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Toronto and the racist couch

CNN's Lou Dobbs put it best on his show this weekend: "You've got to be kidding."

Dobbs was referring to a recent Toronto Star article about a Brampton woman whose outrage was understandable when a new couch was delivered to her home with the unit's colour described on the label as "nigger-brown."

It's 2007, folks. The fact that a bigotry blunder of this magnitude could rear its head in this day and age does, indeed, smack of a joke. Sadly, no joke here: couch owner Doris Moore had to spend some of her time last week explaining the etymology of one of the most complex and cruel words in the English language to her 7-year-old daughter.

Seeing Toronto vault onto the world stage for a gaffe like this is painfully reminiscent of former mayor Mel Lastman's 2001 heyday as the card-carrying international embarrassment he was.

In the case of the racist couch, at least there's some subtle relief to be had by the relative randomness of the incident: manufactured overseas and sold to what one must assume is a variety of stores in North America, the fact that the couch's nasty naming convention reared its ugly head in Toronto first is largely just a matter of disappointing chance.

The blame buck has been passed from the Dundas East store where the couch was purchased, to the Scarborough supplier of said couch, and all the way back to the Chinese manufacturer of the unit. I'm personally inclined, however, to ask all of these organizations to stand behind their product rather than feigning ignorance. There were lapses in judgment and closet bigotry aplenty here, the kind that have let racist nonsense like this live on through the decades.

Howsabout the good old grade-school approach: taking responsibility for the mistake, apologizing, and never letting it happen again?

(photo: citynews.com)


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