The criminal act of shooting into a crowd at the Eaton Centre on the weekend has left many shocked and quite a number of people saddened. Those especially saddened are the family and friends of the 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan who was killed and the six people who were wounded by the assailant’s horrible actions, the youngest being a 13-year-old out-of-towner who, thankfully, is recovering in hospital after having been wounded by a bullet to his head.
With some relief, the alleged shooter has turned himself in and is now under arrest.
On the night of the terrifying assault, Toronto Police Chief, Bill Blair, made reference to another horrible shooting incident that happened on Boxing Day in 2005 in which a teenager out bargain shopping was caught in the line of fire of a gang battle. The 15-year-old died as a result, a tragic loss to family and friends and a psychological hit to those who fear for their safety in this city.
For that tragic incident, a number of young men were charged, found guilty, sentenced and sent to prison. At least one shooter received a life sentence.
Any act of violence and, particularly, deadly acts of violence, are a horror to those of us who respect life. Worsening the situation, some of us react in our own horrible ways to such disturbing events.
After the shooting incident in 2005, a large swath of our local society felt emboldened to use that incident to assault the Black community. The language was vile and spoke poorly of many of the citizens of this city.
What can be anticipated in the aftermath of the incident on the weekend is more of the same. To any person who is already sensitive to the anti-Black sentiment that is always simmering just below the surface and fostered by certain media, your best strategies may be either speak out to counter the haters or to look away. But, there will be no changing, for the most part, the irrational words and feelings of a group that wants only to disparage or spew their extreme dislike of people of colour.
Crime has no specific colour or race. Any criminologist will tell you that something like five per cent of any given society in today’s world is involved in activities that are outside the rules governing what is legal or illegal in a country. Yet, some people only see colour when a crime is committed if that colour suggests a so-called visible minority.
For this mass, certain crime only has one colour.
But is gang-related crime any worse than the actions of a high-ranking military man who stalks and kills innocent women or an individual who videotapes himself killing and dismembering someone he knows, or a mother who drowns her two children? Where would these criminals be deported to?
Furthermore, it is not just a hardcore group of hate-spewing online commenters who rationalize their hatred by looking only at the wrongdoings of one segment of society. The system of law and order reinforces that perception by whom they surveil. There are enough data to show that the police track more people of colour proportionally, in anticipation that they are involved in criminal activity, than the overall population.
Every normal person wants to live in a safe society, but the reality is that living among the rest of us there are individuals with ill intent. It has been ever thus. It seems absurd then that one group is being pointed out as carrying the burden of blame for the sins committed by all criminals.
How do we change perceptions, when there are those who will not see the facts, but rather hold to hateful beliefs that harm not only this community but also themselves?
A note on the wheels of justice in Florida…
So, George Zimmerman, the man who admitted killing unarmed 17-year-old African-American, Trayvon Martin, in April is back in jail, no longer free on bail since the courts discovered he made false statements about his finances regarding access to bail. What will be the outcome of this horrendous case? Many people are waiting to see how the wheels of justice turn in Florida.