Thursday, August 26, 2004

Please Lord

Don't let him be black.

Those were my exact thoughts yesterday at some point after I heard about the hostage drama at Union station. I got a call at work asking if I had heard about the standoff. I hadn't so I started searching the web to see if I could find any information and also started emailing friends I knew who worked in that area to make sure they weren't the one taken hostage. Luckily they weren't.

Anyway it turned out that some guy shot his wife in the underground tunnels in the area of Union station and then ran outside, held a lady hostage and police shot him dead. Pretty sad right? Here's the story

Well I was just hoping that it wasn't a black guy. At first I wasn't too worried. Whenever I think Union Station and that business area down there I think white dudes in expensive suits so I thought one of the corporate lackeys had cracked. Then I saw a picture online of the black hostage and immediately race entered my thoughts. Oh oh, I hope he isn't black. The thing is I wasn't the only one thinking that as I confirmed from an email I received moments later from a friend.

We were both hoping he wasn't black. In my world forget being innocent until proven guilty, you're white until proven otherwise. Sadly a few minutes later I saw another picture of the situation and he was indeed black. Damn!!! Well that made my day. (see previous post)

Call it the North American black collective consciousness but every time I hear about a crime in this place I always have this sense of worry that its going to be someone black. Come on I know you've all seen the black collective consciousness at work before even if it was only the O.J case. Blame it on the media, blame it on what is perceived, I don't know but its worrying.

When I lived in Barbados I never had this issue because we're 90-95% black. If a crime happened and it wasn't a black person committing it then that was a bit shocking. Must be some crazy tourist I guess.

But I dislike this black collective consciousness thing. I understand the 'we are all brothers' and 'we are all minorities trying to survive in North America' line of thinking and the 'united we stand' rhetoric but why should I be feeling this way about some dude who commits a crime? I don't know him, I could have passed him on the streets and we wouldn't speak, he aint my family. So why do I care that he's black?

Possibly because up here we are all judged on the collective. Let it be known I am an individual but no-one recognizes that. Hell, some folk cant even tell us apart which leads to a lot of innocent black men getting charged for stuff they didn't do and gives policemen excuses to pull us over as we drive citing that 'we fit the description'. It leads to the perception that every negative action by a black individual is collectively owned by the entire black community. We are judged as a collective on the actions of individuals. We know this and that's why it affects us so that when a crime is committed we secretly hope its not a black person who did it because we know that their sins will be judged as ours.

Its not even like you have a choice or maybe I'm not strong enough. Strive as I do to avoid this black collective thinking its become so conditioned in me that every time I hear some crime story I think I hope that dude wasn't black. Why because although I know it wasn't me I am thinking that its just something else that will make people think negatively as me.

Now I just read this over and I'm giving the impression that the norm is for the crimes to be committed by blacks. Not so in my opinion but why is it whenever suspects are white you don't hear their description in the news given as "suspect white , 5'10" with a scar on his left cheek" but just suspect "5'10" with a scar on his cheek"? Meanwhile if he is black the first phrase is 'suspect black'. That's got to be wrecking havoc with the black man's thinking.

Anyway interestingly, on the opposite end if a black man achieves something positive the black community celebrates it as their achievement but other communities see it as just the achievement of one black man and you know they are thinking 'he/she isn't like the rest of them'. So you just cant win.

So when its a negative achievement others view it as a community achievement and blacks try to avoid that perception although we feel that pain but when its a positive achievement blacks feel a sense of joy and embrace the achievement but others see it as just one black man doing something good. Funny how we judge one another.


Abeni said...

Profound post you got going here. You know thats exactly how I feel when the US black athletes test positive because I know its more than some Americans cheating. For the most parts these are black people and whether we like it or not its going to be seen as typical behaviour for us.I was trying to have this debate a few mths back but most missed the bigger picture.Sad that you can't be judged as an individual but we do not run the world

Radmila said...

The black collective is an interesting way to describe it. And while all the issues around police and the black community in Toronto, I understand why it is the way that it is.
But what you describe is an immigrant collective as well.
When I read or hear about some crime and the culprit has a name a recognize as being part of my own culture, I feel shame. Like I'm responsible for the person somehow.
Like we're all guests here and must behave. When in reality, low lifes come in all ways.
Why should I feel any way if someone who comes from the same place as me is a criminal?
It's the whole immigrant thing.
Like we're guests and should behave when we're not at home.