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Why the ‘Rogue Tenor’ indicted more than himself

When Remigio Pereira chose ‘all lives matter’ as his chosen expression, it was either an aggressively racist declaration or a passively racist one. Take your pick.


 
Windsor, Ontario, Canada - Remigio Pereira of The Canadian Tenors performs at Caesars Windsor. (Gene Schillin/CP)

Windsor, Ontario, Canada – Remigio Pereira of The Canadian Tenors performs at Caesars Windsor. (Gene Schillin/CP)

“This is not a political statement,” says Remigio Pereira, his voice wavering. “I don’t agree with killing. So if I don’t agree with killing, it means I don’t agree with Black people dying.” This is the beginning of an audio statement that Pereira released on SoundCloud, in response to the massive backlash he faced for a very stupid thing he did the day before. At the MLB All-Star game, Pereira and his ensemble mates, the Tenors, delivered the Canadian national anthem. What should have been a rote and forgettable affair became a gallimaufry when Pereira shoehorned the following lines into the anthem: “We’re all brothers / and sisters / all lives matter to the brave.” As he did so, he pulled a sign reading “ALL LIVES MATTER” from beneath his sharkskin jacket and held it aloft for the rest of the anthem.

MORE: The Tenors remind us that ‘All Lives Matter’ is unhelpful at best

While the baseball game proceeded, Twitter roiled in fury at the “All lives matter” message. If you’re not familiar, “All lives matter” began a retort to “Black Lives Matter,” which itself began as an affirmation in the face of the justice system that allowed suburban vigilante George Zimmerman (who shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin), and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (who shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown) to walk the earth as free men. The statement “All lives matter” sounds innocuous when taken at face value, but is deeply pernicious in its everyday usage. No one was saying “All lives matter” before the Ferguson protests, and ever since the phrase was coined, it has mostly been deployed by white antagonists to further fray the nerves of exhausted and grieving Black people. It’s a racial dog-whistle, on par with “crack babies” “welfare queens,” and “states’ rights.”

Going by this context, and further compounded by the shock of Canadian artists appearing to promote a racially caustic phrase, the Twitterverse heaped wrath upon the social media accounts of Pereira, the Tenors, and their Universal Music label. That night, the group issued an apology for the act, and declared “lone wolf” Pereira’s removal from the ensemble. A day later, Pereira posted the audio recording to his Facebook account, as well as a written statement. “I hoped for a positive statement that would bring us ALL together,” he said. “I weep for the senseless loss of life, the lives of all my brothers and sisters in this world.”

RELATED: Canada’s race problem? It’s even worse than America’s.

His publicity stunt aside, Pereira’s views on race are irritatingly familiar. Less well-known than “the talk” (where our parents teach us to suppress our anger when we’re harassed by police, lest our names become the next Twitter hashtag), is “the silence.” That is, the quiet aftermath of police shootings and other racialized moments, when white friends, student peers and co-workers take us aside to show us they’re one of the good ones. They do this by reducing the complexity of our cultural differences to the simplicity of our skin colour, pridefully announcing their “tolerance” and “colour-blindness,” as if we wish to be tolerated and made invisible. But we hold our tongues, and in the wake of that silence comes the casual refrain “At least things here aren’t as bad as the U.S.”

Even faced with the staggeringly high percentage of Black Canadian children living in poverty, the unemployment rates in our communities running nearly double the national average, the wretched health outcomes, the inexplicable number of our children in custody of Children’s Aid, and the number of Black bodies in Canada’s federal prisons swelling by 70 per cent over the last 10 years, we are compelled, out of politeness, to agree that things aren’t as bad in Canada. We are compelled to shut our eyes to the dozens of other systemic means by which our lives and bodies can be torn apart, and to give thanks that at least police officers – who are sworn to protect us – aren’t gunning us down in the street every 28 hours.

RELATED: Five things we know about the ‘Lone Wolf’ Tenor

In Remigio Pereira’s social media feeds, there are links to conspiracy theories on chem trails, cancer researchers supposedly murdered by Big Pharma, and flat-eartherism. These stunning delusions and logical lapses earned him widespread mockery on social media. Then again, the belief that the key to unity lies in Black people waving away our history and ignoring our own realities was met with approval. This belief, that it is up to Black people to end this impasse by embracing blindness and amnesia, shows how cleanly Pereira split the dichotomy of the phrase “All Lives Matter.” When read as an aggressively racist declaration, it indicts only him. When read as a passively racist one, it indicts the rest of Canada.

He’s made it very clear which reading he intended.

Andray Domise is a Toronto writer, activist and co-founder of txdl.ca, a mentorship and development program.


 

Why the ‘Rogue Tenor’ indicted more than himself

  1. Does Maclean’s employ any journalists these days – or is the view of the magazine to be determined by “activists”, like Mr. Domise?

    Is there a way to flag a column like this as the personal editorial of an “activist”, or should readers continue to be deceived into thinking that it somehow represents a consensus view among thoughtful individuals?

    What exactly is going on with “journalism” in this country? Gawd …

  2. Mess with any country’s national anthem and expect wrath and fury. It was a silly stunt by a silly man. The simple fact that he chose NOT to ask the group’s permission beforehand because he knew they would say no, says it all. Self-important little twit.

  3. Lol, is there any mainstream media source in Canada now that isn’t plagued with critical race theory garbage? This tenor guy is an idiot for awkwardly shoehorning in some lame political message into a performance of the national anthem at a ballgame, on that I fully agree. But now it’s an “indictment” of how terribly racist Canada is? And the phrase “all lives matter” just has to be a racist dog-whistle….sure.

    Can we cut the crap at some point? “Even faced with the staggeringly high percentage of Black Canadian children living in poverty, the unemployment rates in our communities running nearly double the national average, the wretched health outcomes, the inexplicable number of our children in custody of Children’s Aid, and the number of Black bodies in Canada’s federal prisons swelling by 70 per cent over the last 10 years, we are compelled, out of politeness, to agree that things aren’t as bad in Canada.” Lol, who do you want to blame for all of that? Wretched health outcomes? Inexplicable number of children in custody of Children’s Aid? Maybe it’s not so inexplicable after all: it seems that black parents quite often neglect, abandon or abuse their children. Maybe it’s a lack of good parenting and family values that leads to so many problems within black communities. To paraphrase the old saying about what’s the best time to plant a tree, the best time for the black community to look inward and try to fix some of the problems plaguing their community was 20 years ago. The second best time? Right now.

    Bottom line is this: if Canada is such a terribly racist country, why do so many people from around the world flock here, and why do they remain? And why do other immigrant and so-called minority groups – for example, Indians, Asians, etc – not have anywhere near the problems that black communities have? You’ll notice those groups put an emphasis on: family, education, hard work and personal responsibility. All those problems the author of this drivel mentioned are solvable, but they have to be solved by people making better decisions.

  4. I agree 100% tangler. This article is ridiculous. Also I would argue it seems fairly racist.

  5. I am getting very close to no longer frequenting Maclean’s. This never ending leftist onslaught is nauseating.

  6. There is nothing racist about “All lives matter.”

    Nothing at all. Period.

    • I’d agree with you except for the fact that it is racist, and so are you.

  7. Another analysis: aracist as adjective, akin atheist and asexual. Another adjective: anthem-annihilative.

    So-what? Successful social savvy seeds sanity-serving safe spaces.

  8. Whatever, whatever, whatever …. too much criticism for a gesture that was meant to be unifying. The underling fact is America is a broken crippled country suffering from racism. Give the tenor a break. His actions were well intended.

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