Black & White: An Intimate, Multicultural Perspective on “White Advantage” & the Paths to Change By Stephen Dorsey

“The irrefutable video evidence of a Black man being killed by police was, for many non-Black people, the straw that broke the camel’s back – an inflection point that could not be ignored, and which demanded reflection.”  – Stephen Dorsey

Stephen Dorsey’s new book Black & White: An Intimate, Multicultural Perspective on “White Advantage” & the Paths to Change is his outward effort to process the death of George Floyd, and the systemic racism his death laid bare. Black & White is a brave and ambitious book. Dorsey takes the reader along with him as he examines racism on both personal and societal levels, and he challenges himself (and us) to be part of changing our world for the better. 

“Dorsey writes with honesty and intention, and his perspective is an important one at this critical time of reckoning and change.”

A bilingual, mixed-race Black man born and raised in Montreal (and then to Victoria, B.C.; and now lives in Toronto), Stephen Dorsey is uniquely positioned to talk about racism – and what he calls “White Advantage” – in Canada. 

Black & White begins with Dorsey reflecting on the murder of George Floyd – at the knee of police – and the horror of witnessing Floyd’s death (via the viral video that was shared around the world). The video, caught by an onlooker’s cellphone, exposed the glaring reality of systemic racism that many of us, especially the “white advantaged” among us, didn’t want to believe (or admit) was true.

In the weeks and months following the death of George Floyd, a lot of friends reached out to Dorsey with support, and to ask for advice. What could they do to be an ally? At first, he kept his advice simple. He was: “also trying to manage my own emotions and understand how I felt about the reckoning.” Later, he shared his views in a widely-read Opinion Editorial in the Globe and Mail that called for the elimination of “white advantage”. He had decided to step up and share his ideas not only with his friends, but with anyone who would listen. 

“My ‘moment’ had arrived. I decided that I could play a part in the change by bridging difficult conversations between Canadians of all stripes–Black, White, French, English–and I would do so by writing a book.
… It would be interspersed with stories of my lived experiences dealing with racism–many stories that had been bottled up deep inside since childhood. I was ready. I hoped others were ready too.”

Dorsey writes with honesty and intention, and his perspective is an important one at this critical time of reckoning and change. In Black & White he shares the culmination of a lot of soul searching, research, and analysis for our benefit. He digs deep into racism experienced first-hand, while he also reflects on racism throughout our systems (from inequities in health care, access to clean water and healthy food, to inequalities in our prison system, policing, education, housing, etc.). And he lays it all out for the reader to judge for themselves.

One small criticism I have is that Dorsey tries to consider so many issues – from Indigenous rights and reconciliation to religious freedom, to language and immigration policy, to gender disparity – that it can overwhelm at times. That said, the range of issues he touches on is a reflection of how all-encompassing racism is. I admire his courage to take it all on. 

The most effective parts of the book (for me) are Dorsey’s personal anecdotes. His stories about his childhood are especially heartbreaking and memorable. By sharing his experiences of living with racism with courage and raw honesty, Dorsey forces the reader to see through his eyes, and from under his skin. Instead of telling his White friends (and his readers) how to be an ally, he tells us how to feel like one. 

Dorsey spends the last few chapters of Black and White finally giving the (well-researched and considered) advice he was asked for in the turbulent wake of George Floyd’s murder. One of his suggestions that stood out to me is what I’m calling “The Dorsey Challenge”:

“Now that you know more–even if simply from reading this book–how will you propel yourself to Do Better? Let’s start here: I challenge you to identify three small actions you could take to eliminate social inequalities right now.”

Challenge accepted, Mr. Dorsey. My first small action is to read, learn, consider, and review your book – in hopes that it will encourage others to read it too. The second small action I can do is to pay your challenge forward.

So, to anyone reading this now, I challenge you to “The Dorsey Challenge”:
Choose three small actions you could take to eliminate social inequalities right now. 

If you don’t know where to start, maybe start by reading Stephen Dorsey’s Black & White. There are valuable suggestions and insights here for how we can overcome our differences, change ourselves and our systems, and learn to “live better, together”.

In memory of George Floyd.

(p.s. I’m still working on my third action, but I’ll get there.)

Stephen Dorsey is a senior-level business, brand, and marketing strategist, with nearly three decades of experience, and a creative writer, director, and producer of visual content. Today, he is the principal of The Fractional CMO, a strategic consultancy, and of Dorsey Studios, a content production development company. A civically engaged community leader, Stephen is a founding member and board member of Democracy House, a grassroots think tank and civic-minded movement dedicated to preserving and strengthening democratic systems and practices in Canada and around the world. He has written numerous articles, most notably a 2020 opinion piece on “White Advantage” in the Globe & Mail. A proud father of two lovely young children, Stephen lives in Roncesvalles, Toronto. Black & White is his first book.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nimbus Publishing Limited (Jan. 25 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774710366
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774710364

Wanda Baxter is originally from the Kingston Peninsula, New Brunswick, and is the author of If I Had an Old House on the East Coast. She works as a creative and environmental consultant, and lives and works on an old farm in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.