Select language, opens an overlay
The Skin We're in

The Skin We're in

A Year of Black Resistance and Power

Book - 2020
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates, a bracing, provocative and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy and inspire activists. In May 2015, the cover story of Toronto Life magazine shook Canada's largest city to its core. Desmond Cole's "The Skin I'm In" exposed the racist practices of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times Cole had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, went on to win a number of National Magazine Awards and catapulted its author into the public sphere. Cole used his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis: the devastating effects of racist policing; the hopelessness produced by an education system that expects little of its black students and withholds from them the resources they need to succeed more fully; the heartbreak of those vulnerable before the child welfare system and those separated from their families by discriminatory immigration laws. Both Cole's activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We're In. Puncturing once and for all the bubble of Canadian smugness and naïve assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year--2017--in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when African refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, racial epithets used by a school board trustee, a six-year-old girl handcuffed at school. The year also witnessed the profound personal and professional ramifications of Desmond Cole's unwavering determination to combat injustice. In April, Cole disrupted a Toronto police board meeting by calling for the destruction of all data collected through carding. Following the protest, Cole, a columnist with the Toronto Star, was summoned to a meeting with the paper's opinions editor and was informed that his activism violated company policy. Rather than limit his efforts defending Black lives, Cole chose to sever his relationship with the publication. Then in July, at another TPS meeting, Cole challenged the board publicly, addressing rumours of a police cover-up of the brutal beating of Dafonte Miller by an off-duty police officer and his brother. When Cole refused to leave the meeting until the question was publicly addressed, he was arrested. The image of Cole walking, handcuffed and flanked by officers, out of the meeting fortified the distrust between the city's Black community and its police force. In a month-by-month chronicle, Cole locates the deep cultural, historical and political roots of each event so that what emerges is a personal, painful and comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality. Urgent, controversial and unsparingly honest, The Skin We're In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Doubleday Canada, [2020]
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780385686341
Call Number: 305.89607 C6892s 2020
Characteristics: 246 pages ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Skin we are in


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 06, 2021

This is an interesting read. It really helps contextualize the protests of 2020, and I especially love how it dispels that most enduring of white Canadian myths: The idea that somehow white Canadians aren't just as racist, violent and hypocritical as those terrible Americans down south.

Apr 02, 2021

Reading the other comments here I can add nothing more but agree. It is very well written, so engaging to read, yet it deals with such a serious and important issue. I also like that the book is not pessimistic, somehow through all there is a ray of sun quietly emerging. Desmond Cole is our late-found treasure, hopefully to lead us towards becoming a better society.

VaughanPLShelly Dec 16, 2020

This memoir is powerfully written and well-researched, I highly recommend it for those living in the GTA. Cole has an engaging tone in his writing but also gives great context to the ways in which racism is still present today. This was one of the most memorable books I read this year, and I have to agree with reviews that say it should be mandatory reading.

debwalker Dec 06, 2020

From the inside of what it's like.

I cried. How can this be going in in my country and in my city. Thank you Mr. Cole for documenting the hidden racism in Canada. I hope our Canadian grandchildren never have to shed tears over man's inhumanity to man in our own country.

Oct 25, 2020

This should be required reading for all high schools across Canada. I learned a lot about our history. We're always comparing ourselves to the Americans, but we're just as bad.

Sep 24, 2020

This perspective-changing book involves a lot of thoroughly-researched history about the struggles that overlap and intersect within the black and indigenous communities in Canada. The way Cole paints our distinct Canadian picture is very significant. I love how Cole does not attempt to compare the tragedies taking place between the US and Canada, rather highlighting how messed up things are here, and how unstable and unsafe things are here. Topics that are discussed within these chapters are police brutality towards black citizens, corrupt data collection of policing, and the disinterest politicians have on layers and layers of unchecked and contested white supremacy. Canada has a lot of history we aren’t facing. The Skin We’re In is a critical book into Black Life in Canada and a critical look into Black Resistance in Canada and abroad. Overall, this read battles the myth that Canada is more inclusive, welcoming and celebratory of diversity than the USA. Being a Canadian myself, I know that this is true because our country is certainly not perfect, as we have made several mistakes in the past, and to this day when it comes to things such as racial injustice, discrimination, and much more. I would definitely recommend the whole world to read this book, so we can own up to these truths, and start to make change. 5/5 stars
@Bookland of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Jul 28, 2020

I'm more than 60 per cent through and this should be on every Canadian's reading list. It's a scathing indictment of the Canadian mythos that we are better than the U.S. in terms of our history with Black immigrants and slavery.

We are not.

I learned so much from Cole's lived experience and his careful research. Things I wish I had been taught in school. I truly believe this should be on the curriculum for at least grade 9 students. It's written plainly and well enough for them to understand.

Depending on the maturity of a 13-year-old I would let them read (listen) to it, and teens 14–15 years old should be ready to read it or listen to it (recognizing not everyone reads from the page—electronic or paper—well).

If you're a parent, it would be good to read it before and then again while your kid is reading it so that they can ask questions or so that you can bring up different points. If you don't know the answer to your kid's question, it's okay to say you don't know and suggest you and them do the research together, if possible.

Conversations absolutely have to happen alongside this book.

Jun 29, 2020

The author doesn't hold back the punches and nor should he. This book is a scathing indictment of not just law enforcement (although that features prominently), but multiple Canadian institutions, norms and mores that enable racism against Black Canadians to flourish. A necessary read for naïve Canadians still operating under the illusion that racism stops at the Canadian border.

Jun 17, 2020

Every Canadian should read this!

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Jul 28, 2020

trebyl thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top