Written by Sabine Demosthenes
MONTREAL – Around 3pm yesterday, I wanted to take a small break from a busy day of working from home. I decided to browse my Instagram for puppy pictures while my own precious furry son slept on his little bed in my home office.
While I scrolled to see what was going on, I saw Jessica Mulroney’s post.
I have been following Jessica on Instagram and Twitter for a few years. You may have even read my article about her in The Chronicle Blog. I remembered when I reached out to her about posting this article. She gladly thanked me and even shared it! She also showed me how to tag her on my Instagram picture associated with this article (I didn’t know how to tag someone at the time).
I was so happy for her support and thinking maybe she could be some sort of mentor. We were both Montrealers but from very different crowds. Jessica is from the very rich, anglophone neighborhood of Westmount, while I’m from the very urban, francophone neighborhood of Montreal North (Northside). We grew up in the same city, but at the same time, in very different environments, with different outlooks on life. As a black girl in the Northside, you could get arrested for just going back to school after the lunch break. I was a victim of this. In the Northside, you could have friends from different communities like Haitian, French Canadian, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, and Latino, as I did. My best friends were Italian and French Canadian. Our parents were working-class heroes and very proud of their roots.
For us, the Westmount neighborhood was the total opposite of the world we lived in. Despite being on opposite sides of the city, the Westmount people being wealthier than us and communicating in a different spoken language, we were not THAT different. We were all proud to be kind, unjudgmental, and tolerant regarding our backgrounds.
Let’s be honest though, in the back of our minds, we deeply knew, they don’t really know what it is like to grow up in a society where you are constantly judged because of the color of your skin?
Did they encounter multiple disappointments associated with hunting for a summer job? The phone interview was always great. The interviewer was pleased: “you sound like the perfect candidate”, “your spoken voice and tone is perfect”, “you sound like a bright young lady” and “your name is so European”. The in-person interview was different. Meeting the supervisor for the interview, you witness that look in their eyes, he thought you would look way lighter than you are and suddenly, you are no longer the bright, young girl they spoke to on the phone the previous day.
Jessica Mulroney grew up in a very different Montreal than the one I have. Montreal is such a melting pot of a city though. You can have a friend from Outremont or even Westmount at University who didn’t know about Montreal North, but is willing to learn about it, your family, and your struggles, even though it’s not easy for them to understand it at first.
I thought Jessica was one of those people at first.
Yesterday, I got an awakening when I saw her apology post on Instagram about her beef with Sasha Exeter. First of all, I was really late to the party; I didn’t know about the beef when it started.
The beef is the fact that Sasha posted on her Instagram that a lot of white social media influencers were not supporting Black Lives Matter on their platforms. She didn’t personally point out Jessica, but Jessica took it personally regardless and it got out of hand.
It didn’t stop there.
Jessica posted an apology on Instagram, which in my opinion, was flat as water. She even said look I have friends that are black and etc (I have heard this sentence so many times in my lifetime). I can’t be a racist.
At this point, the situation was not yet a tragedy.
Voici la pièce de résistance aka here is the masterpiece:
In typical Amy Cooper (a Karen-type response) Jessica sent a DM to Sasha. I was so shocked to read it.
it said this: “Liable [sic] suit. Good luck.”
First of all, is it even possible to apologize and at the same time, be a bully, and threaten to sue someone?
The answer is simple: Yes, when you have Karen’s attitude.
How can you threaten someone with calling all her sponsors and business partners to ask them to stop doing business with her? This person is a single mom trying to make a living and succeed in a very difficult industry that is known as nepotism paradise.
The answer is simple: It’s possible when you have Karen’s attitude.
I’m lucky enough to have a career in academia and where I don’t have to be worried about my financial situation. I have worked so hard and yet, I still feel I have to more than double my efforts to prove my competence and integrity just because I’m black.
Being a journalist is my ultimate dream and creating The Chronicle Blog is one of the biggest achievements regarding my career. Being an influencer doesn’t attract me at all. Being part of difficult conversations, trying to write smart articles with a touch of humor and humility, that is my goal.
I remembered that I did try to reach out to Jessica again. I suggested that when she was in town, we should catch up and try creating something. I had hoped she would become a mentor to me. I respected her. I invited her to my office at UdeM.
Unfortunately, she never answered my request. I figured that I wasn’t cool enough. That brought me right back to the 90s and how the Westmount’s crowd doesn’t mix with the Northside crowd.
I wasn’t bitter though. I kept supporting her and some of her charities.
But yesterday, I was stunned! I was sad for Sasha and for all the people, especially black people, indigenous people, the mental health advocates, and people living with mental health issues, the LGBT, and marginalized people constantly victimized by Karen-type shenanigans.
I’m so sick and tired of always having to explain injustice, nepotism, systemic racism, and just plain common sense.
Having black friends doesn’t mean you don’t have bad judgment regarding race.
I won’t ask Jessica to post a picture of her kneeling, but I will ask her if she is truly sincere in her apology. You need to get more involved and not by educating yourself through reading books. Take your children and go out to a community center. Get involved in learning about what systemic racism is with your kids. Go into a neighborhood where families don’t come from wealthy backgrounds, don’t have country club memberships, and are focused on survival by working 2 or 3 jobs only to still send their kids to school with empty stomachs. Try to see from your eyes and your heart.
You can even start here in Montreal.
Action matters and being consistent is the key.
Will I unfollow Jessica Mulroney?
I’m a big believer that people can grow spiritually and mentally during a lifetime. Jessica could change, but it won’t be easy.
If she asks me (which I really doubt she will) to hang out in the Northside to visit some interesting, inspiring community centers and have a real and honest conversation, would I accept?
I would. I wouldn’t talk about my struggle though. I’m tired, we all are, but I would show her how she can change the conversation in a positive way by taking action. I would tell her that she has a platform (and her husband too) to mentor young people from different backgrounds and give them opportunities instead of offering internships or jobs to friends who are not qualified or haven’t earned them.
It’s like that famous song by Sam Cooke that said: A Change is Gonna Come.
When will this Karen attitude stop?