In one of his songs at the height of his career, “Inner City Blues (Make me wanna holler) throw up both my hands…” Marvin Gaye laments some social realities…
When Marvin sang those lines decades ago, he was addressing some of the issues, especially Race and one of its derivatives, racism, and how it was impacting Black people.
Years on, the institutional social cancer is affecting Black people more than ever. In fact, it’s still front and center in America, fuelled by a powerful political force and constituency.
Marvin is long gone, but his sentiments continue to resonate, musically. He could’ve been singing about some of the frustrations of Black people even right now, and right in Montreal, Canada (as well as elsewhere in the country) and some of what we’ve been feeling/enduring with that perennial issue of [police] profiling… which was front and center–again–in the media last week.
For some [law-abiding] Black males, it’s plain and simple insecurity and fear when in close proximity to the Montreal police; they have almost become conditioned to the harassment, mentally hollering and throwing up their hands when interacting with Montreal police. And it has been going on for years.
So the issue bubbled to the surface again last week when several Black people, predominantly males, stepped up to speak to the media about constant police harassment/profiling.
[Most] Black people refer to it as systemic racism/profiling… by (SPVM) police. Actually, it’s more like an illness, chronic profiling…
So last Tuesday, December 11, at a press conference, the SPVM made some bold promises in relation to the serious matter of “racial profiling.” It’s the umpteenth time the police has been floating a promise to essentially to do better in terms of its members’ relations with the Black community, especially males.
Stopping that questionable special treatment/practice you, the police, have been perpetually subjecting our young Black men to is absolutely unnecessary. They are no more criminal-minded than any other racial, ethnic group. For the most part they are simply going about their lives as normal (the ones who opt for an alternative lifestyle, that’s their prerogative); just don’t harass every young Black male walking the streets of their city, where they are born and raised.
Understand that and “Just me (them) alone…” to borrow from one of Michael Jackson’s songs. Or better yet, as he (and sister Janet) made crystal clear in a duet, “Scream” in which he succumbs to passion, pressure and frustration with racism and social marginalization, and employs the so-called ‘F’ word in the lyrics.
But to demonstrate that the police are finally ready to address the matter of racial profiling, they unveiled an Action Plan… Let’s just call it a Profiling Plan for the 21st century.
The incoming police chief is unveiling a strategy to deal with the profiling issue. [I believe something similar was talked about some years ago; evidently, there was no political will on the part of the police then to check themselves. So they just kept profiling, especially because they have a strong union that goes toe-to-toe with management when necessary.]
So yes, the new SPVM chief Sylvain Caron has his work cut out for him going forward, not the least of which is the gargantuan task (probably a thick folder of files of decades) of racial profiling victims. This coupled with a $4 million Class Action lawsuit against the police by the Black Coalition of Quebec for years of racial profiling of [young] Black males and the cumulative negative effects/impact (especially psychological, according to Dr. Anne-Marie Livingstone.) on Black males.
It commanded media attention when it was released.
As stated in the December 6 edition of CommunityContact, in an article by Egbert Gaye, “What this study has revealed to us is that racial profiling is profoundly detrimental to the mental health of the Blacks and (other racialized) youth and it impacts on their ability to strive and get to their potential as well as on their racial identity,” so says Dr. Anne-Marie Livingstone, who was one of the leaders of the report titled #MtlSansProfilage. “If for no other reason they should apologize to the community for the trauma they heaped on our youth.”
All interested parties [victims] will wait with baited breath to see how that SPVM Action Plan, a new Strategy On Racial Profiling: “Listen, Understand, Act”, will transform police behaviour and practices. Hopefully, it will finally bring change to that questionable racist practice.
[Aside. I believe we’ve heard about this one before, in a racial profiling context. A story on Page 3 of the Tuesday, December 18, Metro newspaper states that Mairesse Valérie Plante’s administration is mandating the Publique Security Commission to study the idea of SPVM police wearing body cameras, beginning in 2019. If I remember correctly the idea was floated some years ago, but perhaps there was much opposition from the powerful police union. Actually, a pilot project has already been underway since May 2016.]
Good thing. In America, we’ve seen how those body cams have brought to light how white police have been killing, beating and dehumanizing Black men for generations. Sure, they should be employed by every North American police force, if only to show if police are respecting all citizens, especially law abiding Black ones.
Now, generally speaking, Black people do not want, have never wanted, or requested, any special treatment from the Montreal police. All we have ever asked is to be treated like people, white people, with [CPR] Courtesy Professionalism and Respect. Nothing less. We (our young Black me) deserve and demand fair and equitable, unbiased treatment by the police. That new police ‘Plan’ whenever and if ever it’s implemented should and must ensure that.
In the meantime, Michael and Janet Jackson’s, and Marvin Gaye’s (and yes, that NWA song…) are speaking to the same social issue(s)—recurring shootings… aggravating, unnecessary and unjustified 24/7 surveillance [of our young males]—that continue to disproportionately impact Black people, specifically, males, on both sides of the border. The legal and financial options/ strategies are last resorts.
In the meantime, don’t let police practices prevent you from having fun this festive season. Start planning to have yourself a Merry Christmas!
Till next year.