Supposing it was your sister…

October 14–November 12, 1994

Curated by Andrea Fatona and Erin O’Brien

In Toronto, some time in 1990, I garbage picked a box containing subpoenas, indictments, testimonies, and evidence from a series of court hearings dated 1920. These official documents were all connected to the case of the alleged rape of an 18 year-old white woman from Duluth, Minnesota and the ensuing riot and brutal lynching of three African-American men at the hands of a white mob. Seventy years after the fact I had become witness to the murderous rallying power of the white mob in the name of protecting white womanhood. The graphic evidence from these trials, that blatant racism and common complicity of white men, women, and children, threw me into the vortex of all I had taken for granted, my whiteness. This was at a time when I was struggling to understand oppressive social constructions of my own identity as a woman and a lesbian. But what privileges and protections had I been afforded, raised in a white middle-class, Protestant family in a colony of Britain and what were the conditions and the costs of those privileges?

This multi-channel video installation is a presentation of my working process towards an interrogation of whiteness and provides a glimpse of some of the unedited source material, issues, and physical elements I am attempting to condense into a single channel video with the same title.

The television reports on the Business Bar raid and the MUC police shooting of Marcellus Francois are from Montreal, 1991-1992. Far from a phenomenon of the past, lynching is practiced today through disciplinary measures for crimes more often imagined than real, or through extreme punishments that far outweigh the reality of the crimes themselves.

—Wendy Coburn