Pruitt Igoe

I had the opportunity to watch a documentary on Pruitt Igoe, a failed social housing projects in the United States that was created through racism and anti-blackness. A lot of my peer had a difficult time understanding how anti-blackness and racism led to both the construction and the demise of this project. Some of my peers believed that failure of this project was due to bad population projections or that many residents were migrating to the suburbs, but that simply is not the case. Here is a review I wrote on the Pruitt Igoe Myth


 The Pruitt Igoe Myth is directed by Chad Freidrichs and provides detail on the construction of this social housing project and its demise. Pruitt-Igoe was an example of fordist housing in the United States, it was large-scale homogenous high-rise to solve specific issues related to slum housing in the downtown area. Not only was Pruitt-Igoe used as a form of downtown renewal, it was also used as a tool for segregation. Pruitt-Igoe spread over 57 acres in St. Louis, Missouri, it housed mostly lower to middle class income families in the community. At the beginning of the development the housing solution seem as if it was a success, the residents were pleased and the units were well maintained. However, that quickly changed due to white flight in St. Louis in many other Northern cities in the United States. As Frey (1977) argues “racially motivated movement patterns and discriminatory housing practices, when superimposed upon market forces of the period, served to exacerbate the selective mobility of whites to the suburbs (p. 426).” With the whites and industries leaving the city center heading towards the suburbs there was a dramatic drop in the city’s population and tax based. They could no longer afford to maintain these units. The film succinctly demonstrated how both institutionalized racism and white flight impacted urban planning in St. Louis, Missouri. In particular, it highlights how racist policies related to housing led to Pruitt-Igoe to become derelict over time.

It is critical that we acknowledge the creation and failure of Pruitt-Igoe is centered around anti-black racism. During this time in the United States the Civil Rights movement was still occurring and the pivotal case of Brown v Board was decided, where schools could no longer be segregated by race. A lot of the policies created during this time were de facto segregation, this was segregation not by law, but by fact (Hall, 2005, p. 1251). Slum clearance and public housing where tools used to redistribute land to suit those in power (Friedrich, 2011). As the film highlights, urban renewal was use as a form of displacement to remove African-Americans from the downtown core. At that time, African-Americans did not have the same privileges as white-Americans. As Hall (2005) outlines zoning boards made these communities undesirable, real estate agents controlled who was allowed to buy property and at what prices, banks denied mortgages to African-Americans, and the Federal Housing Administration had lending policies that favoured segregation (p. 1241).

As mentioned earlier, population change greatly impacted the community, through data the city believed that the population would grow, so the development taking place in St. Louis was appropriate. Growth defined the war years and was expected to continue on. However, this was not the case. Although migrants from the South were coming into the city, and should have added to the growth. As we know this was not the case, the city population decreased due to residents moving out towards the suburbs.

The federal government had subsidies to make the suburbs affordable to the white middle class. So, whereas we saw funds from the government for slum removal, there was also funds for creation of an urban utopia for the middle class. These subsidies by the federal government eroded the tax base that St. Louis had which led to demise of Pruitt-Igoe. Without that large tax base in the city, the municipal government could no longer afford to provide services to all of its communities, this included the maintenance of Pruitt-Igoe. The same unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions the city was working to eliminate through slum clearance and public housing returned due to affordable suburbs. They city and city officials were working against themselves.

As noted in the film, the creation of Pruitt-Igoe and dealing with the influx of migrants in St. Louis were all top-down decisions. This is what city officials, planners, architects, and elites thought would be best for the city. Developers and investors enjoy the idea of slum clearance since it allowed for profitable re-development, they became the decision makers not those in need of affordable housing. Fordism often looked at solving issues at the macro scale, through large developments. But often not taking consideration of items at the micro scale, such as upward mobility, discrimination, and taxes. It is impossible to plan accordingly for community without engaging with community members, with top-down decision making the interests are created by the elites. In Bristol (1991), The Pruitt- Igoe Myth, George Kassabaum, a project architect for the building points out “you had middle class whites like myself designing for an entirely different group (p. 167).” Bristol goes on to argue “the implication was that low-income urban blacks constituted a tenant group with special needs: They were not instill with the middle-class value of taking pride in the upkeep of their environment, and they also brought with them certain destructive behaviours (p. 167).” Bristol argues that design and lack of consultation with the community was a factor that led to buildings to become derelict over time. Although, in the film the former residents discuss that they enjoyed the property and for some this was the first time of homeownership. Bristol highlights that many did not feel a sense of belonging, we saw this in the film with the widespread vandalism that took place.

