Racial Profiling – as seen by a white person

Sad / depressing post today.

I saw what I consider proof of racial profiling with my very own eyes the other day. I have to say that I am disappointed, but only in a resigned kind of way. I have long acknowledged that racism (particularly against black people) is still going strong across the globe, most notably in the United States in my own experience. I’m also very well aware that Canada has a history of racism against the First Nations people, as well as the antisemitism that is ubiquitous across the globe (and seems to be picking up steam with each passing month, lately… apparently we’ve learned nothing from the Holocaust), but that is not what I saw the other day.

 

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The other day, I was sitting in the passenger seat during rush hour traffic, on my way home. We were driving up a big street in Ottawa, the traffic definitely busy but consistently moving. Down in the distance, a few metres up, there are flashing lights. As we come closer, I am able to make out two separate cop cars. I turn to the driver and say (paraphrased) “I bet you anything that the person they pulled over is a black guy” and we sit silently as we approach the scene.

Lo and behold, we get close enough to see that there are not actually two cop cars, but three! All of them with lights on, and one civilian car sandwiched between  two of them. Passing the scene, I am able to see that there are three uniformed cops standing around a handcuffed black man. My heart sank, sometimes I really hate being right.

Now, some people may be reading this and saying “well, maybe he was a criminal!” to which I say, sure. Maybe he was. Maybe he was a drug dealer, maybe he ran a red light (though the closest red light behind us to where he was pulled over was probably close to half a kilometer away, so unlikely), maybe he had outstanding tickets, maybe he stole a pack of cigarettes.

But that does not explain why there were *3* police cars to apprehend *1* potential criminal. He showed absolutely no signs of fighting back, he was not struggling, he had no signs of physical altercation on his features. In fact, he was looking down, averting his eyes and keeping them on the ground in front of him. Why does it require three cops to team up on one black guy?

The chances that he was speeding are basically zero, as the traffic was too congested to even hit the speed limit (60kph). The closest red light was half a kilometer away. Three cops, one civilian.

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Now, I’ve known criminals. Actual people who committed crimes. All of them were white (just like me), all of them into various types of crime. From drug dealers, to those who assault people, to (as it turns out) a few rapists/sexual assaulters, to thieves. I heard their stories of what they do when they are confronted with the police. They fight, they run, they do anything to avoid being apprehended.

Why? Because they know they won’t be hurt if they do. White people know deep within our hearts and souls that the chances of us being injured or killed by a police officer are virtually null. Black people’s experiences are vastly different, and to deny that this happens is to deny the lives and lived experiences of those who are affected by this sociological occurrence.

Black people, black men, are no more violent than their white counterparts. This demonization of an entire race is complete and utter bullshit, and it needs to stop. We need to listen to the people who are affected by this constant and very real phenomena, the experiences of the black men, black women, black children, who live in our neighbourhoods, in our cities, in our countries. And we need to lift up their voices, because they are the ones with the first hand experience of what it is like.

I will never know what it is like to be that black man, handcuffed in the middle of rush hour, surrounded by three cops, lights flashing. I will never know what it feels like to be afraid of looking at the faces of the individuals who have decided that my existence is inherently criminal. But I will listen to those who know what it feels like, and I will raise up their voices, and I will stand behind them.

Will you?

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