This weekend Toronto celebrated Caribana, the largest Caribbean festival in North America, which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city every year. And it seems that each year I hear some sort of racist remark about either the festival itself or the people who attend.This time it happened at our saturday breakfast joint.
Each Saturday, we go to a local family-run diner for breakfast. Over the years we got to know the owners, the waitress, and even some of the regular customers. One of my favourite people in there is a 91 year-old lady who goes there every morning for a cup of tea. I really admire the fact that each day, rain or shine, and all through the winter, she gets out for a walk and her tea and we often chat. The lady has a great sense of humour and we often laugh together.
This weekend I didn’t really laugh when she went on a rant about Caribana. According to her, the waiters at the restaurant across the nearby Days Inn hotel complain bitterly about the mess “they” make every year. She went on saying that “it’s too bad”, there are so many “nice black people”, why do “they have to behave like animals” like that, giving “black people a bad reputation.” I confess I tried to change the subject once I saw where it was going. Alan kept saying “it’s party time; people always go a bit wild when they are partying.”
And that’s precisely the point. I don’t doubt there are lots of locals and tourists who take their partying a bit too far during Caribana. But the same could be said about Carnaval in any part of the world that celebrated it, or Pride Week here in Toronto, or any other big celebration that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to a city over a weekend. What bothers me is when people connect the behaviour of Caribana revelers with their race.