Janaya Khan interview (I)

Janaya Khan interview (video only), CP24, 2016.07.04.

Khan on camera

Note how Khan suddenly realizes the pickle she’s in as she uses “police” in a verb form: “I don’t ever want to police… uh, how somebody, what their – what someone’s profession should be, or, you know, whether or not they can be both queer and a police officer.” (Posted 2016.07.10; updated 2016.07.13, 2016.08.19.)


INTERVIEWER: Well, the future relations between police and Pride Toronto is now in question. The group Black Lives Matter halted yesterday’s parade, calling for more inclusive Pride for black LGBTQ members. The group presented Pride organizers with a list of demands, and, after about half an hour, the parade resumed after Pride Toronto’s executive director signed a document agreeing to them. Now, this allow— includes not allowing police floats in future Pride parades and a public town hall to be held in six months’ time.

Now, Black Lives Matter Toronto cofounder Janaya Khan joins us now. Janaya, thanks for being here this morning. Let’s talk a little bit more about this – the demands, and specifically the demands that Black Lives Matter set out from the police that there be – or from, uh, Pride that there be no more police involvement at all. Do you mean not even any police security at the event or you just mean no more police floats, etc.?

KHAN: I think we need to look at the fact that there was never a community consensus on the involvement of the police to begin with and what involvement they should have. And so really what we’re doing is we’re opening up the possibility for dialogue. Uh, so it’s not a matter of if police floats should be there? We definitely feel like they should not. But police presence is something that can be negotiated. There are LGBT-identified police officers on the force, and we have no right to say whether they should or should not participate. But because of the intersections of our community and the reality of structural and systemic oppression within the police force in relationship to racism, uh, it is a – it is an area of concern and it is something that we should be discussing.

— Janaya, in the wake of the Orlando massacre three weeks ago, some people said that they felt safer seeing such a significant police presence there yesterday. How-how do you respond to that? Because, I mean, we know there are, you know, tar— people do not like the gay community,

— Mm-hmm.

— people do not like the black community in many cases. So without the police and security there, how do you think that could play out? Because there’s the calming effect on one hand.

— I think what this has done is really brought out tensions that exist within the, you know, sexuality‑ and gender-diverse communities. Being sexu-sexuality‑ and gender-diverse doesn’t preclude racism. So that’s one. And two is I’m someone who identifies as both members of – of different communities, of the LGBT community and also of the black community. And this has brought up really necessary tensions around who feel safer with police presence and who doesn’t. This is a larger conversation that we need to have, and we’re hoping that the town hall that was part of our demands will really create the space to have the types of dialogues we need.

— So, uh, I know you want the town hall to be in six months’ time. Have you or has somebody from Black Lives Matter spoken with the chief or the chief’s officials today about that specific demand?

— Uh, not as yet. Uh, what we’ve really been doing at this particular point in time is addressing concerns from the community, because that’s who we want to be accountable to first. We do invest our time in, in marginalized communities, and that’s who we were really representing. It’s not just about black LGBTQ identities, but also the reality of the disappearance of racialized infrastructure within Pride, uh, the need to have more space for indigenous people. Really, Pride’s history is a tradition of resistance, and we’re only keeping in alignment with that.

— Right, there is that tradition, of course, that this all started as a protest, a very political protest. Uh, some people have criticized Black Lives Matter for sort of politicizing Pride again. How do you respond to that criticism?

— I would say that, 20 years ago, we had the first Dyke March, and it received a lot of pushback and a lot of negativity. And now it is an integral part of Pride. It is something that we celebrate. We should not have to wait 20 years before we think black lives should matter within a Pride celebration.

— 0K, well, that’s certainly a big thing. I want to just jump back quickly to the first answer you gave, because you talked about talking to police about whether or not they should be involved. It seemed relatively cut and dry –

— Mm-hmm.

— yesterday on that Nº 8 point of your demands. Are you backtracking on that slightly today, then? Because it seemed to me like you – it wasn’t, like, a – “they must be gone.”

— Not at all. I think it’s contextualizing. What we had said was we did not want police floats. Uh, there’s been increased police presence within Pride over the years. Um, and so I think what we are willing to negotiate on is the ways in which police are involved. For example, should they be in uniform? I think these are questions that we need to have, because, for a lot of our members, when we see police officers in uniform, it’s a space of deep and grave concern because of the distrust that exists in the community.

And because they’re coming from a space of systemic privilege, and because of the realities of structural racism, that’s not something that we can negate. That’s something that needs to be taken very seriously if Pride is going to be inclusive.

— Right. You say “in uniform”: Is it about the fact that the uniform includes a weapon, or is it just about the colours, the blue [Toronto police uniforms have been black for 15 years], the ties, etc.? Because I saw a lot of the police in uniform yesterday, but a lot of them had, you know, a rainbow flag or a rainbow in some way. Is it the overall uniform and weapon, or what is it specifically about the uniform?

— It’s specifically around what it represents? uh, and how – and what our relationship is to it. I don’t ever want to police… uh, how somebody, what their – what someone’s profession should be –

— Mm-hmm.

— or, you know, whether or not they can be both queer and a police officer. But rather, if we’re actually going to talk about making Pride more inclusive, let’s talk about that, and we need to do that within the light of “There is a lot of police brutality that exists between black, uh, people and police officers, and that needs to be addressed.”