By TOM GODFREY
This month marks the 59th year since a tired Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a crowded bus to a White man in Montgomery, Alabama.
Parks refused to move to the “coloureds” section of the bus and was arrested in what became an iconic moment in the U.S. civil rights movement that vaulted her from a quiet seamstress to a global activist.
That moment on December 1, 1955, led to protests, marches, bus boycotts and eventually the integration of Black children into all-White schools even if it meant escorting them to classes by police.
Next year will mark six decades since Parks’ was booked, yet it seems the changes to racial equality in the U.S., and to some extent Canada, has been slow-a-coming.
Today, we see the many protests by hundreds against police in Ferguson, Mo., that has become a hotbed of activity. They are joined by countless others in New York City, Cleveland, California and elsewhere to protest their treatment by White cops.
Many U.S. Blacks have lost faith in a justice system that has not laid charges against officers who killed Michael Brown and those responsible for the New York City chokehold killing of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, 28, who was recently killed.
Who would think in this day and age, a police force like that of Ferguson, would only have a few Black cops, when the city is mostly Black. It is a volatile situation when you throw in poverty and a lack of jobs.
Even though the U.S. as a whole has progressed in dealing with racial inequality as evident by the election of President Barack Obama, there is a large racial divide and underbelly that still exists and runs deep in the Deep South.
Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, believes people are protesting against historical inequities in the U.S.
“Everything is not as wonderful as some people think,” Sadlier says. “There are many challenges out there and people are unhappy.”
She believes many people, especially in Canada, believe that racism has been solved and the problem has gone away.
“At the end of the day the situation against Blacks has improved and things have gotten better,” Sadlier admits. “There are many challenges that we yet have to face.”
She believes the sentiment will always be there due to the slavery of Blacks and the underlying layers of pain it has caused on families.
Sadlier says much as changed in U.S. race relations since Parks; but there is much more healing to undergo.
And as much as we in Canada are uneasy about race, we have issues with policing right here in Toronto. The situation is of course not nearly as bad as in Ferguson, where the cops and Blacks don’t pal around.
And it is encouraging to see Mayor John Tory will sit on the Toronto Police Services Board, to hopefully lead the way police deals with diversified communities and address our concerns about racial profiling and carding.
A recent community satisfaction survey of residents of 31 Division reveal a large amount or residents do not trust the cops, and will not call them to report crimes. That, in itself, is disturbing.
That is why it is so important that a new Chief must be installed who will deal with some of the complicated race and other issues we face, like mental illness and homelessness.
Many believe it is time to address policing in our diversified communities and tackle some of the concerns faced by residents before they escalate into major issues with time.