I thought that I could have been sleeping already, but reading the current article and seeing what is happening to black and brown bodies has me feeling very upset. This is a rant, and I probably will come back later to edit this piece.
First off, I commend Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition in their protest this evening bringing public attention to the death of Andrew Loku and the long list of other black lives that have been taken by the Toronto Police. We have viewed this narrative in Toronto where both the police chief (outgoing and current) and Mayor John Tory are not listening to the black community when we tell them that we are concerned in the way we are treated. Or the fact that there are officers that are insensitive to blacks and those with mental illness. They both dismiss this.
In one of my classes last term, I did a presentation on the police state and the for-profit prison industry in the United States. One of the readings was by Peter Jackson, a researcher in the UK, whose research interest are in racism and geography.
I would highly recommend reading “Constructions of Criminality: Police-Community Relations in Toronto” by Jackson. This article was written 20 years ago, however it highlights the issues of ‘ethnic criminality’ and the issues facing the black community at the time and the issues that we are still facing with the police.
Jackson (1994) has a number of comments from both respondents and researchers in his article that I would like to share with you. It is a bit troublesome how relatable these excerpts are 20 years later.
“… each time there is an outcry for justice from the black community, there is an attempt to discredit those who come to the force, by labelling them ‘agitators’.”
“The Task Force (Task Force on Race Relations) made a number of recommendations. These included an increase in the scope and duration of police training (including support for training in community policing); the need for genuinely independent police complaints procedure to replace the existing system whereby members of one police force were in to investigate complaints about officer in a neighbouring force; and the need for increased ethnic minority recruitment to the police…Significantly, however, the Board of Police Commissioners rejected three of the Task Force’s 57 recommendations: financial sanctions against police forces that fail to meet their targets on hiring and promoting visible minorities; restrictions on the use of guns in apprehending criminals; and steps to make Ontario police commissioners more independent from the police forces they oversee.”
“… we are troubled at the perception that Blacks and West Indians are criminals and not Canadians…Some [police officers] assume that all Black people are criminals and violent, finding it necessary to unbuckle their holster when approaching a Black driver for traffic violations.” (National Council of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations, Inc.)
Jackson argues that most of the public “fail to appreciate the unequal power relations that structure every interaction between the police and visible minorities and which make quite untenable the argument that the two groups suffer from “the same syndrome [minority groups v police officers”.
In 1990, both Julian Fantino and Alan Tonks, the Chair of Metro Toronto Council at the time made statements that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime in the city. Tonks argued “it was a fact that blacks committed a disproportionate amount of crime and that it was a “logical perception” that police officers, dealing with “black youth”, may face “a greater likelihood of trouble.” So, the argument that these are baseless accusation of racism against the Toronto Police Service is just not true, it is well documented.
Towards the end of the paper, Jackson discusses the criminality and the generalizations of racial groups and specific geographic locations:
It is tiring and emotionally draining to continually see that black lives and the lives of other visible minorities do not matter in the Greater Toronto Area and around the world. I am hoping that these events will lead to more than a discussion of police brutality and the construction of criminality of Toronto’s black communities. I hope that these events lead to action and recommendations that the police board can use in the way they interact with the black community.