In 2015 Desmond Cole’s essay “The Skin I’m In” (published in Toronto Life) made headlines across the country and became a touchstone for contemporary debates about race relations, privilege and law enforcement policy in Canada. Desmond Cole admitted to readers, “I was nine years old the first time I got stopped by police. Since then, I’ve been interrogated more than 50 times— all because of the colour of my skin.”
At the 2016 National Magazine Awards, Desmond Cole’s story won 3 awards–for Personal Journalism, Essays, and Best New Magazine Writer.
In an intimate portrait of systemic discrimination and how it erodes one’s sense of self, Cole has written in “The Skin I’m In” a powerful exposé of Canada’s justice system with clarity and integrity, holding up a mirror to readers of any ethnicity and making them rue what they see.
– National Magazine Awards jury
Since then, he’s become a columnist for the Toronto Star, a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter and other organizations challenging police practices in Toronto, and has appeared on panels for the CBC, the Canadian Journalism Foundation, Global News, and more. His work also appears in the The Walrus, Torontoist, VICE, NOW Magazine, and Ethnic Aisle.
Tonight, the CBC airs its documentary based on Desmond’s National Magazine Award-winning story–“The Skin We’re In“–at 9pm.
For the film version of The Skin We’re In, the perspective shifts — but the intimacy of Cole’s work is not lost. His journalism is marked by his unapologetic connection to many of his subjects, which is captured poignantly throughout the film.