The Great White (Skin) Northern

If Rob Ford was a African-American/Canadian crackhead, boozing, episodically violent, John Mayor, how would this story be playing. From TPM Reader ND …

I’m enjoying your coverage of the Rob Ford debacle (if debacle is even the right word) up in Toronto. But as a native of Washington, D.C. whose formative years were shaped by the arrest, and subsequent reelection, of Marion Barry, I can’t help but look at the marked contrast between the two mayors through the lens of race (though, in full disclosure, I’m a white suburbanite, so make of this what you will).

When Marion Barry was arrested, and when he later ran for reelection, the national narrative, if sometimes unspoken, was that “Washingtonians can’t be trusted to govern themselves.” (“Washingtonians” being a code word for, you know, black people.) The chatter among even liberal suburbanites was that D.C. was a lawless wasteland (mind you, D.C. in the 90’s is almost unrecognizable from the boomtown it is today) and that white flight had left it in the hands of an incapable majority.

Somehow, the acts, the idiocy and the corruption of one man had been taken as an indictment of the entire city (or at least, the black residents of the city).

I think we can all agree Rob Ford is on another level from Marion Barry. His arrogance, his corruption, his total disregard for his electorate, pales in comparison to anything that the “Mayor For Life” of Washington ever did. Yet Toronto remains unsullied in the press, a victim of a rogue mayor who seemingly came out of nowhere. I’ve seen no in-depth reporting on what makes up this so-called “Ford Nation” (frankly, that there is a strong Tea Party-esque streak in suburban Toronto is news to me — and I want to know more), or on how Canada’s strange 2000’s era provincial-level experiment with forcing its cities and suburbs to amalgamate has created these municipal messes, not just in Toronto but elsewhere.

Perhaps it is just sensitivity, but I can’t help but wonder if there is not more at play when the world still trusts Torontonians — despite, quite frankly, some damning evidence to the contrary — to govern themselves, but the majority black citizens of Washington were blamed for “their” mayor.

Hope I’m not the only one out there who has seen this connection (and also not the only one wondering why no one has yet interviewed Marion Barry as a talking head in the Rob Ford news explosion?)…

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