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Mon Mar 28, 2016, 07:49 AM

The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black


(Image: Markian Lozowchuk)

BY DESMOND COLE | APRIL 21, 2015 AT 12:28 PM

The summer I was nine, my teenage cousin Sana came from England to visit my family in Oshawa. He was tall, handsome and obnoxious, the kind of guy who could palm a basketball like Michael Jordan. I was his shadow during his visit, totally in awe of his confidence—he was always saying something clever to knock me off balance.

One day, we took Sana and his parents on a road trip to Niagara Falls. Just past St. Catharines, Sana tossed a dirty tissue out the window. Within seconds, we heard a siren: a cop had been driving behind us, and he immediately pulled us onto the shoulder. A hush came over the car as the stocky officer strode up to the window and asked my dad if he knew why we’d been stopped. “Yes,” my father answered, his voice shaky, like a child in the principal’s office. My dad isn’t a big man, but he always cut an imposing figure in our household. This was the first time I realized he could be afraid of something. “He’s going to pick it up right now,” he assured the officer nervously, as Sana exited the car to retrieve the garbage. The cop seemed casually uninterested, but everyone in the car thrummed with tension, as if they were bracing for something catastrophic. After Sana returned, the officer let us go. We drove off, overcome with silence until my father finally exploded. “You realize everyone in this car is black, right?” he thundered at Sana. “Yes, Uncle,” Sana whispered, his head down and shoulders slumped. That afternoon, my imposing father and cocky cousin had trembled in fear over a discarded Kleenex.

My parents immigrated to Canada from Freetown, Sierra Leone, in the mid-1970s. I was born in Red Deer, Alberta, and soon after, we moved to Oshawa, where my father was a mental health nurse and my mother a registered nurse who worked with the elderly. Throughout my childhood, my parents were constantly lecturing me about respecting authority, working hard and preserving our family’s good name. They made it clear that although I was the same as my white peers, I would have to try harder and achieve more just to keep up. I tried to ignore what they said about my race, mostly because it seemed too cruel to be true.

In high school, I threw myself into extra-curricular activities—student council, choir, tennis, soccer, fundraising drives for local charities—and I graduated valedictorian of my class. Despite my misgivings about my parents’ advice, I was proud to be living up to their expectations. In 2001, I earned admission to Queen’s University. I was enticed by the isolated, scenic campus—it looked exactly like the universities I’d seen in movies, with stately buildings and waterfront views straight out of Dead Poets Society. When I told my older sister, who was studying sociology at Western, she furrowed her brow. “It’s so white,” she bristled. That didn’t matter much to me: Oshawa was just as white as Kingston, and I was used to being the only black kid in the room. I wasn’t going to let my race dictate my future.

http://torontolife.com/city/life/skin-im-ive-interrogated-police-50-times-im-black/

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Reply The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black (Original post)
MrScorpio Mar 2016 OP
JimDandy Mar 2016 #1
valerief Mar 2016 #4
gordianot Mar 2016 #2
mnhtnbb Mar 2016 #3
fasttense Mar 2016 #5
TygrBright Mar 2016 #6
wildeyed Mar 2016 #7
awoke_in_2003 Mar 2016 #8

Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 08:46 AM

1. For some reason I never connected Canada with racial profiling

It always seemed to be the country of everyman. Doesn't look so welcoming now. Sad.

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Response to JimDandy (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 10:27 AM

4. Right. Canada sounds as bad as the U.S. re profiling. nt

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 09:37 AM

2. I saw this first hand when I was 14.

In a group of 6-7 asshole kids the cop put the two black kids in the car. It took me the next day to learn exactly why that happened.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 10:14 AM

3. Who knew that this kind of racism existed in Canada?

What an eye-opener article.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 10:28 AM

5. Wow, that was very enlightening.

 

I had no idea Canada was as racist as the US. For some reason, I thought they would be more egalitarian.

Now, I know why that black man who made a show of helping me, an elderly white woman in TN, was thinking. I've recently gone through some serious near death incidents with my spouse and I have gained weight and let my hair turn gray instead of coloring it blonde like I usually do. I look a lot older than my age that way but sometimes you have to be what you are. So, one day on the long drive home from the farmer's market we stopped at a rest stop. I got out of the car to use the bathroom and soon returned oblivious to everything around me. I turned the corner of my husband's large pick up to get in the passenger side door, and there was suddenly an expensive car door opening. Surprised I step backed and looked at the man getting out. He was a well dressed, handsome man who happened to be black. If I had been in a better mood and shape, I would have flirted with him. It's a mild flirting for fun that my spouse is use to. He saw the surprise on my face and he began calling me mam. He helped me to my car as if I were infirmed, and he all but shuffled away, I knew what he was doing. He thought I was a bigot and was surprised at his skin color. So, he was on his best behavior to calm the racist old white lady in the south. I know now it was years of experience with racist that made him assume the worst.

Now, whenever I stop at that rest stop I always smile. You never know when you will meet a handsome man.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 11:23 AM

6. Thank you for posting this, MrScorpio

There are really no words for the sorrow and anger these truths evoke.

I'm a white woman. Every time I search my memory for each instance where fear of black people, particularly black men, was deliberately, casually, or unconsciously imparted to me from childhood on, I find more.

In so many ways, casual and deliberate, conscious and unconscious, I was exposed to the fear of those different from me. It was inevitable that the combination of fear and privilege would result in racism.

I can't change the past, I can't undo the racism I absorbed then.

What I can do, I can do now.

I will attend and be alert on my own responses. I will make recognizing my own unconscious fear and rejecting it a priority.

I will make recognizing the privilege that is part of my life as a white person a priority.

I will stay alert for opportunities to reject and counteract both fear and privilege.

I will commit awareness and resources to that rejection, to that counteraction.

I will banish assumptions about what I haven't experienced, and can't know.

I will listen to the experiences of those who had no choice but to suffer from the fear and privilege given to me and those like me.

I will learn.

determinedly,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #6)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 11:55 AM

7. Absolutely. Great post.

Waaaay back in the day when I was late teens or early 20's, I recall that I either read or heard something on the radio about how we are all a bit racist, just because of the culture that we live in.

What I have come to believe is that racism is like air. It is there, it has mass, but because it is invisible, we don't think about it much, almost like it doesn't exist. So when I read this article, initially, I was like NO way! *I* am NOT racist! I have black friends! I live in a predominantly black neighborhood and city! But then I thought, Hey let's find out to be sure. So I observed my internal reactions, and was quickly realized, that yep, I was stereotyping black people, particularly black men who were poor and young. Since then, I make a conscious effort to be aware of my interior attitudes. Because the air I breath is dirty with racism, it makes sense that it gets inside me sometimes. So I work to clean it out.

I wish more white people would get this concept, that we are all a little bit racist, but that we can make an effort to improve. If enough of us make an effort together, then the air will get cleaner, and THEN we will make actual progress.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Mon Mar 28, 2016, 11:17 PM

8. K&R

 

A good, but sad, read.

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