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The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power
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The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  7,374 ratings  ·  947 reviews
A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists.

In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of time
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Doubleday Canada
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Jenn Hi Elizabeth, I think it's an important read - it's very factual and almost reads like newspaper article after newspaper article. I think what's more …moreHi Elizabeth, I think it's an important read - it's very factual and almost reads like newspaper article after newspaper article. I think what's more important though is for you to read the text first before implementing it in your classroom or lessons (I'm making the assumption that you are a teacher looking for diverse reads to add to your space). Perhaps even find one of the chapters that speaks to you and perhaps your students to study and discuss. It speaks a lot about injustices in school boards (as well as many other areas) so it would be best to be prepared for those discussions. I'm not sure it's really a question of being an appropriate read or not - but I know for myself, I always read the texts I use in my classrooms/lessons before I have my students read it. Hope this helps!(less)

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A powerful book about fighting white supremacy in Canada. Desmond Cole writes with passion about anti-Black police violence in Canada as well as the racism and xenophobia directed toward Indigenous folx and immigrants. His analysis is incisive and delves deep into the impacts of colonization, as evidenced by this quote:

“White supremacy is a hierarchy, with whiteness at the top. Indigenous peoples of the Americas, whose lands have been colonized by white settlers, occupy a low place on this hiera
chantel nouseforaname
Desmond Cole marries journalism and activism to bring forth stories of the ways anti-black racism is permeated in Canadian society and the ways that black people are resisting in Canada.

I respect how he discussed how struggles overlap and intersect amongst the black and indigenous communities in Canada and why resisting is so important. You really can't discount how much we have to stand together in solidarity to create change and keep pushing forward the need to combat anti-black racism in sch
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
a collection of sharp, swift essays that sketch the past and present of white supremacy in Canada + document anti-racist protests in 2017, the year this collection homes in on. Cole blends memoir and reportage in a way that's engaging. ...more
Paul Bryant
May 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
This is a book about Canada, a country which has a wonderful liberal image. There is a Wikipedia page called Canadian Identity which says :

immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean have reshaped the Canadian identity, a process that continues today with the continuing arrival of large numbers of immigrants from non-British or French backgrounds

Desmond Cole should think about editing that bit, because on page 151 on this book he says

For as long as Canada has been a country, it has g
Lauren Simmons
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will preface this by saying Desmond Cole is a friend.

This book, man oh man, this book. It reads at once like a convo with Des, a call to action (you better fucking act), and a thoroughly-researched history. The narrative structure of a month-by-month account of Black activism in the year 2017 is a helpful device that gives the story a meaningful framework. Each chapter addresses a specific event or area of activism - immigration, Pride, police in schools, police brutality - but there are recur
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for all Canadians, as of last year.

Words cannot even begin to describe how crucial this book is to understanding racism in Canada. The whole “Canada isn’t as bad as the States” mindset you have will be broken down, and you will be proven wrong. From cases with national/international attention to barely even a media mention at all, Desmond Cole takes us through the bad, the ugly, and the worst possible racist situations that have happened in Canada. Oh, and did I mention that this fo
Ashley Daviau
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I don’t even know where to start with this book. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting to think that the country I live in could be so racist. I also feel terribly uneducated and like I had rose coloured glasses on, I had no idea how badly Black people were treated by Canada. But it is my responsibility as a Canadian to know and to educate myself about my country and to fight against such terrible injustices being inflicted. After reading this book, I vow to do better and fight racial injustice in m ...more
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you’re Canadian and you’ve said, or even thought, “well at least we’re not as bad as our neighbours to the south”, read this book. Not as bad as the worst doesn’t give us a pass to turn our attention away. Abdirahman Abdi. Defonte Miller. Abdouhl Abdi. We should know their names. Desmond Cole is someone I will continue paying attention to as he holds us accountable for anti-black racism happening every day in our country. He also draws parallels with this county’s anti-indigenous racism. Such ...more
Jul 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, nonfiction
I read this book (as a white Canadian trying to become more informed) hoping it would tell the story of anti-Black racism and protests against police brutality in Canada, as most of the related news cycle is dominated by American news, and there are precious few contemporary nonfiction books on these issues by Canadian authors. The Skin We’re In wasn’t the right book for my current information needs, as it is pretty Toronto-centric and jumps between so many different topics that all that I reall ...more
Ameema S.
Oh, what an incredible read.

