Carding and its direct impact on Black youth unemployability

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Lennox Farrell By Lennox Farrell
Wednesday June 03 2015




In Toronto – and elsewhere – are there ways to end carding specifically? And racism generally? Definitely! Expand the uses and practice of both to include…pets. You know, dog breeds like corgis and pothounds; cats as shorthair, longhair, no hair; rabbits not for cooking… Ok, a poor attempt at gallows humour, but you would admit there might be something there of a different sort. And speaking of “different”, do we need to make a difference, for ourselves and even more, for our youth.

For example, carding has a peculiarly pernicious impact on us at all ages, but especially so on those at the youthful ages where we are building our careers and future. For example, and in a facetious manner, carding has the potential to reduce unemployment among Black youth, simply by increasing the percentages of Black unemployability. A person deemed unemployable, for reasons innocent or guilty, is automatically less likely to be employed. Bingo.

Speaking recently with some students on carding, in response to the question, “If you were doing a police check on a potential employee, and the results came back, ‘known to police’, what would you do?”

“Not hire them.” Unanimous!

Now, why do City of Toronto administrators, politocrats, police union radicals, our “proud to be Black” police chief; the neutered, “in the doghouse” Special Investigative Unit; the provincial government and others “imbued with diversity and multicultural interest” not get that? To those students, the answer is basic. Or as Sherlock Holmes – the 19th century fictional detective creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – oft advised his less perceptive sidekick, “elemental, dear Watson, elemental”.

So, among the pernicious effects of carding: this “crude as an outhouse”, brazenly racist, and misguided policy of policing in Toronto and Ontario, is that Black youth will not only be less employed, but moreover, because of being in greater numbers, “known to police”, they will now be more unemployable. Talk of kicking someone already beheaded in the head? Even in the best of times, Black unemployment faces the worst of times: historically double that of White unemployment. (Who can fault non-Black communities, and some Blacks who ache so to be White, given the automatic benefits and protections of White privilege?)

With carding and its brazen head-shots on Black youth, there almost appears here, though to me unlikely, a “hidden hand of some ‘unrevealed intention’.” Because, in addition to ensuring that crime has a colour – it sure isn’t “biker gang White” nor “Asian gang non-Black” – and the subsequent impact on Black youth employment, why would Toronto policy-makers and implementers not “see” the added deadweight plunked on the bent backs of Black Toronto?

And it isn’t that the movers and shakers do not already know the negative and onerous effects of Black unemployment. How many other studies and data banks do they need to commission and plumb to link the cynical relations between unemployment and poverty; between poverty and crime. Ok, some types of crime; especially given the more disreputable “colour of Black” crimes, versus the more respectable “White-colour” crimes.

For example, there is presently an international brouhaha about “bribery in FIFA”: the global body that governs international soccer. The assumptions – they appear evidence-based – are that officials engaged in acts which include bribery to stage tournaments. However, when will similar charges be launched, similar warrants and arrests issued against the bankers who wrecked the housing market in the U.S.; a wreckage that has further reduced the “wealth potential” of Black communities losing homes, now part of gentrification options in places like Chicago?

Because of arbitrary policies like carding and its double-standards, all crime is not equally criminal; that is, “all criminals are not created equally”. In fact, a “Black criminal” can be created simply by being a Black student innocently walking home and being stopped for “community engagement” by a “friendly officer”; one who can casually list your personal info on a data base, subsequently available to potential employers, border crossing guards, scholarship donors, et al! And with effects, unbelievably adverse! Just so!

Not only did those aforementioned high school students of different ethnic backgrounds get the obviously negative effects of carding, they also knew of fellow students – some in the class – who’d already had these experiences. It might be that Toronto City Council – almost 100 per cent White – and their sons will not, as do Black sons, benefit from the “efficacies of community engagements”. However, given his ethnicity it is likely that our police chief might know individuals who have experienced being “Policed While Black”.

The day he acts more in the interest of true “community policing”; that is, policing which encourages communities into greater participation in their own safety, he’ll need us to have his back! I mean, does he think that policies which create higher rates of Black youth unemployability, contribute to less “crime and safer communities”? What are we not getting here? Or are these policies as cynical as they are base; and as base as they are vexatious.

To press the point more, is Toronto the Good, in the same year it honoured itself by naming a street after Nelson Mandela, forced into having a conversation on “crime having a colour”? Isn’t that what apartheid was about? But now, in addition, skin colour determining one’s level of being human? What’s next? Skin colour again determining our IQ levels?

Thus, because of our Black need for greater levels of activist policing, is this why it is easier in this 21st century to appoint a Black police chief when it’d probably take until 2065 to elect a Black mayor; 2115 to elect a Black provincial premier, and 3015 plus, to elect a Black Canadian prime minister? And two eternities to have a society, truly just?!

At best, carding is a nuisance. At worst, it can change forever, the innocent trajectory of your life and future. It’s simply amazing the vast and unbridled leeway allowed police on the street, in the courts, and in the rest of your future. It’s possible that only the Almighty God can come within striking range of these demigods, and the havoc some can leave in your life.

Nothing personal, but I still recall my spouse’s description of being arrested, handcuffed and shoved into the back-seat of a Toronto police cruiser. Here was a woman, her integrity above that of Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, and accused of shoplifting. The only other occasion on which Joan had wept so, was on the death in Trinidad a Christmas before of her father.

I have always wished that the experience had been mine and not hers, so charged and humiliated. I at least was an “incorrigible rabble-rouser” against injustice in Toronto – even blamed by one very unfriendly Toronto newspaper with initiating, along with other organizers of the BADC, the 1992 Yonge Street Riots.

Earlier, there had been others similarly charged. Some had been students whose careers had been dashed; arrested while demonstrating in 1989 outside the staging of the Royal Ontario Museum’s racist exposition: “Into the Heart of Africa”. Charged with “resisting arrest”; declared “guilty”. Does “resisting arrest” include staring eyeball to eyeball with some police officers?

Today, even more of our youth will be victimized; even as we have more and more Black professionals at decision-making levels in corporate and public-sector mise en scenes. These professionals are among the appointed, elected, and the concomitantly silent. Silenced? In 1990 I ran in the provincial election as a candidate in the riding of Oriole. (I was prompted to do so to get the police off my back; advised that of me it had been said, “Farrell thinks he is a ballerina”.) Cost my family $40,000.

When my election appeared possible (the other candidate won: 11,000-9,000, party stalwarts advised me that if elected, I “could no longer demonstrate”. Were candidates of other ethnic communities: Irish, Jewish, Italian…expected to follow the rules and not agitate on behalf of their communities? Regardless of where you are, let’s join hands and hearts and those already organizing, to buttress our youth into being all the goodness they can, and hope to be, even as Grade 10 students.

To be continued: The unseemly history of policing, slave-holding and “runaways”.

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