If Scarborough fever is a thing, then we’ve all been sick for ages: A Response

Link to original article here.

Ms. Heindl, I’ma call you out.

But before I do that, let’s point out some things I do agree with you about. (Beyond the wonderfully and supremely obvious fact that Scarborough is big.) It is nuanced, just like its dialect. And Drake, as an outsider-insider of that culture, has an interesting way of taking part in it.

But a “sneaky little wink” with his accent is far from fair. Sure, it doesn’t come across as naturally as someone homegrown in these parts, but it isn’t fake, either. It’s hybrid of him as a displaced Forest Hill kid with Scarborough friends who welcomed him, and it’s just one of a set of sociolects that he code-switches between different groups of people.

Until the (mind you, artistic and still poetic-fictional) short film Jungle (And some Instagram videos in between), we haven’t had any kind of tangible access to Drake’s Scarborough world beyond lyrical allusions and his group of friends. Only now do we have any taste of a different, local, and darker world that Drake imagines and envisions, and that includes intimate encounters with local folks and conversations in our dialect.

It’s not appropriation when, throughout his career, he literally drops bars (which, as a Drake fan and a Scarborough kid, one would expect you to know) working through his in-betweenness. One would only have to look at “Wu-Tang Forever” to find: “I find peace knowing that it’s harder in the streets/I know, luckily I didn’t have to grow there/I would only go there cause there’s n****s that I know there.” Undeniably, his rendering of the accent and his participation in the culture is incomplete to people who grew up here, but in songs such as “From Time” and “How Bout Now”, Drake acts as a curator of real Scarborough voices — from his longtime friend Baka in the former, and from the unnamed telephone caller in the latter. He’ll talk the talk, but he’ll let those who can talk better, talk better.

But I’ve got another bone (or two, or ten) to pick with you:

What the fuck is “deep Scarborough”? Is it some mythical, magical place that is found beyond the antechamber of “shallow” or “just-the-tip” Scarborough? Or — and let’s be honest here — is it the “scary” parts of Scarborough that your privileged self was too scared to step into and associate with?

Lay it bare, your article oozes of detachment and ambivalence with your Scarborough roots, despite your claim to having grown up there. Which I don’t deny you of in any way. But your relationship to our hometown is, to put it lightly, some sketchy-ass shit.

You talk about the Scarborough accent like it’s something that people who you “grew up with” but never participated in, so you pass off heinous and caricaturized judgments of what the accent and the culture are. (As if a prerequisite of a “real” Scarborough experience is to be scared of Malvern kids? Really? That’s the best you’ve got?)

And don’t get us started on your incredibly ignorant use of race and class, when you talk about “casting away the myth of Scarborough the bad” as having to cast away the idea of “slumming it.” It’s one thing to say that “no, it isn’t bad to live here,” but it’s another thing to say “it’s all flowers and ponies wearing Timberlands so let’s ignore the fact that socio-economic and racial stratification in this city is still horrendously segregated.”

Being a good Scarberian (and, by extension, a good and ethical Torontonian) is beyond (and not even inclusive of) being “scared of Malvern,” or mallratting at STC, or name-dropping neighbourhoods while teeth-kissing. It’s not mourning the fact that, as you say in the past-tense, “it had a culture.” It’s not making grandiose claims about slang and sociolinguistics you neither have the technical nor the cultural (and empathetic, for that matter) know-how to make.

It’s about solidarity for a people within its fluid boundaries that come from far-flung places beyond its borders, from the Tamil migrant across the street to the Filipina caregiver who just moved in with a new contract and a few years of hell; from North York folks to Goan international students coming to Centennial or UTSC; from the kid whose parents forced her to move to Whitby from Malvern to that Forest Hill kid who films Degrassi up on Morningside and drives down to Kingston to chill with his friends.

It’s recognizing that someone who grew up beside Johnny Burgers or Dragon Centre will never sound or act the same way as someone who grew up next to Malvern Town Centre or by St. Martin de Porres Church. It’s recognizing the diversity of our slang and of the people who use it right.

It’s about opening your eyes to the new wave of Scarborough love endemic to our city after the 2012 shootings and Rob Ford’s disgusting comments about “thugs.” It’s about being enthralled not only by Drake or P Reign, but by guys like the Airplane Boys putting out Scarborough music, or by organizations like the East Scarborough Storefront and the Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change doing empowering work in our streets, or the increasing awareness of exactly how diverse and delicious our food culture is, while never forgetting to hit up Markham Station at 4am with your homies.

To be Scarborough is to be exactly what Baka says: “y’all need to know yourself.”


Originally published at adrianlikesfood.blogspot.ca on April 29, 2015.

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