And so last week, as I twiddled my thumbs and occupied the time by studying the other patients in the room who were waiting patiently for their their name to be called, my eyes fell upon a strapping young man sitting diagonally across from me.
He must have been six-foot two and weighed a muscular 200 hundred pounds and I couldn't help thinking that he'd be a scary person to meet in a dark alley.
He was of course, Black.
And so embarrassed, I chased the racist thought from my mind and reminded myself that stereotyping people was evil, especially when based on race, colour, creed or ethnicity.
I'm far from a racist, quite the opposite, but we are all conditioned by television and the news media which emphasizes and attributes a disproportionate level of crime and violence to the Black community.
A few minutes later the young man reached into a beaten up Loblaw's re-usable shopping bag and pulled out a college-level calculus text book as well as a well-thumbed Hilroy-type notebook in which he started in on his homework, which included adding some complicated data points to an X/Y axis grid, which was incidentally quite out of my mathematical league.
Oh, the shame...How perceptions change!
As I daydreamed I couldn't help thinking that this fine young student was likely to have suffered his whole life, from a society that is predisposed to think the worst of him.
I especially wondered how many times this young man had been rousted by Montreal's infamously racist police force, for absolutely no other reason other than the colour of his skin.
Police will tell us that there is a disproportionate amount of criminality in the Black community and I've no doubt it's true. There is also that same disproportionate level in the Latino community and every other underprivileged class.
Like pavlov's dog, our society has been conditioned to attribute the phenomenon of crime with the colour of skin or ethnicity, instead of the socio-economic conditions that these communities find themselves living in, which remains the real causal element related to a higher incidence of crime.
And so police tell us it is fair to target Blacks because as a community they are more likely to be involved with crime. Seems reasonable, right?
Now I wasn't acquainted with this young black man in the waiting room at all, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that he's been stopped and hassled by the Montreal cops , more than once, for no other reason than because he's Black.
I'll bet that for every 'routine' traffic check' a white person is subjected to, a Black person will likely suffer the process ten times over.
" ... nearly 40 per cent of black youths in the boroughs of Montreal-North and St-Michel were stopped at least once and asked for identification between 2006 and 2007, relative to 6 per cent for their white peers...
"....a black motorist filed complaints to Quebec’s Human Rights Commission and police ethics commissioner, alleging he was needlessly pulled over by a suburban police force four times in a week last summer LinkNotwithstanding what the police tell us, the majority of Blacks are honest, even if there is an elevated percentage of criminals in the community.
Racial profiling, unfair targeting and mistreatment of Blacks by the Montreal police is legendary.
The long list of abuse is public record and nobody, but nobody can dare to deny the self-evident truth of racism. Nobody except the police.
And so every time we hear a story of a Black person objecting to being subjected to 'special treatment,' invariably the police will lie and tell use that the Black person was uncooperative and that they the police were just doing their job.
The flimsy cover stories provided by the police almost never stand up to scrutiny, as highlighted by this story of a Black high school teacher who was accosted by cops while waiting in the passenger's seat of a friend's car while he picked up a pizza.
"Police say they were justified in questioning Charles because there is drug activity in the neighbourhood, and the car in which Charles was sitting had no license plate." Read the disturbing storyThis of course was a blatant lie. The car had a perfectly legitimate paper temporary tag that was pasted in the rear window as is required by law. It seems that the police are so arrogant that they don't even bother to come up with plausible stories. More
It's gotten to the point that when we hear two versions of events, it's more than likely that the police officers are lying.
Of course, we only hear the stories when the police abuse Black people who aren't afraid to complain as with the case of two Montreal Alouettes who were stopped for the notorious crime of "Driving a nice car while being Black."
"Montreal police Sgt. Yan Lafrenière said Thursday his officers were not using racial profiling when they stopped the vehicle; they were stopping what they saw as potential criminals." Read another nightmare of Montreal police racism
"It was so, so humiliating," Raeburn, 57, recalled yesterday. "We're the only black family that lives on this street.It seems that the Human rights commission agrees that the police are racist;
I had to go to all my neighbours and tell them that it wasn't a drug bust." Story
The head of Quebec's human rights and youth commission says the Montreal police force needs to put an end to its "systemic" practice of racial profiling.
Commission head Gaetan Cousineau said that for the better part of two years police have denied accusations they routinely stop young black men without cause, dismissing each complaint brought to their attention as an exception to standard procedure.
As a community we shouldn't tolerate a police force that is out of touch with modern police methods. Other police forces in Canada face the same challenges of elevated crime in minority communities and although we hear stories of intolerance elsewhere, nothing compares to the breadth and scope of the problem in Montreal.
BLACK MAN ABUSIVELY ASSAULTED AND ARRESTED BY MONTREAL POLICE ACQUITTED OF CRIMINAL CHARGES
Death of man stopped by police brings suspicion from Montreal's black community
Metro security guards allege selection Racist for Montreal Police Force
The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations has a long list of abuses on it's website. It is an excellent resource for combating racism and provides a how-to primer on lodging complaints.
It's time for the police and public officials to stop living in denial.
It's time for the public to stop living in denial as well and it's time that the public demand change and accountability.