The concept of Desmond Cole’s “The Skin We’re In” is unexpected, unique, and unforgettable. It’s the story of Canada in the year 2017 - capturing a year of the systemic, social, and structural ways we (Canadians) have institutionalized and weaponized racism, especially anti-Black (& anti-Indigenous) racism:

Cole uses his skills as a reporter, and a writer, seamlessly weaving together a month by month history of racism and resistance in Canada in 2017. Although it cover
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
Excellent book and essential read for Canadians to learn about 'home grown and executed racism' within our borders. Desmond Cole has pulled together a tight, well researched book that highlights the struggles of the Black community in Canada. A must-read. ...more
Carolyn Klassen
The Skin We're In battles the myth that Canada is more inclusive, welcoming, celebratory of diversity than the USA. Desmond Cole breaks down his work into the twelve months of a year of interrogating the white supremacist structures of the Canadian government, legal system, and law enforcement system. There is no equality in Canada. Black Canadians face the same kinds of harassment, intimidation, police monitoring, and racialized violence that Black Americans do. They lose their jobs for being ' ...more
I finally got to finish this after having to wait to get the audiobook from the library again after my time ran out when I only had 20 minutes left! It is a riveting, enfuriating, passionate book. It follows the year 2017 in Desmond Cole's life as a Black activist and journalist in Toronto.

He covers a wide variety of issues, from cops in schools and Pride to police brutality, immigration injustice, and more. I especially liked how he integrated the struggles of Indigenous people with his analysi
Alanna Schwartz
Apr 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The perfect answer to “but that doesn’t happen in Canada.”
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I hated this book. I refuse to proclaim a book as wonderful simply because its topic is an important one. Lauded as the anti-racist book all Canadians should read and subtitled, “A Year of Black Resistance and Power,” The Skin We’re In is not the book I was expecting.

To begin, it's largely about Toronto, with a few tidbits thrown in from other locations across this very large country. Wouldn’t a better book open our eyes to racism from coast to coas
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Skin We’re In is a raw and unflinching look at the experience of being black in Canada. Anytime the topic of racism comes up in Canada, most people duck their heads and say it’s not a problem here or it’s not as bad as what it’s like in The United States of America. The Skin We’re In gives readers a glimpse of how wrong that statement is through a year in the life of Desmond Cole, a Toronto activist.

I’m always trying to better educate myself regarding these topics since I have never had to
(4.5) Powerful and angry expose of systemic anti-Black racism in Canada. Cole, a journalist who lost his regular gig at the Toronto Star due to his advocacy work, structures his book month by month through the year 2017, exploring deaths at the hands of police, police in schools, the immigration system, etc etc. There’s a lot of ‘etcetera,’ and I mean that in the best way - he builds his argument out of a lot of solid, upsetting bricks, While I was familiar with a number of the individual incide ...more
❀ Susan G
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
Thank you to Desmond Cole who has researched, advocated and shared experiences of Black individuals in Canada. This book was an education to me. Although I had heard of a few of the names and their experiences with systemic racism, I truly had no idea of situations like the brutal assault of Dafonte Miller by an off-duty officer and his brother, learned more details about the experiences of carding and the challenges of immigrating to Canada.

The book shines a light on the systemic racism in Can
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A work about Canada's present that doesn't suffer from goldfish brain about our past.

This is the indictment of Canada's white supremacy problem that everyone says it is. I would just like to add that what makes it so effective is that Cole refuses to succumb to the goldfish brain mindset that effects 97% of Canadian journalists, who go from story to story and forget what happened ten days ago. He even knows Canadian history, like beyond the Heritage Minutes. There aren't many people who do that
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A valuable book that should be a staple on the library shelves of Canadian racial/social progress. Lots of insight on historical flash points in Canada and puts into clear view that institutions that uphold racist policy are alive and well here. Required reading for those of us who knee jerk respond (myself included) with "at least it's not as bad as America" and highlights the damage and pain that mentality perpetuates. Also provides peeks into protest organisation and how grassroots activism g ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you are white and you are a Canadian citizen, then you MUST read this book. It will make you think, it will make you uncomfortable and it will make you confront your own biases on every single page. I learned more about anti-Black racism in this country from this book then I ever did in school.

