In May 2015, the cover story of Toronto Life magazine shook Canada’s largest city to its core. Desmond Cole’s “The Skin I’m In” exposed the racist practices of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times Cole had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, went on to win a number of National Magazine Awards and catapulted 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: the devastating effects of racist policing; the hopelessness produced by an education system that expects little of its black students and withholds from them the resources they need to succeed more fully; the heartbreak of those vulnerable before the child welfare system and those separated from their families by discriminatory immigration laws.
Both Cole’s activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We’re In. Puncturing once and for all the bubble of Canadian smugness and naïve 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.
In a month-by-month chronicle, Cole locates the deep cultural, historical and political roots of each event so that what emerges is a personal, painful and 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.
Join Desmond for an insightful, charged, and necessary discussion about his new book at the February 2020 edition of Writers at the Rose.
DESMOND COLE is an award-winning journalist, radio host and activist in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, The Walrus, NOW Magazine, Ethnic Aisle, Torontoist, BuzzFeed and the Ottawa Citizen. He hosts a weekly radio program every Sunday on Newstalk 1010.
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