By PAT WATSON
Something happened in Florida after the February 26 shooting death of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin that then spread across America. Or maybe something has been happening in America that only became visible to people outside that nation after the unarmed Martin was confronted then shot and killed by overzealous neighbourhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.
First, social media sent the tragedy into the larger public sphere. It certainly wasn’t the Sanford, Florida police force. The people who care about this young Black man are making his death a cause with their determined demand for justice.
Their ongoing action and similar civilian actions in other places are indicators of a growing frustration with the status quo, especially among today’s youth. Something’s got to give.
It began in Tunisia in December 2010 and spread across many Arab nations. The media, with their affection for themes, dubbed the uprisings in the Middle East, the Arab Spring.
Whatever one wishes to name it, the movement of mostly educated young people who see their lives going nowhere under stale-dated regimes led to the ouster of leaders who offered them no hope for their future. How all that will play out remains to be seen.
On this side of the globe, following the near collapse of the U.S. banking system and the threat of chain reaction global financial devastation, people came to grips with the parasitic practices of the financial sector that literally put families out of house and home.
In reaction, the West’s ‘Arab Spring’ is the Occupy Movement. Young people encamped on Wall St., the financial nerve centre of the U.S., and in other locations across America. Here in Toronto they set up camp on King St. There were Occupiers in all of Canada’s major cities. Youth in Europe and parts of Asia also set up camps, and it’s not over.
It is also mainly young people who are carrying on the campaign for justice for Martin. But this action has its own particular nucleus, a social code that refuses to equally respect the lives of human beings born with black and brown skin colour. As such, another movement, one to halt the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Stop-and-Frisk program from targeting people of colour began with a protest in Harlem last October. Organizers estimated that in 2011, NYPD stopped and frisked more than 700,000, 85 per cent of them persons of colour.
Clear-headedness about the pernicious irrationality of skin colour-related aggressions does not inhibit deadly actions. Worse, the U.S.’s historical Jim Crow construct, not to mention the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs types, give voice to the related twisted rationales that would justify these murders. There are characters who, rather than expressing revulsion that another young Black man is killed just for being, engage instead in a discourse of distraction they refer to as ‘Black-on-Black’ crime. Sick.
Yet, they get away with this pathology because there is still a deep social and economic divide in America along racial lines. Segregation is against the law, but continues in actuality. Anyone who visits the U.S. may be surprised to learn that Americans still live in their separate ethnic and racially divided enclaves, still existential strangers to each other.
Legislation cannot require people to change how they think, but programs designed to put an end to racial alienation can go a long way to mitigating deadly racial animosity. It has to become a high priority as we address one of the major issues confronting humankind in this century.
A note on playing with the numbers…
Perhaps you have heard the people who care a lot about politics talking and talking about the latest transgression of the federal Conservatives. This time it concerns deception around the cost of fighter jets for the Department of Defence; those F-35 jets that were being sourced to replace the ageing fleet we now have. So what’s wrong with replacing ageing equipment so that we can ensure that our defence forces have the best we can afford? Well, it has to do with not telling the whole truth about the cost. There is a significant difference between the $25 billion expense over the lifetime of each jet and the $14.7 billion put forward by National Defence. The Conservatives knew the figure going into the last election but, when pushed, refused to reveal the true figures. What is it going to take before Canadians get fed up with the way the current administration regards the rest of us. Lack of transparency and blatant condescension are not what people voted for in shifting out the Liberals.