By Dr. CLEM MARSHALL
During the eighties I was co-chair of the Rally Against Apartheid, which marched on Queen’s Park thousands strong. We never dreamed back then that two generations later we, and all those who look like us, would become the victims of a creeping, corrosive system of underhanded apartheid in Toronto. As a Black man, I know personally how humiliating this practice is. It lowers the quality of our daily lives. If “pass laws” in far off South Africa pushed us to boycott, demonstrate and protest, surely “carding” challenges every fair-minded Torontonian to reject all attempts to coerce or reconcile us to the “stink” of discrimination right under our nose.
I remember several hopeful editorials in the Share when Chief Bill Blair first took over the reins. As he prepares to leave, however, the taste of discrimination that he has prescribed remains bitter in our mouths.
Under his watch, “carding” has ballooned and poisoned the very quality of daily Black male life.
Substituting Black male faces in high police places does not mean justice for all Black men, youth and boys. Indeed, our community dearly needs Black officers who have also suffered or seen “carding” discrimination to step forward and tell their truths now.
Let us be clear. The reforms touted by officials from Mayor John Tory to Police Board chair Alok Mukerjee do not make Black Toronto feel either respected or safe. Carding is a knife plunged gratuitously into our backs. Their proposed “reforms” only promise to pull that knife partly out.
If, as the Deputy Chief has suggested, they need “carding” in case of future crime, then why not card all mayors, given the record of recent years? Why not bankers, given recurrent scandals of money laundering, insider trading and mortgage fraud? Why not cabinet ministers, given repeated investigations of suspicious relationships between governments, public assets and private hands? Why not senators, given the fraud investigations currently being undertaken by the RCMP in Ottawa?
If Chief Bill Blair, Mayor John Tory and males in their families don’t have to keep looking over their shoulder because they are White, why should the law-abiding, tax-paying sons, fathers and brothers I know have to because we are Black? As long as we respect the rights of others, the police should leave Black folks alone.
It is a burden having to constantly wonder if and when you are going to be stopped again by police. It is a burden wondering what someone in uniform has written about you in secret and can pass on to others with power to do you harm. In my case, until I filed a Human Rights complaint I did not know what and how often police had written statements about me. Its very existence is damaging. Where did that information go?
Why, in the name of the sacrifices of our Ancestors, are the police still permitted to reinforce specious, pernicious slurs that link crime and Black skin? As Black men, dignity demands we also reject their hollow litany of good intentions. In our ears it can only sound like hypocrisy, against the hard evidence that points to “carding” abuse. For example, security cameras have captured a police officer punching a Black teenager for merely walking away, as the rules told him he had a right to do. It’s all there in the press.
Like all Torontonians, our Black population has the right to be left alone to enjoy our comings and goings in peace. It offends our human rights that police can track or hassle us at whim, or create records potentially damaging to our reputation for archives we aren’t allowed to see.
How dare authorities claim that carding is not “social engineering” when, as the Star reports, Blacks are stopped 17.3 times more than Whites? Clearly, most males are unlikely to be repeatedly stopped and questioned by police like young, stigmatized Black males. This “carding” onslaught has left our community no choice but to band together for equal justice. Only equal justice tells the world we are indeed human and free. So although this board lacks Black faces, we must and will keep it accountable to our common humanity.
End carding NOW! Restore Black Human Rights!