The Toronto Police policy and practice of “carding Black males” is an eye-opener; an “aha” opportunity adding greater insight to sight already there. It is one of those occasions, usually rare, when one sees with greater clarity a reality that’s been definitely present but less explicit. One can more clearly see what was relatively hidden, but now exposed in plain sight.
If there is any prime reason for this point of departure between the dominant culture and Toronto’s Black community, it is – in my opinion – that while White culture chooses reality as seen through the prisms of power and control, Black people have historically known reality through the view-finders of justice and injustice. Which of the two is dependent and which independent?
One of the escapist consequences of this dichotomy is the widely-held self-assurance in White society of society evolving in post-racial realities. For us, and especially our young, while explicitly thuggish White supremacist beliefs and activities are now considered oafish and widely decried, its factotum, White privilege, gives widely-held traction to base accusations like “reverse racism” and to baseless hopes for a “post-racial” interregnum during which all of us ostensibly experience a “kumbayah” of equal opportunity employment and advancement etc.
I may be wrong, but I still think ordinary folk of all races desire a genuine “peace” in what has been a historic ground war for dominance and against being dominated. In this, however, while White society is mildly “pissed-off” because of the failures of their “epochal efforts at appeasement”, Black society has been mightily “pissed-on” against any détente that cements us and our offspring into the second-class status of a “racial minority”.
With the stark clarity offered by carding, is there also any other useful thing that can come out of this policy? Ironically, it is so naively egregious one has to wonder why individuals, politically savvy otherwise would consider it, even in private, and then proceed to muscle it publicly over Toronto’s Black community. How outrageous, by comparison would implementing carding be, if instead of being visited on Black youth, it was drop-kicked on youth of Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Asian, British, origin, etc.?
Incidentally, can you imagine a Toronto in which Black males had equal opportunity at personal advancement as do these others? Instead, isn’t Black distress also more to be expected seeing the news nightly in North America: of yet another “mentally disturbed man shot 46 times by Michigan police”; of yet another Black man shot eight times for a traffic infraction in Massachusetts; of another Ferguson, another Baltimore? Of another innocent Black prisoner freed after decades because of a trial in which authorities had withheld evidence vital to deciding his innocence?
Then, if you’re a Black family, the most you could do as your “community” is further atomized, is see the inwardly; hoping that these injustices not occur, but when they do, that it’s others, not you and yours who are affected.
Think, too, of how carding, if not aimed primarily at Black males would otherwise go down. What would the public reaction be, not only in Toronto, but also in the rest of Ontario, in the rest of Canada and across North America? Here – where Canadian guilt on these issues is appeased by looking down on Americans – every Stephen, Justin and Thomas on down would be condemning carding in language most officious. And as for those whose brain-scheme carding is, would they remain in office, and in town?
One can also easily imagine the acclaimed Canadian doyens of “human rights” at home and abroad rising in righteous anger and condemnation. There would be the Senators – on trial and off – taking time off to speak out. Provincially, there would be similar reactions from the Premier – who could surely do with a major distraction given her rash of provincial upheavals. In city hall, you wouldn’t be able to find a councillor whose office wouldn’t have already issued repeated statements of indignation against this “untenable denial of basic human rights”.
Elsewhere, those in the arts, the professions, the ecclesiastics and legislators would be tripping over each other’s robes, hastening to register their unequivocal disapproval. And in Black communities here and elsewhere, there would be press conferences and press releases, convened and issued, not by those “radicals”, but even more so by “those able to work within the system”: the aspirants, the arrivees, the “connected”…and even the departed, in memoriam!
And what’s the future? The current inchoate silence, especially emanating from the Black community, will provide prosthetics on which to run to those otherwise legless. And what has been made clearer still? On the broadest expanse, the much vaunted “Multiculturalism reality of Toronto” is another failure of carding. It’s not been the success touted to “overseas investors” by local politicians and their private-sector cohorts in which the roles allotted Black Toronto are the annual displays of public porn in “wine an’ grind”, masquerading as “Black culture and carnival”.
Also failed is the Special Investigative Unit (SIU). Now, stepped over by every soiled shoe sole, its credibility as vapid as dishwater, it had once been the activating brainchild of the then uncelebrated Black Action Defense Committee, to ensure police accountability. It was the disputations by those Black radicals. From among more than two score people attending, these included a Dudley Laws, Charlie Roach, Akua Benjamin, a Sherona Hall; a delegation belatedly accepted by a David Peterson’s embattled provincial government.
The “sit-down across the long table at Queen’s Park” occurred after Toronto had been turned upside down from the cyclical outrages erupting over several police shootings of Black males. In one, the killing of Lester Donaldson shot in his home, the shooter subsequently “acquitted” by an all-White jury, emerged victorious from the courtroom, strutting cowboy boots on his feet, and smirking an unlit cigar between his lips. Michael Wade Lawson, a teenager, died later that year from bullets “deemed illegal” according to Toronto police regulations.
Not surprisingly, the provincial government then proceeded to weaken the accountability provisions we’d recommended. The SIU – yet another in a slew of barren options by White Toronto to address issues critical to Black Toronto – was impotent from jump start. It was to ensure that most of those seated “were institutionally acceptable”. A subsequent member, as a possible deterrent to criminal behaviour by Black youth, creatively hosted – and opposed by BADC – the viewing of the movie: Boyz n the Hood. Carding is merely another addition designed to subtract the SIU from any effective oversight responsibility on police accountability. BADC lost, along with effective police accountability. Is carding payback?
On the streets, and unlike in other communities, the police presence is pervasive in Black ones. Understandably so. But what is not equally understandable is why so pervasive in Black, but not also in other communities? Are chronic unemployment, under-employment and unemployability predictable, and matching concomitants of police presence? Is carding a form of crystal ball gazing into the negative effectiveness of anti-Black racism?
As for the police officers, while most might be mature residents in their communities, on the beat, however, too many – from my experience more the “young bloods” – tend to interact with the public as if “jousting, not discretion” is the better part of valour. Thus, if you unwisely dared to “exchange long glances” with one of these demi-gods, they’d pull you over, delaying you interminably under pretexts like “wobbling”: wantonly daft, and discombobulating!
What do these interactions say to us, and about us to others? For too many of our young – including those brought-up to be courteous and disciplined, “every day is another ambush”. For too many of them, expectations are that they more belong in detention centres than in graduation ceremonies. And as graduates, “unknown to police” and less employable than White non-graduates with criminal records, the social realities which confront them are as immutable, and uncontrollable as the negative unpredictability of a force of nature.
Therein is the rub. That the inherent nature of White social power is that whatever it decides, goes. Regardless of consequences to those segregated beyond its ambit of privilege. Therefore, the expectations had, and the memories stirred by carding, reminds me of a colleague, a Black professor who, entering a building, had bypassed an indigent man standing nearby. This beggar, avoided by most who’d passed, chose however to taunt this professor: “Look at you, big man here now (in Canada), a ni**er in a suit”.
To be continued.