We are all judged and judge others by their appearance, consciously or unconsciously, but those judgements are often superseded by what comes out of a person’s mouth. I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America. And I never will. Furthermore, I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent of a young black male in that country either. So maybe I should have nothing to say. I think people are genuinely afraid for their children, and I don’t blame them. It’s not like Ferguson was just the start of this mess, rather it was a nationalized boiling point, like Rodney King was back in the 90’s.
It just kind of bothers me that people of colour seem to be the only one having a conversation about these issues right now, and if white society is joining in, they are usually the ones already aware of the issues. It bothers me even more, that it should be the marginalized that have to take responsibility and change their lives to suit the prejudices of a few. The thing is, no matter how we are dressed, or how we speak (given that there is time to speak in the interaction), if you give a racist a gun and a badge, arm him with “broken windows” and “stop and frisk” policies, we will continue to face this “shoot first-ask questions later” culture. And right now, the laws and the way these laws are implemented, with the prosecutors reluctant to indict their friends in law enforcement, the system is in favor of injustice. Maybe what needs to change are the law and policy makers.
One more thing, this issue is also about economic class. The racists on Fox news really like bringing up “black on black” shootings as some kind of ridiculous counter-argument, as if to say “why you so mad black people? You guys kill each other, more than the police kill you.” And I find myself wishing I could go on their show and say, ok, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about those kids on the street, husslin, trying to make a dollar, packing heat, cussing, joining gangs, shooting their fellow man. We need to have a conversation about those people, because they are the “real targets” and they are the ones filling the jails to maximum capacity.
Let’s talk about the historical reasons for those kids being in that environment. Let’s talk about how it is damn near impossible to escape that life, and how those kids didn’t ask to be born into those neighborhoods or those economic circumstances. Better yet, let’s talk about how we can repair that. Is there a simple remedy? No, but cracking down on the most vulnerable in society with racist policies, is definitely not the answer. Jail is also not the answer and tends to make things even worse for those kids, bringing them into an environment filled with other criminals who teach them more about their “craft” and subjecting already troubled minds to tortures like solitary confinement, ripping families apart, breaking homes, tarnishing their records so they can never succeed…Where are all the pundits on this?
Banks are too big to fail, but poor people are too irrelevant to help, aren’t they? What if we invested all those billions of dollars and man-hours into the neediest of our society? What would happen to crime then? Would we need broken windows policing in that world? Yes, I know, I’m too idealistic. But the definition of insanity is doing the same shit over and over again, and expecting a different result. Where is this conversation going on, and what kind of Ferguson-like event is it going to take for us to start talking about this? And by us, I don’t mean the communities affected by this, because they’ve been the ones charging that change, I mean the rest of the country.
We have a similar problem in Canada with the way our First Nations are treated by police and by society at large. They are subject to almost the identical set of prejudices, judgements, police tactics, economic disparities, and historical and contemporary marginalization. The racists in this country like to say, “Look at those natives, drunk all the time, living on welfare. They get free university from the government but are too lazy to use it, while I, the hard-working tax-payer have to struggle!” It’s like we’ve selectively deleted our history. It’s like we turn a blind eye to the cross-generational problems that this dark history has created. So quick to demonize the oppressed, so slow to lend a hand. We used to treat it by throwing government money at it. Now even that has stopped, although that didn’t help things anyway. We just keep increasing our police force (especially in Winnipeg) hoping we can just lock them all up and forget about it. As if they’re not people. As if they are not part of this nation. I find Canadians even MORE openly hostile against First Nations than the racism I’ve witnessed in America. We haven’t even had our version of the civil rights movement here in Canada. And it is long overdue.
~ Protiti Khan, Guest Blogger