studies and specific practices and procedures to help give non-Black readers a deeper understanding of what he is writing. Something that took me by surprise is the support for Indigenous solitary, the forgotten history of Indigenous people in Canada and the hidden struggles they still face today. Its similarity for the struggles against anti-Black racism, is something Cole did a great job explaining in his book. Reading Cole’s emotions, feelings and thoughts changed my perspective on how I viewed the stories in the first place, such as the Dafonte Miller case, the fatal shooting of Jordan Manners and the BLM-TO Pride sit in.
Overall, I give this book a 9/10. The pacing at some parts were a bit slow, but I think that is on my end because I extensively followed certain stories he wrote about. However, it picks back up when it shifts back towards his involvement in each of the scenarios. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, especially for the next generation who want to make a change and get an idea of what it feels to be part of one. To understand what it feels like to take a risk when you believe that your fight is worth it.