#BlackLivesMatter and so does Black Canadian Media

In light of recent events (you already know what I'm talking about), I've decided to revisit my roots one last time. The recent tragedy that will not be named which happened in the United States has shown me the potential consequences that will befall Canada if it doesn't admit that it has a serious race problem. Bare with me for a few moments. 

I previously used Blogger and Facebook as platforms to rant about the Canadian broadcast industry under the KidKira moniker. I stopped doing those rants because I was convinced that the industry didn't stand a chance in the face of American streaming giants and social entertainment platforms with the kind of content we were producing and the programming practices we were employing. I was also sick and tired of the apathy of some people; everyone wants to bash the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) despite it being the only entity that actually cares about Canadian programming (Family Feud aside). That's because, despite Canada supposedly being a multicultural patchwork, we've been brainwashed by American culture to the point that we barely give a crap about our own culture outside of news and sports.

Which brings me to my next point. 

When was the last time you saw a Canadian show with either a black lead or someone of colour behind the camera? For me, it was 'Da Kink in My Hair back in 2007. BET has been the predominant black television outlet in our country despite it being an American channel known for 90's sitcom reruns and bad reality shows; their current programming direction should have began years ago. The only Canadian alternative with the same clout are the multi-ethnic Omni Television stations, but they're an afterthought to their parent company and black representation is almost non-existent on those stations. When you add it all up, Canadian television is not as diverse as the rest of our country and it doesn't reflect the voices and culture of those who live there. 

By contrast, the United States has plenty of African-American-targeting platforms on cable. While most networks are just rerun farms, the likes of TV One, Revolt, and the Oprah Winfrey Network do a better job at reflecting their audience than BET has in decades. These are the outlets you turn to in the wake of an important event, such as what happened this past week, because they can handle it in a way no white-owned alternative can. FEVA TV was the first Black Canadian television network, but they are so severely underfunded they can't even maintain their own website. Thus, here in Toronto, all we have to match these U.S cable networks are just two radio stations: CKFG 98.7 FM and CHRY Vibe 105 FM. CFXJ FM, known as Flow 93-5 on a good day, has been so unfaithful this past decade, you couldn't tell if they were Toronto's premier Hip-Hop music station or a poor man's answer to one of many top 40 pop stations heard on the city's airwaves.

All the major Canadian networks and their regular programming are naturally colour-less. On the rare occasion Corus Entertainment's ShowCase produces an original series or movie these days, for example, don't expect the lead character to be of any visible minority. Meanwhile, MuchMusic tried to regain their relevance with the introduction of Much (Digital) Studios and its Much Creators, who all come from different backgrounds. Of course, just because they have the likes of ThatDudeMcFly and 4YallEntertainment on their roster, doesn't mean the network itself will change their on-air programming to be just as diverse. In fact, since shifting away from music to the point of dropping the very word from their name, justifiable as that change in direction was (*cough*YouTube*cough*), its no secret that "Much" has become even more irrelevant than before. 

So now is where I get to the main point: what does all of this have to do with the tragic events from a few days ago? The Canadian broadcast industry is a reflection of one of the most terrible stereotypes plaguing this country: the notion that racism doesn't exist in Canada. 

Why else would networks and programming led by people of colour be cursed to languish in obscurity in the age of Netflix? The answer is because none of the major players in the Canadian broadcast industry are willing to take a chance on anything that doesn't target a white audience. That goes double for any other ethnicities and those of the queer lifestyle; in the case of the latter, look no further than the degradation of OUTtv. The Book of Negros, a co-production between CBC and BET, has ironically reminded us that Canada wasn't the safe haven for Black slaves that we were taught about in our schools during Black History Month. Years after that miniseries has aired, the only way in which Canada does better a better job at handling racism than the United States has is in how we hide such incidents. You won't hear too many incidents like this in Canadian news, but when our neighbors down south make headlines because a white cop is captured on video kneeling on the neck of a black man for over 8 minutes, you know that some people have dropped the pretense.

I know this is a small part of a larger problem, but fixing this would be a great place to start. Now more than ever before, Black Canadians need a visible platform to showcase our culture, to let our voices be heard, and to give our perspective on current events. Cable television is a lost cause, but we still have local newscasts and over-the-air, television networks that can provide the kind of voice that has been limited to radio. And yes, the internet is an equally valuable tool; ever heard of 6ixbuzz? Whenever they aren't taking smack about Brampton, they also provide a platform for new Canadian Hip-Hop (Something Much could have done).

To have the kind of platform in Canada that's been exclusive to Revolt TV, to have something like the fledgling Black News Network in our borders, it won't prevent the riots and looting the day something like you-know-what happens north of the border, but the very existence of such outlets will go a long way to bring true inclusivity to Canadian media.

And one final thing. To say "Black Lives Matter" is to acknowledge that people of colour aren't treated equally. To say "All Lives Matter" is to claim the lives of coloured people matter just as much as those of the very bigots who would discriminate them. 

Happy Pride Month, and never forget to wash your hands.


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