By LENNOX FARRELL
Think of Canada’s Constitution as a great ship. Among its laudable characteristics is the guarantee that each Canadian “has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure”.
Specifically regarding this tenet, officers of the law, given the responsibility to uphold the law, are allowed not only vast powers which, depending on particular circumstances, include arrest, injuring and even killing other Canadians, but are also allowed to use “discretion” in carrying out their responsibilities.
However, this great ship, like any good salty, has accretions of expectations which like social barnacles attached to the Canadian Constitutional ship of state; affect the ease or disease with which the great ship sails. Unfortunately, among the negative expectations are those based on race. Therefore, for all other Canadians – and cornerstone institutions: policing, media, churches – racial profiling of Black Canadians is premised on two complementary sets of negative expectations. One of these is an evolution of declining expectations of our being stable, wealthy and powerful. The other set are rising expectations that we be unstable, poverty-stricken, powerless and criminally prone.
Because of these expectations, widespread accusations of Black communities being inherently criminal are premised, not so much on Black criminality as on Black social vulnerability. By comparison, which of the other Canadian racial groups does not commit crime? Which, unfortunately does not also primarily injure its own kith and kin? Put more positively, which race for the majority, does not also abhor criminality within its ranks? However, in the fertile psyche of the general public, Black Canadians – as also First Nations – fill a niche where the social barnacles of racism thrive.
Now, from my experience with most of the Canadians I have met, the above would be considered abhorrent. But, so too, would most men if reminded that we, as men, by a majority, are a clear and present danger to women, generally! I think that our shocked reactions to what are untenable realities are premised on our common humanity which draws us more readily to goodness for goodness’ sake than to iniquity for iniquity’s sake? I hope so; I do believe so!
Again, much of the above might not be welcome, and my intention, as a seasoned and compassionate Canadian, is more that of generating enlightenment than mere fury. But truth be told, this anomaly of a constitution which both calls from us what is best, but has expectations which limit the benefits of this call, exists, and particularly not because the police are more, or less, racist than are other Canadians, but that other Canadians are also likely so. No doubt, less dramatically so than the police, but eventually with significant impact on one’s life and livelihood.
They are, moreover, affected by anti-Black racism, a form particularly ominous because it is so ubiquitous, one can practice it without being racist. And practitioners are not particularly as iniquitous as they can be injurious. They could be, and are for the most part, decent, kind-hearted professionals. However, based on what they see, hear, assume and subsequently expect, they can conclude that what is public about us is par for private practice.
Therefore, other public servants, professionals like teachers, can be similarly affected; and their expectations affect their Black students. So, too, are employers when deciding who despite equal abilities will and will not be hired, or promoted; or prosecutors and judges deciding who will walk and who will not; immigration officers on how their conclusions correlate with their pre-perceptions.
Of particular offence in our community are politicians appointing individuals to the public sphere as judges, etc., based on the power base inherent in ethnic communities. There is also the odious practice of political parties as they decide who will, and who will not, run in ridings assured of electability. Aren’t these all forms of racial profiling?
Therefore, more broadly put, we live in a country in which, despite its splendid constitutional undertakings otherwise, still makes “news” when “the first Black (person) is appointed or acknowledged in areas which is already commonplace for others”. And this is not because Black people are recent arrivals to Canada. The validity of our Afrophone presence as Canadians – since the 17th century – is as elemental as those Francophone and Anglophone.
Again, these observations can be perceived as “slings and arrows” aimed at the body politic: cultural, commercial, etc. However, they come from experiences which are commonplace and expected by us simply for being Black. For example, being BWD, or Black While Driving; BWW, Black While Walking, and at the core, BWH, Black While Human. We oft make fun of these, but the realities underlining these expressions are anything but funny.
For others, who might be opposed, or consider the above as, at best, inconvenient realities, one only has to experience what being BDB, or Black on a Daily Basis is to really know firsthand, what being truly “inconvenient” means.
Finally, and looking in greater depth at current issues of carding and racial profiling, these are possible because the Canadian populace generally accepts this illegal “law and order” practice as being unavoidably so. Merely, another social barnacle on a vessel that ships out well, otherwise. Therefore, in my opinion, the police are blameworthy, but not as representatives of the law. They are blameworthy as Canadians; as are other Canadians.
In conclusion, what are the causal characteristics, and eventual results of carding? Are these based on a circular policy of “good police practice” arm in arm with “bad stats”; thereby making what is indefensible, nonetheless defensible?
To be continued: Carding, the serpent that survives by eating its tail.