By MURPHY BROWNE
The same people who control the school system
Control the prison system and the whole social system
Ever since slavery!
Excerpt from ‘They Schools’, released March 14, 2000 on Dead Prez’s debut album, Let’s Get Free.
Ten years ago, the duo Dead Prez made their famous statement about the systems that encompass our lives and the people in control.
In 2000, these two young men (both in their 20s) were rapping about their reality as Africans in America. The situation was the same for Africans in any society where their ancestors had been colonized and/or enslaved.
The information gathered in 2001 at the United Nations’ World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa (August 31 to September 8) documented the systemic racism that Africans endured in Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, the United Kingdom and the many European and European-controlled countries that were enriched by the labour of enslaved Africans.
The systemic racism and oppression that circumscribed the lives of Africans in the justice system, the education system and the whole social system includes “driving while Black” and other forms of anti-African racist practices. At the Conference the many centuries of enslavement of Africans was declared a crime against humanity and the descendants of enslaved Africans demanded reparations for the free, coerced labour their ancestors had provided that enriched European nations, Europeans and their descendants.
On September 11, three days after the end of the Conference, the world watched in horror as the twin towers of the World Trade Centre collapsed and effectively put an end to the attention that had been given to the issue of addressing racism and reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans at the Durban conference.
In Canada, the many complaints of racism based on religion and skin colour (Islamophobia) grew and on December 9, 2002 the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) announced that it would conduct an inquiry into the effects of racial profiling. Africans in Canada (those whose families had dwelled here for generations and those of us who are immigrants) had been complaining for decades about the racism we experience on a daily basis in all aspects of our lives. The added voices of those who were suffering overwhelming racist attacks in the wake of the September 11 disaster seemed to force the OHRC to take action.
The Toronto Star October 2002 series on racial profiling could have also played a role in the OHRC decision. After all, the Toronto Star is a White daily newspaper. For the African Canadian community there were no surprises contained in the Star’s series on racial profiling. We were already aware of the many instances of police stopping and searching African Canadians for absolutely no reason except the colour of their skin. Everyone had either experienced, witnessed or had heard from a relative or friend of an incident of racial profiling.
There were even some off-duty African Canadian police officers who had been the victims of racial profiling by their White colleagues. Without the uniform they were just as much at risk of racial profiling as any other African Canadian. African Canadians of every background, gender and economic status have experienced racial profiling.
On October 6, 2007, a young African Canadian Crown attorney was arrested and strip searched by police. This man’s status as a lawyer and even his knowledge of the law was no protection against racial profiling and being subjected to a degrading strip search. His is just one of many cases of educated, middle class or even upper middle class African Canadians being racially profiled just as any one of us living in poverty in the many communities of public housing in the city of Toronto.
On December 9, 2003, the OHRC released the findings of its Inquiry in a report entitled: “Paying the Price: The Human Cost of Racial Profiling”. The report was based on more than 400 accounts of racial profiling that individuals had shared with the OHRC. It took into account the human cost of racial profiling on individuals, their families and their communities and the detrimental impacts of racial profiling on the entire Canadian society.
It provided recommendations aimed at ending the practice of racial profiling where it existed, improving the monitoring of situations where it had occurred and preventing further incidents from occurring.
OHRC’s then Chief Commissioner Keith Norton said: “Racial Profiling has no place in our society. We have to stop debating the issue and start acting on it. The Commission hopes that the Report will serve as a useful educational tool for individuals and organizations as well as those in positions of influence and authority in helping them understand and address the problem.”
The OHRC defined racial profiling as “any action taken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin, rather than on reasonable suspicion”.
Fast forward to 2010, almost seven years after the OHRC’s “Paying the Price: The Human Cost of Racial Profiling” and almost eight years after the Star’s racial profiling series of 2002 to their February 2010 racial profiling series. The Star has analyzed data about who was stopped by police between 2003 and 2008. No surprise, African Canadians continue to be 2.5 times more likely to be stopped than Whites.
Now, however, instead of denying racial profiling, the police are admitting that it is happening, that it is normal and that they will continue the practice. Of course they claim to have excellent reasons for continuing the practice of racial profiling under a new name. We now have to be ever vigilant in documenting, publicizing and making formal complaints when these incidents occur.