By PAT WATSON
In the old days of denying actions symptomatic of anti-Black racism, the common expression would be “I’m not a racist”, often uncomfortably followed by something along the lines of “I have friends who are Black.”
But, as time marches on and common expressions move with the times, those phrases are less likely to be heard.
Rather, the sophistication of racist deception turns to finding fault with Black people or, on the other hand, acting hurt when people demand fairness.
These methods lean on shifting attention by finding fault with an Afro-Canadian person or organization or any authorized bodies that support fairness for Afro-Canadians. Or, in finding fault with actions that are then generalized to “all” Black people.
Exhibit A: Given the relative success of the 15-day occupation by Black Lives Matter-Toronto – the unanimous vote by City Council on a motion calling for review of the Special Investigations Unit; the provincial coroner agreeing to an inquest in the police shooting resulting in the death of South Sudanese immigrant Andrew Loku; Premier Kathleen Wynne agreeing to a public meeting on systemic racism and the reinstatement of Afrofest to two days – it is not surprising that those who are least invested in any initiative to bring true fairness to society would find some way to try to undermine this organized movement of young Black people.
It is remarkable how bent out of shape those who benefit most from the mainstream model become when those outside the mainstream ask to be given the same regard. But, it bears remembering that most abusers do not want to hear they are abusive; they would rather the abused suffer in silence.
By now, many of us have caught wind of the flame up over a tweet that was made some two months ago by one of the members of BLM-TO and magnified for maximum anti-Black effect in mainstream media.
A commentary from the woman who wrote that tweet out of frustration and anger from being repeatedly flamed by haters on Twitter ran in the Toronto Star recently. Let’s just say it is something of a relief that the comments section no longer runs at the bottom of articles and columns in the Star.
The tone of the responses that made it to the Letters page in response would be telling enough of the ways in which those who oppose fairness in society view any striving for this principle, especially coming from members of Toronto’s Black population.
Then there is the statement coming from the head of Toronto’s police union, Mike McCormack, that cautioned the 7,000-member force after new regulations on street checks, also commonly called carding, came out.
The warning to front-line police is that they should take “all precautions necessary” to avoid “undue jeopardy”.
Further, in his letter to police union members McCormack wrote: “Be aware that even if you carry out your duties lawfully, to the best of your ability and training and requirements of law, your actions may be subject to review through a subjective anti-racism lens. The association questions how our members can effectively carry out their duties if they don’t have the confidence and support from the Toronto Police Service Board, city council and the province.”
If there were no mistreatment presently occurring of individuals based solely on skin colour in and among police personnel in the performance of their duties in this city, would such a caution to front-line police even be necessary?
So, here’s an interpretation of “subjective”: “As a police officer, I’m used to having the power to carry out my duties in a certain way but, as a Black person, you see my action as racist, and I don’t want you calling me on it.”
A note on not putting away that coat yet…
It is nice to have a preview of milder temperatures to come, but there is a reason that outdoor spring planting begins nearer to the end of May. Temperatures in this region are characterized by significant fluctuation. Don’t be surprised if there is more snow before this one is all over. Just saying.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through a Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.