Sandercock (2003) argues that diversity is part of the goal when planning in urban contexts and that we should plan for just cities, where everyone is treated with respect no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference (Sandercock, 2003). This is accurate, cities should be planned and designed that they are just for everyone. June-Manning Thomas (2008) argues for the need of the minority planner to create just cities, this is because minority race planners are perceived to be part of the community they are serving and are able to engage with the community differently (p. 239). Minority-race planners reflect the community they are serving and are able to sympathize with some of issues the community are going through. These are both planning practices that work today, but it would be difficult to use these practices in a segregated America of the past.

Was it possible to create urban policy to preserve social housings developments in the 1950’s? The short answer is no. We have to remember a majority of the policies that were in place were de facto segregation. Segregation was promoted through these urban policies at all levels of government and finance. To actually have policies to preserve social housing developments, we would have to have policies that were not discriminatory and racist. At that time most cities in the United States were not progressive, so Pruitt-Igoe and other social housing developments were bound to fail. In the film, they discuss the community of Blackjack and one of the first by-laws they created after they incorporated was to prohibit the construction of apartment buildings. As one resident states, they wanted to keep “trash people” out. Another resident states “if the colored move in and run real estate values down it is bound to create tension and you will have mixed-marriages and they becoming equal with whites.” From these sentiments alone, it is clear how people viewed African-Americans at that time. The entire system was against them.

Ideally, you would create policy that allowed everyone fair and equal access to social housing and ensure that all units are rent-geared-to-income. However, the Fair Housing Act was not enacted in the United States until 1968, just a few years before the destruction of Pruitt-Igoe (Yinger, 1986, p. 881). The act allowed that you could not refuse to sell or rent housing to anyone due to race, religion, sex, and colour. Meaning, a number of changes that could have possibility reduce white flight and allow for the equal home ownership for everybody did not take place until the project was already failing. If these laws were created earlier, it is possible that Pruitt-Igoe would not have failed as badly as it did.

I found it interesting in the way in which the state policed families living in Pruitt-Igoe, it was stipulated in the agreement that black fathers could be housed with their families. Meaning Pruitt-Igoe was home for mothers and their children. This stipulation of removing black fathers from the household added to the myth that there was a large percent of absentee fathers in the black community.

Pruitt-Igoe was a failed social housing project in St. Louis, Missouri that failed for a number of socio-economic reasons. We can highlight the hollowing out of the city’s population, eroding tax base, industries moving out, social housing as the end all solution for poverty, and incorrect growth calculations. The social housing project was a large scale project to allow for slum clearance and urban renewal, yet those in power never consulted the community what they actually needed. They created a solution that they thought would benefit the community. However, the main factor that led to the demise of the social housing project was institutional racism. If we examine the policies at the time, they were manufactured for segregation and only exacerbated inequality in the city.


References

Bristol, K. G. (1991). The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. Journal of Architectural Education, 44(3), 162-171.          doi: 10.1080/10464883.1991.11102687

Freidrichs, C. (Director). (2011). The Pruitt-Igoe Myth [Documentary]. United States: Unicorn           Stencil.

Frey, W. (1979). Central City White Flight: Racial and Nonracial Causes. American Sociological    Review, 44(3), 425-448. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094885

Hall, J. D. (2005). The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past. The Journal        of American History, 91(4), 1233-1263.

Sandercock, L. (2003). Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities. London, UK: Continuum.

Thomas, J. M. (2008). The Minority-Race Planner in the Quest for a Just City. Planning Theory, 7(3), 227–247. doi: 10.1177/1473095208094822

Yinger, J. (1986). Measuring Racial Discrimination with Fair Housing Audits: Caught in the Act. The American Economic Review, 76(5),881-893.

