The stories they tell about Black people

By Pat Watson Wednesday September 24 2014 in Opinion
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A funny thing happened not long after the gut-churning police shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The college-bound African-American youth was shot and killed by a police officer allegedly while his hands were held up in the air in that universal stance of surrender.


Activists took to social media almost immediately to ensure that the details of the incident and recounting of what happened would not be hijacked by the well-worn narrative of a dangerous Black youth, known to police, who had to be stopped.


The images of mostly White police in military gear committing civil liberty violations and attacking journalists followed.


Something had to be done to temper this emerging truth. At just about that time, the news surfaced of the video showing professional football player Ray Rice hitting his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer, knocking her unconscious in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. That assault, caught on surveillance camera, occurred in February. The suggestion has been that officials of the National Football League had knowledge of that assault even as they were deciding back in March what penalty Rice had to face.


So was the timing of the Rice assault video a coincidence? Not long after, another matter, this time of alleged child abuse by another football star, Adrian Peterson, also began to gather attention.


In reaction to these events, each in its own way morally and mortally wounding, many have taken sides.


There is a reason that it’s necessary to throw up a defense regarding bad behavior that has little to do with so-called race, but which on the contrary is far too often made to appear as if it is the case. The constant anti-Black narrative must be vigorously countered with big doses of reality.


After Michael Brown’s life was taken from him, there was a rush to remind the general public about so-called “Black-on-Black” crime, as a way of confusing the matter of how he was killed. Whoever came up with this term must be patting himself on the back for making strides in furthering these myths of the terribleness of Black people.


Acts of violence are most often committed against another by a person or persons who know the target of the violence. In the segregated world in which we live, the likelihood of common racial community is very high. That means the occurrence of not only “Black-on-Black” crime, but also White-on-White crime as well as Chinese-on-Chinese, and so on. That is reality.


In reality, the incidence of spousal abuse has little to do with racial identity and far more to do with cultural beliefs about male superiority, belief in the male right to control and a correlation to types of high-pressure occupations, like law enforcement, medical practice and emergency work.


These stories that are told, and repeated endlessly about persons of colour, are usually preceded by the spoken or unspoken idea “all Black people…” or more generally “Black people…”


In the same vein, there is a perception that here in Toronto, all Black people are members of the repugnantly termed “Ford Nation”, a reference to those who blindly support Rob Ford or any other presumptive politician wearing the Ford brand.


Clearly some Black people in this city support the Fords, but they do so to the puzzlement or even frustration of other parts of the vast community who look at the Fords’ record in council regarding funding issues that affect the needy in the community or recall their pejoratives and Rob Ford’s racial slurs.


We identify as having a common genetic history and we identify as being commonly the targets of racial intolerance, but that does not mean permission to place Black people one step apart from our collective humanity.


A note on climate change protests…

It is heartening that so many took to the streets to march in their call for action on climate change. A critical matter, however, is how committed we all are to changing the way we function daily, changing our sources of power and energy, the food we eat and the means by which we travel the Earth. As long as the culprits responsible for global warming are deemed to be the careless industrial and mining sectors only, this life-threatening problem will grow worse.


Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.

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