Whatever it was that Mayor Rob Ford sought to do in the aftermath of the tragic shooting incident in Scarborough, it fell short of the kind of direction and clarity we expect from civic leaders during times of crisis. We don’t necessarily expect them to be letter-perfect but we do expect some maturity and level-headedness.
What we have had instead are veiled, anti-immigrant utterings and bluster from this mayor. At a time when incidents of gun violence are escalating in Toronto, we are burdened with a municipal leader who is poorly equipped to respond to crises such as these.
Ford, without concrete knowledge at the time of precisely who opened gunfire at a block party of some 200 in a Scarborough housing complex, was quick to shoot off his mouth about deporting criminals from this city.
“I have called the Prime Minister to find out if there’s any laws with respect to the immigration and citizenship status in the city,” said the mayor of Canada’s largest city. “So if people are caught, I don’t care if you’re white, pink or purple, I don’t care what country you’re from, I don’t care if you’re a Canadian citizen or not, all I’m saying is if you’re caught with a gun and convicted of a gun crime, I want you out of this city.”
Xenophobes have the habit of using this “I don’t care if you’re white, pink or purple” – or a similar expression – when they want to get away with making sideways comments base on race.
All too often conservative types will have a knee-jerk reaction when something disturbing or violent happens in a minority community. Thus, with characteristic clumsiness, Ford raged and seemed to play the race card on talk radio in the aftermath of the shooting that left two innocents dead and 23 injured.
When pressed by the radio interviewers about whether he had confirmation on the identities of the shooters, Ford said he did not. Obviously, even they seemed suspicious of his remarks.
Ford made his way to the top job on a narrow mandate to control spending and is very much out of his depth when called upon to function in other aspects of city management.
Even international development minister, Julian Fantino, a former Toronto police chief and a law-and-order Conservative, acknowledged that more has to be done than just policing neighbourhoods; as did current police chief, Bill Blair.
But how to explain away federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Jason Kenney’s ill-chosen, reflexive response on Twitter in support of Ford’s already offensive on-air comments?
“I agree w/ Mayor Ford: foreign gangsters should be deported w/out delay. That’s why we introduced Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act.”
Ford and Kenney are not unique; their reactionary responses are very reflective of a certain segment of our society.
What we have here is a classic example of the double standard applied, once again, following a terrible tragedy involving Blacks. Despite the outrage and horror that followed the killing of 12 people and the injuring of 58 others at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado last week there have been searching questions about the suspect’s mental state as the public tries to come to terms with why someone seemingly of promise would do such a thing.
Don’t hold your breath for any similar mental health probing of the persons who opened fire on each other with disregard for the many people around them in Scarborough.
When violence, especially with guns, is used by Black youth it is simplistically labeled ‘Black-on-Black’ and ‘gang’ violence. Perpetrators are seen as criminals who should be sent away and, maybe, even deported. Their parents, especially absent fathers, are also called to account and held responsible. When it’s a mass shooting like in Colorado, where the suspect is White and middle class, there is a meaningful search to try to ‘understand’ the mental state and other factors that could have led to the carnage. There is an unstated but immediate attempt to humanize the killer, even in the face of public outrage. And, of course, in most cases the parents are never vilified as having being responsible for raising a murderer.
In this society, murder does have a double standard based on race.