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Exploring Anti-Blackness in Canada

I believe Canadians have a hard time conceptualizing that racism and discrimination exist in Canada and is part of the culture. A lot of people have this utopian view about Canada, that Canadians are not racist and are open to other cultures. This is simply not true. The colonial history of Canada is filled with racism and discrimination, from way in which First Nation people are treated and the Chinese head tax. These are just two of many examples of racism in Canada.

Dr. Carrie Best was a Black Canadian activist and journalist, in 1968 she described racism in Canada

Canadian society is a white society. Its legislators are white. Its judges are white, its teachers are universally white; its police are white; its executives are white; its newsmen are white; its real estate agents are white; its landlords are white; its school board administrators, its mayors and alderman, its bankers, its armed forces, and its Prime Minister are white. They support and perpetuate the institutions and customs that make Canada what it is. Thus they are racist. If you are a liberal, middle-class, the word ‘racist’ has a very concrete and narrow definition. Apartheid is racist. Segregation is racist. The political, social, and economic systems which enslave human beings, which deny them their identities, their freedom, their dignity and their future are all racist systems. This definition is good as far as it goes but it only begins to scratch the surface of racism (Dua and Robertson,1999,p. 8)

Backhouse (1999) explores the legal history of racism in Canada in their book, Colour-Coded. Similar to the belief that some Americans have of being ‘colour-blind’ or viewing everyone as a human than a race, in Canada there is this notion of racelessness. Backhouse describes racelessness as:

The ideology of racelessness, a hallmark of Canadian historical tradition, is very much in keeping with our national mythology that Canada is not a racist country, or at least is much less so than our southern neighbour, the United State. Dionne Brand, an African-Canadian historian, poet, and writer, recounts that she still gets asked in interviews: ‘Is there racism in this country?’ Her response: ‘Unlike the United States, where there is at least an admission of the fact that racism exists and has a history, in this country one is faced with a stupefying innocence.’ A ‘mythology of racelessness’ and ‘stupefying innocence’ – these would appear to be twin pillars of the Canadian history of race (Blackhouse, 2010, p.14).

Backhouse mentions that the discussion around race and racism is different in Canada than in other countries like the United States or Great Britain. Where the Unites States has a long history of racial injustices and continue to practices these injustices through its legal system, urban planning, banking and police departments. In Great Britain their colonial history comes to mind. Due to these actions and divisions it is more accessible to discuss race and racism. However, in Canada it is more complex since racial injustices in this country is often overlooked.

Canada also has a history of anti-black racism, slaves were used in country from 1689 until 1833. During this time blacks in Canada faced a series of discrimination both prior and after the abolishment of slavery by the British Parliament in 1833 (African Canadian Legal Clinic, 2012, p. 4) . Once again, this history often gets brushed under the rug for whatever reason is may be, whether it is ignorance or trying to conform to the idea that Canada is not racist.

Backhouse (1999) stresses that racism is not an individual and one-off events, as she states:

“It is essential to recognize that racism is located in the systems and structures that girded the legal system of Canada’s past. Racism is not primarily manifest in isolated, idiosyncratic, and haphazard acts by individual actors who, from time to time, consciously intended to assert racial hierarchy over others. The roots of racialization run far deeper than individualized, intentional activities. Racism resonated through institutions, intellectual theory, popular culture, and law. Immigration laws shaped the very contours of Canadian society in wats that aggrandized the centrality of white power. Racialized communities were denied the right to maintain their own identities, cultures, and spiritual beliefs. Education, employment, residence, and the freedom of social interaction were sharply curtailed for all but those who claimed and were accorded the racial designation ‘white.’ 15

This statement exemplifies that racism is more than ‘that guy’ and the racist remarks they make on Facebook or the women who shouts racist comments and slurs to someone on the bus. Racism is systemic and is found in institutions, popular culture, and our legal system.

