Baltimore et al.: pressure release

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Patrick Hunter By Patrick Hunter
Wednesday May 06 2015



Historical accounts tell us that our ancestors resisted as much as possible their seizure, forced marches, on board the slave ships and their subsequent enslavement. Especially during the latter period – their enslavement – some took to violence by attacking the slave owners, burning down their houses and destroying other property.

I suspect that there were some among them who disagreed with some of the methods of resistance, especially the taking of lives and the destruction of property.

Eventually, slavery was outlawed but, as we know, there were alternative means used to maintain enslavement – its legacy continues today, having evolved to anti-Black racism.

Physics has taught us that the build-up of pressure in a contained environment eventually explodes, unless action is taken to ease the build-up.

I have been around long enough to have seen, through the media, and here in Toronto, that explosion on a number of occasions in Black communities – in the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

The media – largely owned by the oppressor group – are quick to label these occasions or rebellion as looting as if that is the sole reason that Black people engage in destructive activity. And, some of us buy into the language.

Never mind the reference by President Obama to some in Baltimore as “thugs”, I have seen on Facebook, for instance, criticism of someone who was seen making off with, of all things, toilet paper. One wonders: Could that have been an indicator of how bad things are in Baltimore that toilet paper could be considered a “luxury” item?

It should say something that over the past few years many of these uprisings have taken place as a result of encounters – some fatally – between African-Americans and the police. To me, it says that police are being used to enforce the oppression of African-American communities. Step out of line and the consequences are harsh. Additionally, the system is so rigged that the police are rarely charged; and when they are charged, they are found not guilty.

The gutsy move by Marilyn Mosby, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore, Maryland, to charge six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray will be, undoubtedly, another test of the criminal justice system in the United States. So will the trial of the officer in the Ferguson shooting; the one charged in North Charleston, South Carolina, just to mention a few.

Then there was the shooting by the “honorary sheriff” who thought he was using a Taser, which was kept on a different part of his body from his sidearm.

“Black lives matter” seems an almost tame response to these outrageous happenings.

Curiously, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, in a Washington Post article, appears to have come to that realization, although guarded: “Public servants should not violate the law. If these charges are true, it’s outrageous and it’s unacceptable”.

One can hope that the Toronto Police Service is taking note of what is happening in the United States. Chief Mark Saunders gave his first remarks, since his appointment, to the African Canadian Anti-racism Summit last week. The media reported that he said that getting rid of carding is not an option. That definitive remark appeared to have come after his speech, in a scrum with reporters.

The rationale for holding on to the practice of carding, and the line that Chief Saunders is holding on to, is that getting rid of carding would seriously hamper intelligence gathering.

I’m going to suggest that the Chief is still going through his “initiation” and that his communication is still a bit wobbly. I don’t want to believe that he would be so insensitive as to tell the African Canadian community that nothing will change.

So, the Toronto Police Services Board approved a policy dealing with the issue. That places an onus on the Chief to implement that policy. Until such time as he can make the case for a change in his policy, he has to carry it out.

I acknowledge that I am being generous in giving him the benefit of the doubt. It probably would be too much for him to flatly deny or rebut the stated policy as approved by the Board so soon after his appointment.

Toronto’s Black community also has its pressure points too. May 4, 1992 saw the letting off of some of that pressure. Initiatives begun to try to avert future pressures were reversed significantly by the Harris administration. Subsequent Liberal administrations have paid lip service to the restoration of some of those initiatives, and that’s about it.

Frequent police raids on areas where Black people live, the carding issue, continued inequalities in the justice system – all of these, and more, are continuing tensions which are bubbling under the surface. Hopefully, someone will take heed.

Email: / Twitter: @pghntr

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