Controversial verdicts show race relations need improving

By Admin Wednesday December 10 2014 in Opinion
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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.

  • clara said:

    It is unfortunate that in 2014 people are still writing that Rosa Parks was sitting in the white section of the Montgomery bus.
    This is irresponsible and lazy journalism! Rosa Parks spoke about this in several interviews and debunked that myth. She was sitting in the “colored” section of the bus when she was arrested because the law said Negroes had to give up their seats. Please correct this misinformation. She also was not a “quiet seamstress” on December 1, 1955 when she arrested. She was secretary of the NAACP and an activist.

    http://www.salon.com/2013/02/03/rosa_parks_i_had_been_pushed_as_far_as_i_could_stand/

    “Comfortably setting her parcels down, Rosa took a seat next to a black man in the middle section of the bus. The bus was not crowded, with many seats still open in the front. As she admired the sights and sounds of Christmas, her mind turned to her husband and “how we were going to have a good time this Christmas.” Raymond was making dinner, and in 15 short minutes she would be home. There were two black women sitting across the aisle from her. They were all seated in a row toward the middle of the bus. As she would clarify repeatedly in the years to come, she was not sitting in the white section but in the middle section of the bus. The middle was liminal space; whereas the other sections had inflexible racial assignments, the middle allowed space for paying black customers to sit which could be trumped on the discretion of the driver by the needs of a white rider. At the third stop, the white section of the bus filled up. The bus had 36 seats, 14 whites occupied the white front section; 22 black people were sitting in the back seats. A white man proceeded to stand behind the driver.

    Parks reflected to herself on how giving up her seat “wasn’t making it light on ourselves as a people.” She thought about her grandfather keeping his gun to protect their family. She thought about Emmett Till. And she decided to stand fast. “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day … No the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

    Blake told the four black passengers to move. The white passenger never said anything to Parks. When asked by an interviewer in 1967 if the man seemed embarrassed, Parks replied, “I don’t remember paying him any attention.” What she was about to do was much bigger than him.

    Her seatmate and the other two women got up “reluctantly,” according to Parks, but she refused. She moved her legs so the man sitting in the window seat could get out and then slid into the seat next to the window. She continued to sit, firm in her decision but unsure what would next ensue.”

    Wednesday December 24 at 12:54 pm

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