Profiled? Almost every Black male said ‘yes’

By Pat Watson Wednesday May 22 2013 in Opinion
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The man with dreadlocks pushing his bicycle said yes. The tall, distinguished looking man wearing the bike helmet said yes as he unlocked his bicycle. Then he had a lot more to say. The bus driver said yes. So did every one of the men encountered in the subway, including the father of two young sons, the one from Edmonton and the one wearing a hoodie and eating a patty.


The soft-spoken young man reading a book while sitting on a bench on the University of Toronto St. George campus said yes. The University of Guelph student walking with a group of companions also said yes. There were others as well, and all, except one man of middle age who had come here from Africa 10 years ago, said ‘yes’ when asked if the police had ever stopped them.


Along with their responses, the other thing all these men have in common is skin colour. They are all Black males. Their recollections were strikingly similar. Some recalled shock because they couldn’t find the logic in the encounters. They all said they were just going about their daily lives when police officers stopped them in their tracks and asked a battery of questions.


Some did not want to believe what was patently obvious. None said it was a pleasant encounter. Some, when questioning why they were being stopped were given a remarkably similar answer; something along the lines of them looking like someone the police were searching for.


One man recalls that he was shown a picture of the suspect but the picture looked nothing like him; he is tall with a lean build, whereas the picture, he said, depicted a man much heavier, rounder of face and with lighter skin tone.


One man recalls that he was stopped six times in one night. He drives a Mercedes.


One said it is time to file a class action suit, but most seemed resigned to the situation. ‘There’s nothing you can do about it’ was the common sentiment.


This four-hour informal weekend survey did not take place in so-called crime hotspots. It occurred in midtown Toronto, places such as Yorkville, and the U of T downtown campus.


The question opened a well of emotion and thoughts. Each man had a lot more to say. It was heartbreaking to see their pain, so close to the surface and unresolved. They need a place among themselves to work through it.


It is obvious to any right thinking person, yet it is also obvious that it needs to be stated: Every Black male is NOT a criminal. Well-known statistics suggest that in any modern society, five per cent of the population is involved in criminal activities. Where in the study of criminology does it say that the best strategy for identifying criminals is to catalogue every single member of society? Further, if such a theory or strategy is being postulated, then why are males from other subsections not being catalogued at the almost 100 per cent rate as Black males? Or are Black males just the test case?


In the 1930s in Nazi Germany, Jews were made to wear yellow Star of David symbols sewn into their outer clothing as a way to separate them out from the rest of society. It was the initial step to the horrors of genocide. In 2013 Toronto, Black men’s phenotype is being used as the marker to separate them from the rest of society.


Black men in this city live imprisoned by an awareness that most men living here will never know, the sense that they live in a police state, along with subsequent post trauma of feeling under constant surveillance.


Yet, what are we doing about the psychological warfare on Black men and the daily assaults on their spirit?


Picture this: On August 1, Emancipation Day, every Black male who has been stopped by the police here for no good reason and who has been carded – put into the police data bank – assembles at police headquarters at Bay and College. They are all wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘Carded’. Their message: Stop making every Black male a criminal suspect.


As it is now, ‘profiling’ is a misnomer; this is more like persecution.


A note on municipal troubles…


About Rob Ford, the putative mayor of Toronto, this foolishness has got to stop.


  • Lal said:

    OMG! I am so sick of black people complaining about the in-just treatment black people receive from Police Officers and the world. I am black man and grew up in the in Bathurst and Steeles area where it was predominately a Jewish neighbourhood back in the 80’s and 90’s. Up until I went to high school, I was 1 of only 3 coloured kids. While living in North Toronto I never had been faced with an ounce of racism or pulled over by police for Driving while black.

    I remember street racing back when I 19 with friends and I for sure deserved my license to be suspended and my car towed away but the police officer who stopped me, let me go with a warning.

    In my entire life, I have been faced with racism maybe 4 times, The first time, was 5 years ago when I went to visit a small town around Niagara Falls, a 6 year old called my friends and I a monkey and ask if we wanted bananas. the second, third and fourth time, was when I moved to Ajax, Ontario a year later.

    My point is racism happens to everyone, every single person in this world has been faced with some kind of prejudice or racist comment, it how you deal with it the defines you. Black people have yet to deal with being slaves. You would think that black people today would come together as a community and be one. Every other group of people do it, Indian, Jewish, Greeks, Chinese, Italians. But no not black people, black people are too green with envy and never want to see each other succeeded.

    Black people are always saying that we are being targeted. Racially profiled. Well there is a reason for that.

    You know the one thing that astonished me was when I moved to Ajax and with my wife we bought our first town home and after living there for 4 years it was a great subdivision we knew and talked to everyone one on the street. Then we started to notice something kids roaming the streets at 11pm at night, the police presence on a daily basis and wait guess what…More black people in the neighbourhood. So guess what? it was time to move, but for us we waited too long, the value of our home had dropped by $20,000. I heard this saying a while back and didn’t believe it until I was witness to it twice, “Give it 5 years for black people to run down a neighbourhood”.

    Black people move on and stop living in the pass the world owes you nothing. YOU owe every person before us that fought every day, who died for our freedom and rights in today society. Get over it stop crying and don’t become the problem be the solution.

    If I as a black man with the same opportunities as EVERY OTHER BLACK MAN can get an education (OSAP paid for my education), have a great job, Married a beautiful equally smart black women, have 4 beautiful well taken care of kids and live in beautiful home in great neighbourhood. Why can’t they.

    Friday May 24 at 2:32 pm
  • thetruth said:

    Thanks for your feedback Lal. I am a professional social worker who grew up in a working class neighbourhood in downtown Toronto and like you have worked hard to make a good living for myself. I grew up and interacted with all people and races and believe some people in our community can and should do better for themselves. However lets not diminish the negative effects and impact of race in our society. Structual racism is alive and well in Canada and the worst thing to do is deny it. It needs to be confronted and challenged at all times that’s how change comes about. Don’t forget the struggle past and present which has, does, and will face us black people. I’ve learned that feeding a child’s mind is as important as feeding their belly. That 6 year old who called you a monkey was taught that at home imagine what he would call or how he would engage your children at school.

    Thursday June 27 at 7:14 pm

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