Examining the Canadian justice system, it is clear that discrimination plays an active role on laws that are created and enforced. Owusu-Bempah and Wortley (2011) maintains that “a closer examination of the historical record reveals that racial discrimination has long been an issue within Canadian society – particularly with respect to the operation of criminal justice system (p. 395).” Through their research they conclude that “black respondents are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white or Chinese respondents (p. 398).” They also observe that racialization exist in Canadian police departments, where “black racial backgrounds appear to be a master status that attract police attention and significantly contributes to police decisions to conduct street interrogations. To the police, young black males represent the usual suspects (p. 402).” Just that alone, that there is a criminality associated with being black is very disturbing.  They conclude that the Canadian government practices ‘democratic racism’. They define ‘democratic racism’ as “an ideology that permits the emergence of two seemingly conflicting sets of values: a public commitment to racial justice and equality on one hand, but a refusal to seriously investigate and address racial inequalities and potential racial bias when these issues emerge (p. 404).”

Just looking at newspapers or reading government documents, or comments from political leaders, this is what they practice. Examining the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women the conservative government under the leadership of Stephen Harper refused to launch an inquiry into it (Jackson, 2015). In Ontario, the outrage over carding and street check went almost unheard of. Politicians and police officials were dragging their feet to even discuss it, let alone call the practice racist. After weeks of protest from Black Lives Matter Toronto in front of Toronto police headquarters they met with Kathleen Wynne, where she told the group that “we still have systemic racism in our society (Jones, 2016).”  However, she quickly changed her comments when the Toronto Police Union said that her comments were out of line, and that there is no racism in the police force. She updated her comment stating “ I wasn’t talking about the police service, I was talking about societal reality that we all have to grapple with (Ostroff, 2016).” This was a truly cringe worthy moment, having the Premier of Ontario acknowledge systemic racism, but in the same breath say “no, no, no, not in police services, but in the criminal justice system and children’s aid.” This was just another prime example of democratic racism, informing the public that the government has a commitment to racial justice, but completely ignoring the issue at hand.

How do we confront racism and anti-black racism in Canada and how do we solve the many laws and policies that are created from it? First, we need to have an honest conversation about racism and anti-black racism in Canada. By having this dialogue and acknowledging the full impact racism and anti-blackness has on Canada and policies created is the first step. Secondly, we need to critically examine policies, laws, and by-laws created in this country and either amend or strike down laws and policies that are unjust are specifically target racialized groups.


African Canadian Legal Clinic. (2012). ERRORS AND OMMISSIONS: ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN CANADA ERRORS AND OMMISSIONS: ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN CANADA.

Backhouse, C., Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History., & Gibson Library Connections. (2010). Colour-coded : a legal history of racism in Canada, 1900-1950. Published for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History by University of Toronto Press.

Dua, E., & Robertson, A. (1999). Scratching the Surface: Canadian, Anti-racist, Feminist Thought. Toronto : Women’s Press.

Ostroff, J. (2016, April 7). Police Deny Racism and Demand Data (That They Won’t Collect). The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/joshua-ostroff/toronto-police-racism_b_9624714.html

Jackson, K. (2015, September 9). Stephen Harper’s longest war: missing and murdered Indeginous women. APTN. Retrived from http://aptn.ca/news/2015/09/09/stephen-harpers-longest-war-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women/

Jones, A. (2016, April 4). Wynne meets with Black Lives Matter protestors at Queen’s Park. iPolitics. Retrieved from https://ipolitics.ca/2016/04/04/wynne-meets-with-black-lives-matter-protesters-at-queens-park/

Wortley, S., & Owusu-Bempah, A. (2011). The usual suspects: police stop and search practices in Canada. Policing and Society, 21(4), 395–407. http://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2011.610198


Recommend Reading

The Suffocating Expereince of Being Black in Canada

Canadian Judge Acknowledge Anti-Black Racism in Court

Public Health Urban

The creation of Black Lives Matter and their fight for justice.

Black Lives Matter movement was created by Alicia Garcia, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors in 2014 after the trial of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was a resident of a Florida neighbourhood who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager.

Although the movement was created after the police killing of Trayvon, it was also created “as a response to the anti-black racism that permeated out society (Black Lives Matter, 2016).”  The creators describe the movement as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

The movement has participated in a number of protests and organizing since the creation of the group. Some of these events include the organizing and protest of unarmed black men and women such as FergusonWalter ScottFreddie Gray and Sandra Bland.

