Reevely: Coun. Jody Mitic shares his views on Black Lives Matter

A long regular podcast is a rare insight into how a politician thinks. More politicians should do them. Mitic's is an hour and a half or so of the councillor and a friend or two riffing about whatever. In Episode 7, Mitic and Luke Rowan (a fitness coach) and Veronique Bergeron (a lawyer and mom of nine) took up the protest by Black Lives Matter that halted Toronto's gay-pride parade, after they praised that guy who punched a bear. The protest demanded more support and say for visible minority groups in Toronto's Pride festival, and that a Toronto police float be barred from future parades.

That really got Mitic's goat and it's why he spent an hour talking about race and racism, sexuality and homophobia.

He has no opinion on the other Black Lives Matter demands, he said, many of which have to do with the internal politics of the Pride festival. But the one about the police, not suspecting that it's also linked to things he's not familiar with, he has a strong opinion on.

"Traditionally, back in the day, when the Pride parade did start it was a protest against laws that discriminated against gays and police action where they would go out and I guess they had a weekend where they went out and just went through all the known gay clubs and all that and arrested people and busted heads and burned s-t down," he says. "I do not agree with that at all. But that was then. Pride has developed into one of the greatest and most fun parties of inclusion and diversity and everything, and to suddenly just say, you know what, we don't want these people here, never mind they're cops, because a lot of them are gay and a lot of them are black and a lot of them are great, 99.9 per cent of them are amazing Canadians, and now we're going to say we don't want them there?"

He's weary of "the online armies of each of these groups. They call themselves social-justice warriors. I call them social-justice fascists. Basically, to them, it's, it's, it's, just like this sit-in, it's meet our demands or nothing," he said.

"I am getting a little tired of being blamed for a lot of stuff, as a white male. We're in an age right now where it's easy for people to say how offended they are by a lot of stuff," Mitic said.

Mitic wasn't available to talk Friday. He was in Moose Jaw, selling his memoir at a writers' event.

This isn't about a couple of awkward turns of phrase or a badly chosen word in over an hour of talking. Anybody riffing for that long is bound to say a few things that won't sound good out of context. But two things are important. The first is Mitic's explicit message, developed at length and returned to repeatedly: Homophobia and racism are wrong. There's a long and terrible history of injustices arising from both that justified some fierce protests. But isn't this 2016? Aren't things better now?

The second is the subtext, which is that having no idea what the hell he's talking about doesn't stop Mitic from talking. He's as guilty as anybody of reading only headlines and jumping to conclusions, he admitted. He did it with the bear-punching story. This is not a fantastic habit in an elected official whose opinions matter.

(I speak to you today from atop my own tower of privilege. I'm a straight white guy raised in the same suburbs as Mitic. Unlike Mitic, I'm neither disabled nor a veteran.)

Mitic's recently learned what it is to be "cis" (cisgendered, as opposed to trans), because somebody called him that after he publicly rolled his eyes at a Facebook posting about the protest. He doesn't know whether "trans" means going male-to-female or female-to-male or what, he says on the podcast. Among the historical injustices he credits the Black Panthers with fighting is that black people were being drafted to war in Vietnam when they didn't even have the vote, which is not precisely accurate.

He read a thing online where a Chinese-Canadian woman doesn't like being asked where she's "really from," which is something he experiences as well as someone with the name Mitic. Is that Serbian? Croatian? Gets it all the time.

As a 17-year-old in Brampton he'd get pulled over by police demanding to know where he got the money for the Grand Cherokee he was driving, which was his dad's, and sometimes he'd get "roughed up" because he was a smartass. That doesn't happen only to black people. Though it's wrong when the cops pull a black guy over, sit on him and then shoot him dead for no reason, like in Louisiana. That's obviously not OK, he says.

Despite his jags against buzzwords like "safe space" and "white privilege," Mitic indirectly acknowledged the substance beneath them. Despite his experience as a kid in his dad's care, he doesn't know what it's like to grow up black or gay, or both, and conceded that limits his perspective. Which is not a bad summary of what it means to have white privilege.

He's also capable of learning, which he did on the spot. He was surprised and kind of shocked to hear that maybe, actually, things aren't all better for everyone in 2016. The idea really took him aback when it was put to him by his podcastmate Bergeron, after they'd already been talking about the protest and its no-go demand for nearly a whole hour: trans people with dark skin sometimes have it tougher.

"Apparently that puts them in a special class of oppressed, right? A subclass of oppressed," Bergeron told him.

"Really," Mitic said, genuinely interested.

"So if a crime is committed against a trans black woman, the police will be like, 'Eh', you know," Bergeron said, imitating a dismissive tone.

"Oh. Like 'He-she deserved it'."

"Yeah, or they won't investigate - like crimes, they don't take it seriously. I think that's part of their concern."

Mitic considered this.

"Oh," he said eventually. "That's super-valid, though. If that's an actual issue..?"

"Yeah, like if you're just black - well, 'just' - but if -"

"So a white transsexual would not be part of the problem."

"Well, a lot of people would argue that a white transsexual('s status) would be just under a black transsexual, like if -"

"Or just above. Like they'd get a callback if they get mugged."

"Maybe? You know, I can't speak, I can't, I'm such a straight white woman, that, you know, but"

"That's the thing. I've hung out with transsexuals, I've hung out with gay people, I've been to plenty of events. I've never heard a story like that. But I've never asked, either," Mitic realized. "It's probably a story they tell, like amongst themselves. Like I've got stories I wouldn't tell anybody outside the army so now my question is, am I this naive to it as well?"

Yes. The answer is yes. And it's not a story that they just tell amongst themselves, it's a story they're trying to tell us.

Source: Ottawa Citizen