Was Kingsway Theatre saga an act of racism or jerk-ism? (TORONTO STAR UPDATE)

When unpleasant behaviour is directed at a person of colour, does that make it racism? The Kingsway Theatre debacle provides an opportunity to look at the issue through the lens of a black woman.

Racism is not quite the same as jerk-ism, although a Venn diagram of the two sets would result in a huge overlap.

An incident at Kingsway Theatre last weekend left Torontonians squabbling when the black actress, Wendy Olunike Adeliyi, posted on Facebook her experience of being denied entry to watch a film (ironically about race) because she was carrying a backpack.

Was it racism or was it not?

Readers, not just of colour, described similar bad experiences with the theatre in emails to the Star and on social media. On Yelp, the theatre owner Rui Pereira appeared to respond to negative reviewers with f-bombs.

So how did racism become an element here? For Adeliyi, it happened when Pereira called the police on her and described her as black and threatening.

In his defence, Pereira said Adeliyi was “rude and belligerent to the staff,” which is why he called the police. He says he mentioned race in response to questions by the police.

Did the police ask, “Is she black?” or “What is her race?” or “Describe this woman, including her skin colour?” The police won’t say.

If Adeliyi was white, would Pereira have said, “She is a white woman with black clothes?”