There has also been organizing and protesting in Canada by Black Lives Matter Toronto and Vancouver, and in Montreal by the Black Coalition of Quebec. In Toronto, Black Lives Matter have held a number of events and rallies around police brutality, racism, and fatal encounters the police have with people of colour and the mentally disabled. Some of these events include the protest around the shooting of Jermaine Carby by Peel Police, protest around carding and street checks by police departments across the GTA, and most recently protesting and organizing around the death of Abdirahman Abdi.

One question I keep asking myself and others is, what separates Black Lives Matter with other movements and organizations in the past that fought against anti-blackness, police brutality, and civil rights? Movements like the civil rights, black power and black feminist, black liberation, and anti-apartheid movements all come to mind. Groups like the National Council of Jamaicans and the Black Action Defense Committee also come to mind.

Reviewing the Civil Rights movements, it is clear that there are two stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, there is a dominant story that places the movement starting in the 1950s. There is also an alternative story that places the movement beginning in the 1940s. The movement in the 1940s was sparked by a number of events, the great depression, and international events; the persecution of Jews by Nazi’s (Hall, 2005, p. 1245). Hall describes the Black Popular Front and the organizing done by Martha Biondi as the first phase of the civil rights movement (p. 1245). Hall also argues that the persecution of Jews by Nazis brought striking similarities between racism and anti-Semitism (1247.) Other events include anti-colonialism movements in Africa and Asia, intersectional feminism, and the inclusion of African-Americans into American society.

The dominant story of the civil rights movement begins towards the end of the 1950s “it involved blacks and whites, southerners and northerners, local people and federal officials, secularists and men and women of faith (p. 1251).” The goal of the movement was

dismantling  Jim Crow, a system built as much on economic exploitation as on de jure and de facto spatial separation. In the mind of the movement activist, integration was never about ‘racial mingling’ or ‘merely sitting next to whites in school.’ as it is sometimes caricatured now. Nor did it imply assimilation into status white-defined institutions, however much whites assumed that it did. True integration was an is an expansive and radical goal, not an ending or abolition of something that once was – the legal separation of bodies by race – but a process of transforming institutions and building on equitable, democratic, multiracial, and multiethnic society (p. 1251-1252).

Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions to the movement and the March on Washington in 1963 are all part of the dominant story of the movement. As mentioned earlier, the goal of the movement was to dismantle Jim Crow laws, that allowed for legal racial segregation, and to ensure that everyone had equal rights.

Hall raises two important points about the movement that are often overlooked, the involvement of black women in organizing and the role of urban planning.

It was Claudia James and the Congress of American Women that brought up the concept of triple oppression of black women, their race, class, and gender (p. 1247). It was these women that were at the March on Washington “demanding jobs for all, decent housing, fair pay, and equal rights…thus asserting both their racial solidarity and their identities as activists and workers and thereby the equals of men (p. 1252)”.

This solidifies the importance of black women in organizing and fighting against oppression both during the civil rights movements in the past and the current Black Lives Matter movements of today.

Urban planning had a huge impact on black lives and racial inequality in the United States, I will touch on some of these planning decisions in a later post. However, some of these decisions included highway building choices, zoning by-laws, denying mortgages to African-Americans, and federal lending policies that mandated racial homogeneity (p. 1241).

The Black Power Movement was a movement documented from beginning in the 1950’s and ending in 1975 (Joseph, 2001, p. 2) The movement began around the same time as the Cold War and the political repression the war had on Americans. It was heavily influenced by the political atmosphere in the Unites States and “global events including anti-colonial uprisings in Ghana, Cuba, and the African Congo (Joseph, p. 3).” The difference between the two movements was that the Civil Rights Movement emphasized on getting their message across through non-violence, whereas the Black Power Movement was fine with being militant. The Black Power movement left two lasting impressions on the Unites States.

These two movements provide historical context of black radicalism, organizing and fighting for change. It shows that the fight for civil rights and fair treatment was not just an “American thing”, this was truly a global movement and continues to be a global movement to this day. Some of the arguments in Canada and in the Canadian media when discussing Black Lives Matter is that they often say “its an American issue” or that “black Canadians are not facing the same oppression as black-Americans”. That is simply not true, Canadians continue to face discrimination by police departments, the justice system, and issues with the Children’s Aid Society.

