Last week, yet another young black man was gunned down in Toronto -- on the church steps, during the funeral of his best friend, who'd been gunned down the week before. Naturally, the police were blamed. "They should have been there," protested someone from the African-Canadian Alliance.
Pity the poor police. They're damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If they send more cops out to patrol dangerous neighbourhoods and question young men on the streets, they're accused of racial profiling. If they don't, they're accused of neglect. No one asked them to the funeral, even though the entire crowd seemed to know there would be lots of guns there. If they'd showed up without an invitation, they'd no doubt have been met with a wall of hostility.
"Enough," screamed the Toronto Star. Well, I second that. But enough of what? Our emoting is aimed at the wrong parties. Perhaps it should be directed at the people who can make a difference -- the ones who know damn well who the shooters are, but won't tell.
There's lots of heartfelt talk about all the "children" we are losing to "gun violence," as if it came out of the blue. But sometimes, the only difference between our poor, dead children and the cold-eyed thugs who kill them is which end of the gun they happen to be on.
The Star painted a touching picture of the latest victim, a handsome 18-year-old named Amon Beckles. A role model to the younger kids. Father of an 18-month-old daughter who called him "daddy." Uh, whoa. Is fathering a baby out of wedlock before you turn 18 a role-model kind of thing? Okay, so nobody's perfect. But Mr. Beckles was also under investigation by police. As well, he knew who'd shot his friend, but refused to co-operate. Too bad. He missed a chance to save his own life.
Meantime, the police have made themselves another fine mess. Last week, they rounded up 16 high-school students for allegedly sexually harassing or assaulting a 15-year-old girl. She's white. They're black. What were police thinking? Right on cue, the parents of the accused reacted about as you'd expect. "This is garbage," yelled one mother, who called the charges racist and "trumped up." Another mother said she'd warned her son "not to talk to those white girls, because they are bait." Everybody blamed police for picking up the kids in school, rather than at home. So insensitive. "We've had problems of racial profiling," said lawyer Royland Moriah. "You have to think about what the history is and take that into account when you make these decisions." He referred to the accused (some of whom are 17) as "children."
Toronto schools are also taking it in the neck for racial profiling. That's because young black males make up a disproportionate number of the students who are penalized for discipline and behaviour problems. Anyone with the slightest experience in Toronto's schools knows these problems are real. But saying so is not an option. Instead, the school board has promised the Ontario Human Rights Commission that the schools will be more sensitive. From now on, principals must consider "mitigating factors" before they impose discipline. One such factor is "racial harassment." Next fall, schools will begin to gather race-based discipline statistics in order to detect bias. Want to guess what's going to happen?
The human-rights commission has also ordered Toronto's schools to start gathering race statistics on their staff. That's because a black teacher from Nigeria complained that he had always wanted to be a principal, but after 20 years had never been promoted. In spite of this systemic racism, I've met several extremely able, black school administrators, one of whom is now superintendent of schools in Hamilton. This man wrote a book about motivating kids and turning around failing schools. It did not include the word "racism."
I used to feel quite smug about the lack of racial tensions in Canada. It was a mark of our superiority to the United States, I thought. We managed these things so much better up here. No underclass for us. No inner-city ghettos, gangs and guns, or blame games fed by ancient grievances and guilt. How wrong I was. How very wrong.