Being that the power of the anti-Black stereotype is deeply interwoven in North American culture, most people have racist views of one type or another. For example, a 1996 Canadian survey revealed that 65% thought that Black people committed more crimes than other racial or ethnic groups. I suspect a survey conducted today, particularly in this province, would yield similar results.
The historical negative portrayal of young Black males in the North American media as violent and menacing street thugs, has had a disastrous impact on the current practice of racial profiling everywhere.
Don’t forget, racial profiling occurs when someone in a position of authority assumes that you are a criminal or are violent based on your race, and treats you like one.
While an attitude underlying racial profiling is one that may be consciously or unconsciously held, MAKE NO MISTAKE, there can be no racial profiling without racist attitudes.
In 1854, Frederick Douglass said “When men oppress their fellow men, the oppressor ever finds, in the character of the oppressed, a full justification for his oppression.”
This is a ploy very much alive in racial profiling today.
In a 2013 interview on Global News, Jacques Frémont, then president of the Quebec Human Rights Commission said it best: “The challenge is a change of culture basically within the police forces and within Quebec society in general, so we’re fighting against prejudice, we’re fighting against well-established ways of doing things.”
After visiting with Black Canadians across the country in October 2016, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent admitted having “serious concerns about systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system in Canada.”
As you know, the first point of entry into the criminal justice system is the police.
January 15 was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and on Jan. 26, 1956, Dr. King was stopped “driving while Black” in Birmingham, AL. A white police officer stopped him and shouted: “get out King, you’re under arrest for speeding thirty miles an hour…. in a twenty-five-mile zone.” This was obviously a pretext stop, familiar to many Black motorists in Quebec, which had nothing to do about traffic safety.
Dr. King ended up in a Birmingham jail from where he wrote his famous ‘Letter’. In it, Dr. King said that for anyone, including police officers, to simply stand idle in the face of injustice, is also being complicit in the injustice.
Eleven years later in a 1967 NBC interview, MLK lamented that his 1963 dreams that one-day people will no longer be judged by the colour of their skin instead society had turned into a nightmare and was now “poisoned to its soul by racism.”
During that famous interview, Dr. King said that he believed his country could only be cured through “a cosmic discontent enlarging in the bosoms of people of good will.”
During the interview, Dr. King also admitted that he was convinced that many of the very people who supported his movement in the struggle in the South a few years back, were no longer willing to go all the way now.
MLK had noticed that some of the people who marched and supported the movement in Birmingham, were really outraged against the extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jim Clark toward the Negros, rather than believing in genuine equality for those same Negros, where had those allies gone?
Where are those George Floyd allies now?
Many people in this province believe that we live a colour-blind society, and that we’re all from the same human race. This notion of color blindness is dangerous, as it prevents us from seeing the systemic injustices all around us. Justice may be blind, but we all know that it is not colour-blind.
So, as Dr. King also said so many years ago, I call on ALL relatively conscious, good people “to lift our national policy” of colorblindness “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”