There have also been organizations in the past in Canada that have also fought against police brutality and racism in Canada with organizations like the National Council of Jamaicans and the Black Action Defence Committee. Both organizations have worked individually and together in the past to fight against discriminatory policies and police brutality. The National Council of Jamaicans was able to change discriminatory immigration policies and help add passages to the Fair Employment Act and the Fair Accommodation Practices Act (Powell, 2015). In 1988, the Black Action Defence Committee was created due to a number of shootings of black men (Jackson, 1994, p. 219).  The goal of the BADC was the “elimination of racism particularly as it impacts the Black community by advocating policies and practices that are geared toward this end (Black Action Defence Committee, 2016). The work done by the BADC in the early 1990s is responsible for the creation of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Ontario (Black Action Defence Committee, 2016). The role of the SIU is to investigate “circumstances involving police and civilians that result in death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault (Powell, 2015).”

The National Council of Jamaicans, Black Action Defence Committee, and Black Lives Matter Toronto all have similar themes and are fighting for the same goal; removing all forms of anti-black racism. I believe Black Lives Matter Toronto is just continuing the work that BADC did in the past. The sole difference from Black Lives Matter Toronto and the organizations that came before them is the use of technology. Even though the time has changed there is still a need to fight for racial equality.

There have been a number of accomplishments from the work Black Lives Matter have done both in the United States and Canada. In the United States, they have successfully raised awareness around police violence against women and the trans community, forced schools to look into their racial history, and brought attention to racial bias in the criminal justice system (Workneh, 2015). In Canada, the organization has garnered attention from their protest which had led to coroner’s inquest, a discussion around carding and street checks, which eventually led to the suspension of this policy (Battersby, 2016). Black Lives Matter and organizations similar to it will continue to remain relevant until anti-blackness and discriminatory policies are removed from every facet of everyday life.


Battersby, S. J. (2016, April 16). From Jermaine Carby to Andrew Loki: a timeline of Black Lives Matter in Toronto. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/04/16/from-jermaine-carby-to-andrew-loku-a-timeline-of-black-lives-matter-in-toronto.html

Black Action Defense Committee. (2016). About Us. Retrieved from http://blackactiondefence.weebly.com/about-us.html

Black Lives Matter. (2016). A HerStory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Retrieved from http://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/

Hall, J. D. (2005). The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past. The Journal of American History, 91(4), 1233-1263.

Joseph, P. (2001). Black Liberation Without Apology: Reconceptualizing the Black Power Movement. The Black Scholar, 31(3-4), 2-19

Powell, B. (2014). Settling in Canada: Jamaicans have a story to tell. Retrieved from                     https://books.google.ca/books?id=wblNBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT248&lpg=PT248&dq=national+council+of+jamaicans&source=bl&ots=aHMbmnb5Do&sig=apnR7AtiB3_HFShGz-7g0LuI_yY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjktpaLs-zOAhXLNx4KHdhBBu04FBDoAQgaMAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Workneh, L. (2015, December 22). 11 Big Accomplishments Black Activists Achieved in 2015. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/11-big-accomplishments-black-activists-achieved-in-2015_us_567996bae4b0b958f6583320


Recommened Reading:

From Black Action Defense to Black Lives Matter TO: decades apart but demands are the same

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation 

 

 

 

Urban

Exploring Black Lives Matter and Anti-blackness in Canada

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be exploring issues of anti-blackness in Canada. Specifically, I will be examining the social movements of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO). Over the past four years we  witness the rise of Black Lives Matter on both sides of the border raising awareness, providing support, and asking critical questions around police brutality, prison industrial complex, and anti-blackness.

Some may view the organization as only a group that protest or question their legitimacy. However, over the past four years they have garnered attention and have been able to create change through coroner’s inquest, highlighting bias in the legal justice system, and the public being more aware of police brutality cases.

Through this series, I will be examining a number of items related to BLM and anti-blackness in Canada. Some of the questions I will pose are:

How did Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter Toronto come to be?  What are they fighting for?

