OTTAWA—Burn. It. All. Down.
We’ve marched. We’ve bent the knee. We’ve attended your diversity and inclusion workshops that don’t include us and are run by some random privileged white woman. We’ve been on your mostly white diversity panels and working groups. We’ve reported racism. We’ve spoken nicely to the police. We’ve gotten an education (and to be honest, so what if we didn’t?). We’ve played the game of respectability politics. We’ve done everything white supremacy tells us we have to do to avoid being targeted and killed by the police. We’re still being murdered, politicians are turning a blind eye, media and authorities call us “thugs”—a euphemism for the n-word—and the only hope for justice that is afforded to the white masses, but not afforded to us, is Twitter.
White supremacy is a helluva drug.
The year 2020 features a significant increase in protesting against police brutality—this follows riots in 1965, 1992, 2014, and 2015. The time lapse between each successive incidence is shrinking. And that’s because white society refuses to face the fact that the police—no matter which department, or which jurisdiction—are intent on violently ending Black lives.
Martin Luther King said: “Riots are the language of the unheard.”
In the month of May alone, there were multiple Black people killed for existing. Their names include: Ahmaud Arbery, Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, McHale Rose, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet (her family accuses the police of pushing her off a building and given the lack of veracity we’ve seen from the police over the years, I find this believable. If you don’t, you must be white). On June 1, another unarmed Black man, David McAtee, was killed by police in Lousiville, Ky. The only case that did not include the police at point of death is Arbery, however the police initially declined to arrest his killers because his great crime was making a white man feel “threatened,” allegedly. All of these victims were unarmed.
Police forces look like terrorist organizations intent on the destruction and elimination of Black lives. To deny this is to deny that water is wet. Their history has gone from slave patrols in the U.S. and violently moving Indigenous people off the land in Canada, to carrying out state-sanctioned violence today.
What Floyd’s death showed was how a lynching is performed in modern day; one that was caught on video and shown all over the world. The response? The Hennepin County attorney and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota held a press conference to gaslight the global viewership into believing there wasn’t enough evidence to convict (they later charged officer Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder). The video shows that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck, constricted his breathing for eight minutes until he was dead with three other cops watching him. That’s murder. That’s a conspiracy.
Third-degree murder isn’t a charge, it’s a bad report card.
With each police murder of innocent Black lives, they are emboldened to continue killing, given they’re supported by fat police budgets, militarized weaponry, an apathetic white public, powerful police unions that make it hard to fire them, “tough on crime” politicians, a media that acts as their public relations arm, and a civic culture of political correctness that renders one an anarchist if you ever dare question them. In addition, especially in Canada, the police are mollycoddled by a public that is so gullible it believes even the most inconsistent and irrational theories advanced by their PR. Because the police would never lie.
It was against this backdrop that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his remarks on June 1, after a weekend of demonstrations all over the United States and the world (people took the streets in New Zealand, of all countries). In his regular weekday addresses to the nation, Trudeau mentioned, “Over the weekend, we saw thousands of people gather across the country to join peaceful protests against anti-Black racism.” I don’t know which protests he was watching, but the ones I was tuned into were protesting police murders of unarmed Black people; they were protesting for the justice denied our people for generations.
At least get that right, PM Blackface.
The fact that the prime minister of Canada couldn’t even be bothered to accurately tell the Canadian public why the protests are happening shows a blatant disregard of the root of the issue: the police. His appointment of Bill Blair to cabinet, repeatedly, demonstrates that: a) he doesn’t understand one of the primary causes of Black disenfranchisement and anti-Black racism, and/or, b) he doesn’t actually care. As the former Toronto Police chief, Bill Blair is notorious for his love affair with carding and the violence against the G20 protesters in 2010. His militarized police violated civil rights, illegally detained protesters, and used excessive force in one of Canada’s most disturbing displays of police overreach and power. What many white people who were there experienced—the brutal terrorism of a state-backed hit squad—is what many Black communities in many first-world countries experience every day. In other words, Blair presided over the “largest mass arrest in Canadian history” and didn’t think he did anything wrong.
Blair’s other legacy was his insistence on the efficacy of carding, or “stop and frisk” as it’s known in the U.S. and “stop and search” in the U.K. All three countries use law enforcement tactics of white supremacy to undermine the liberty of Black people, so it should be no surprise that in each of these countries, Black men are many times more likely to be stopped and searched without probable cause compared to white men. This is a form of racial profiling and Blair was its top salesman. In fact, according to the Toronto Star’s landmark investigation of carding in Toronto, under Blair, racial profiling in the form of carding by Toronto’s police rose steadily. And he was handsomely rewarded for it by the Trudeau government, but before ascending to his political career, he tried to reform his image with an “oops.” And reformed it was by a mostly white Canadian press, even though the practice continues and the police database of carded Black people further threatens the lives and livelihood of Black people.
I wouldn’t believe the police if they told me it snowed in winter.
It was within this context that Trudeau had the gall to say “Together, we will keep taking meaningful action to fight racism and discrimination in every form. The status quo—where people face violence because of the colour of their skin—is unacceptable.”
Newsflash: you are the status quo.
And that’s not changed while saying some kind words to a community in mourning in the front, while backstabbing the Black community with a repeat cabinet pick like Blair, as well as creating a marijuana industry where Julian Fantino, who once claimed, “there is no racism” in the police force and who is responsible for the mass imprisonment of Black people for weed “crimes,” can now profit off of Black pain and imprisonment. (He has since resigned from the board of Aleafia Health Inc, a medical cannabis company. However, unless he gave up his financial stake, he still profits.) He is another one who rode for racial profiling of Black people, which is riding for racism.
So unless Trudeau plans to be out on these streets, fighting against police brutality or in cabinet drafting legislation to curb police powers, his, and all the other white voices of his ilk, have no merit here. That time has passed. We should know, we were the ones waiting.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.