Lincoln Alexander Overcoming the Gene
MC1R could be the biggest obstacle in the life of Black Canadians across the country. From a single glance, a Black Canadian can be deemed so many despicable things because of MC1R. Ranging from a hoodlum to a street thug, to angry housewives and drug dealers they are labelled because of the unfair disadvantages that are intertwined with their lives. All thanks to MC1R, a gene that just affects melanin production, and by extension skin colour1.
Even in modern day Canada, Blacks suffer higher unemployment rates2 and are imprisoned more often when compared to their white counterparts3. Simply because people look at them with a degrading and damning outlook for no reason other than their darker complexion. Yet despite all this adversity, some Black Canadians go out and overcome the obstacles, even the ones inside their own DNA. One such man was Lincoln Alexander who was the first Black to do many things and, in his life, he achieved amazing feats. The greatest of those feats, however, was overcoming a disadvantage embedded in his very DNA.
Born in 1922 to Black immigrants in Toronto from the West Indies, Lincoln Alexander had little running in his favour from a young age. To become anything more than just some ‘negro’ he would have to push as hard as he could in life. An early step in that journey was to join the Air Force in 1942 before leaving in 1945. Then went to train his mind and pursued an education4.
In 1949 Alexander earned a bachelor’s degree from McMaster University, and then another degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1953 before he started an impressive career in politics5.
Winning a seat in the House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1968 was not only the first victory in a long line of success in his life but was also historical as being the first ever Black Canadian to achieve this feat. Then he did it again and again, serving 5 terms for a total of 12 years of service. Alexander proved that Blacks can contribute to Canada just like any other person as he persevered after losing the same riding on his first try in 1965. Once he won though he just kept going.
Serving in the House of Commons proved to be far from the most impressive thing he did as he later became the 24th lieutenant governor of Ontario and the first Black Canadian to achieve the feet. From 1985 to 1991 as the lieutenant governor he oversaw actives on behalf of the monarch in Ontario, a far cry from what many would think any black male capable of.
Lincoln Alexander was more than just the first MP, cabinet minister, or lieutenant governor of Black descent. He was also one of the greatest examples to younger Black Canadians that they were more than the stereotypes associated with their skin colour. He showed them that success and potential are not defined by the colour of their skin, they have as much to offer Canada as their Caucasian friends. Alexander showed that the world might not always think highly of them or even just treat them the same as everyone else, but that does not mean all black women have to sit at home collecting welfare and all black men must go out with pants below their waist to sell drugs. No, the picture Alexander Lincoln, and others like him, paint by going out and achieving in fields Blacks had never achieved in before was to show us, their communities, that their race did not define their potential and that our race does not define our potential.
Lincoln Alexander was not the first black man to go above what is typically expected from a Black Canadian and he will not be the last, and his greatest achievement was not in politics, being a lawyer, or anything he did while he was in the Air Force. The greatest achievement of Alexander Lincoln was proving to every one of Black descent across this wonderful nation that not even their own genes can stop them from achieving success.
1 Genetics Home Reference. 2018. MC1R Gene. December 4. Accessed December 7, 2018. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MC1R.
2 Yarhi, Eli. 2018. Unemployment in Canada. January 30. Accessed December 5, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/unemployment.
3 Mcintyre, Catherine. 2016. Canada Has a Black Incarceration Problem. April 21. Accessed December 7, 2018. https://torontoist.com/2016/04/african-canadian-prison-population/.
4 Walker, James W. St.g. 2013. Lincoln Alexander. January 7. Accessed December 5, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lincoln-maccauley-alexander.
5 Walker, James W. St.g. 2013. Lincoln Alexander. January 7. Accessed December 5, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lincoln-maccauley-alexander.
Genetics Home Reference. 2018. MC1R Gene. December 4. Accessed December 7, 2018. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MC1R.
Mcintyre, Catherine. 2016. Canada Has a Black Incarceration Problem. April 21. Accessed December 7, 2018. https://torontoist.com/2016/04/african-canadian-prison-population/.
Walker, James W. St.g. 2013. Lincoln Alexander. January 7. Accessed December 5, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lincoln-maccauley-alexander.
Yarhi, Eli. 2018. Unemployment in Canada. January 30. Accessed December 5, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/unemployment.