What separates them from past organizations such as the National Council of Jamaicans, Black Action Defense Committee, and Black Liberation Movements?

Why is it that protests by BLM and protests in the past by black people have been viewed as ‘criminal’ instead of political?

Is Canada exempt from anti-blackness?

I hope that the series will allow readers to be educated on anti-blackness and the tools that the legal system and the media use to continue this oppression. I also hope to provide some information on past social and civil movements and how they aided in the creation of BlackLivesMatter.

Photo Credit:

Melklsethian, S. (2015). #DCFerguson Solidarity with Baltimore 10 [Digital Image], Retrieved from (https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/17326390285/in/photolist-sp5hbZ-kiPm9T-s6EBgK-srUNtf-9Nv8dj-T2Xhz-s7JuEz-51onL4-meBooT-amD5qM-pgoWCd-7YVBfH-s7BFzg-JF5Sbj-s9Bf6P-qcHKyV-Gno9aP-qFNVf3-x8MiH6-scCv7m-5kEtCa-8NEwq5-5e1U3o-6mJHmr-qD3HMQ-qwtNa8-7fr2Ue-7iWVsd-q1KAha-a5oF29-soTLoE-pVWHTi-9NJKMw-2T6VTF-qVs3RR-5JsjGp-pVXZJT-rsgghk-qKjnyb-s7Jxdv-7WvUsS-pnDANr-acNS4p-qDwDze-6NR1wR-CA6DBT-oJ1LYs-oJ1KLY-rjapeA-oJ1bPX)

 

Public Health Uncategorized

On the Carding Controversy

Carding

I have been closely watching the exchange between Mike McCormick, the head of the Toronto Police Association and Desmond Cole, activist and writer. Since the discussion they are having around crime and carding is related to my major research paper for my master’s degree.

The comments coming from McCormick are erroneous and absurd, there is absolutely no data linking carding or street checks to the reduction of crime. It was cringe worthy to see him debate with Cole on CityNews and just repeat false information. During a previous interview, McCormick made an outlandish statement on the provincial ban on carding and how to due to the ban this is the reason for the current spike in gun violence in the city.

Here is what we know, “racial discrimination has long been an issue within Canadian society – particularly with respect to the operation of the criminal justice system” (as cited in Mosher, 1998, p. 305)

Carding and street checks are the manifestation of racial discrimination in the justice system due to that these processes are solely used on marginalized communities; those who are disabled and are visible minorities. So to say that the practice of carding does not discriminate is inaccurate. Skolnick (1966) discover that “police in the United States tend to perceive young, black males as ‘symbolic assailants’ and thus stop and question them on the street as a means of ‘crime prevention” (p. 402). From this observation, we can already see the criminalization of black and brown bodies. In a Canadian study about stop and search practices in Canada, Owusu-Benmpah & Wortley (2011) note that similar practices and racialization exist within the Canadian police environment. Through a survey, they discovered “blacks are over three times more likely to experience multiple police stops than whites or Asians and are three times more likely to report being searched during these police encounters” (402).

Simply, carding does not reduce or prevent crimes from taking place

What is more troubling is, the police forces and the government have not released data around carding and crime prevention. This creates a lot of question around the practice and what it being done if there is a lack of data. Are they simply practicing this due to the criminalization and black bodies or is there evidence supporting this? Henry and Tator (2005) refer to this as democratic racism:

An ideology that permits the emergence of two seemingly conflicting sets of values: a public commitment to racial justice and equality on one hand, but a refusal to seriously investigate and address racial inequalities and potential racial bias when these issues emerge (p. 349).

Owusu-Benmpah and Wortley (2011) state that the government and police forces withholding information on carding and street checks are a form of democratic racism. They go on to say that police forces, government, and the criminal justice system continue to ignore questions around carding because there is no empirical data. For all we know, the criminal justice system and carding are inherently racist.

Police forces and the criminal justice system needs to take a different approach when it comes to crime prevention and serving the community. Continuing these practices will create communities that fear the police and the authority due to these practices.

 

You can watch the debate between McCormick and Cole here.

Politics Public Health Uncategorized Urban