Desmond Cole is a talented writer and a dedicated activist, and I am so thankful that he put this book into the world for us to learn from.
Kara Babcock
Somehow amidst all the well-deserved hype for The Skin We’re In, I missed hearing about its structure! This is Not Your Typical political memoir in that Desmond Cole has chosen a very deliberate structure: each chapter is a month in 2017 (with a coda for January 2018). He uses an event from each month of that year as a launching point for discussing issues of anti-Black racism and social justice in Canada. In this way, Cole stays focused and on-message while also making it very clear that anti-B ...more
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Must-read for all Canadians...
We have such a tendency to compare ourselves to the US and spread the idea that racism doesn't exist here, and this book does a beautiful job of dispelling those assumptions.
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
4.5 STARS - Canadians often compare ourselves to the US and sometimes, we can get a little high and mighty about how we think we have it better than our neighbours to the south. We definitely have it better in some ways, but in regards to racism? Canadians may want to think again.

This is a book that all Canadians should read - particularly those Canadians who think 'racism isn't an issue here in Canada' with an attitude of 'thank-god-we're-better-than-the-Americans'. In this collection of essay
Rachel Deiterding
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I swallowed this book whole. It so clearly connects so many issues Canadians seem to relegate to other places firmly in the GTA. While presenting violence, Cole also presents hope. He outlines an ongoing fight. It is a call to action and if you aren't ready to act by the time you finish you need to read it again. ...more
Jul 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
This book is such an important read for Canadians, especially those who say "I'm so glad I live in Canada" when something terrible happens in the states. I learned a lot about Canada and Ontario's racist history (and unfortunately present) in Cole's collections of stories. I will recommend this book to many. ...more
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Cole is a fighter for racial justice in Canada. I respect how he puts his principles before his check book. As he says, when he lost his high profile column with the Toronto Star, he wasn’t even getting dental benefits! He convincingly roasts the Star and it’s editors for their hypocrisy.
In his book, he talks more about how it’s about fighting white supremacy and less about the how the roots of racism are endemic to capitalist society. For me, it is very much a class privilege we fight against,
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book I highly recommend, especially to fellow Canadians. Desmond Cole highlights the intersections between the history of slavery on the land we currently call Canada, police violence, public school policies, immigration policies, and international military involvement—and the ways in which they perpetuate racism and violence against Black people on a systemic level. He also foregrounds the incredible work currently being done by Black activists across the country.

The preponderance of police
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There’s a popular myth that floats around (recently heard in the NBA by Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors) that there is no racism in Canada. Or if there is, it’s by outsider groups or radical right wing nutters. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. (Considering Canada is a British colony that was built at the great expense of Indigenous peoples and using slavery, I’m not sure how this rumour persists).

In ‘The Skin We’re In’, Desmond Cole outlines a year of overt and s
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-author
Parts of the book should be included in a history or similar class regarding the treatment of Blacks and Indigenous peoples for years (centuries?).

I can recall seeing the coverage of the tee-pee on Parliament Hill during Canada 150, the Dafonte Miller story, BLM blocking the Pride Parade a few years back.

The other interesting and relevant writing was about Birchtown, Nova Scotia and "The Book of Negros" (a great book by Lawrence Hill) recently re-broadcast on CBC. And how Mr. Cole's extended f
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Desmond Cole is a Canadian journalist, activist, author, and broadcaster who lives in Toronto, Ontario. Cole hosts a weekly radio program on Newstalk 1010. He was previously a columnist for the Toronto Star and has written for The Walrus, NOW Magazine, Torontoist, The Tyee, Ethnic Aisle, Toronto Life, and BuzzFeed.

News & Interviews

When author Amor Towles published his second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, in 2016, everything changed.   Towles’ first novel, Rules of...
32 likes · 4 comments
“This idea that Canada's racial injustices are not as bad as they could be, this notion of Slavery Lite, of Racism Lite, of what my friend calls the "toy version of racism" is a very Canadian way of saying: remember what we could do to you if we wanted to. Passive-aggressive racism is central to Canada's national mythology and identity.” 9 likes
“it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy—white settlers deny Black communities the necessities of life, then blame us for the social dysfunction that follows.” 3 likes
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