We have seen tremendous growth within the past month regarding issues that have plagued society for decades, instigated and fueled by the ignorant lack of support from our policymakers across the board. If you are enraged by how poorly Black people and POC have been treated by our institutions, you aren’t alone. Those in the Black community have been continually impoverished because they are systemically kept in poverty, criminalized because they are forced into lives of crime, and imprisoned for profit. This cycle that has been ingrained in our world has now come to the surface for so many of us, and it is now time to discuss what more we need to know, and how best to help.
There is really no concise explanation that is all-encompassing of the issue of race in the U.S. and Canada. The issue spans all throughout the continent, from business to technology to media and entertainment. Below are some pressing situations we need to educate ourselves about to propel this movement forward.
Situations That Still Need Our Help
Petitions have had an influx in signatures since the protests started. Pain and oppression have floated to the surface and social media is taking notice. The hashtag and movement surrounding ‘blackouttuesday’ was started by pioneers in the music industry with the intent to block individuals’ feeds and force them to seek further information on the Black Lives Matter protests. The hashtag, at the time I am writing, has 23.4 million posts on Instagram of mainly black screens. This also means countless more people have seen the hashtag, as this number only accounts for the republishing, not the view count. The hashtag was also used by celebrities such as Rihanna, The Rock, and Ariana Grande that have a combined following of over 468 million people. So the movement has been put onto feeds, but how has this increased attention materialized? There are cases where petitions have led to tangible change, but these occurrences are few and far between. Here is a concise list of petitions that are in need of signatures, as well as updates about how these movements are progressing. A few notable situations also include the following:
Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her home around midnight when there was banging at the door. The banging was a no-knock warranted police raid, as the officers had suspected that there may have been drugs in the house. Breonna and her boyfriend walked to the door in fear. In self-defence, Breonna’s boyfriend shot through the door twice with the gun in his possession. The officers’ warrant specifically allows them to forego informing Breonna that they were police officers. Breonna was shot 8 times by a firestorm of bullets and no drugs were found. The police had raided the wrong house. Breonna was a hospital worker with ambitions to attend nursing school, buy a house, and start a family. The officers responsible for this crime have all yet to be arrested. Her boyfriend is now being charged with attempted murder due to firing two shots, with only one bullet hitting an officer’s leg. Here is a petition to sign and information about government contacts so these Kentucky officers are held accountable, as well as a gofundme for her family.
Regis Korchinski-Paquet had a history of epilepsy and mental health challenges and if the Toronto Police officers knew that, she might still be alive today. The 27-year-old’s mother called the police to respond to a domestic disturbance, wherein she wanted Regis to seek continued medical and addiction help. The situation escalated greatly. When the police arrived, claiming they were responding to an assault call, they took force and allegedly pushed Regis off of the apartment balcony to her death. A Special Investigative Unit investigation will take place to find an answer to this tragedy. None of the officers involved in her murder have been arrested. Here is a petition to sign for Regis, a gofundme page for her mother, and government contacts to demand justice for her and her family.
Tony Mcdade was a 28-year-old transgender man living in Tennesse who was shot and killed by a police officer on May 27, 2020. The exact details of this case are unclear and the public has not been informed of the officer’s identity. The police report states that Tony had a handgun and a bloody knife on him at the time of his death. Tony also took to social media the night before his death alluding to harmful acts of another, though this evidence does not, in the slightest, justify his murder. A witness testimony stated that the officer yelled “stop moving n***er,” and proceeded to shoot, despite Tony’s compliance. The officer responsible for his death has not been arrested, but has been placed on administrative leave. Here is a petition to sign for Tony and government contacts to demand the arrest of the officer responsible for this murder.
These are Systematic Errors, not Individual Errors
The sad reality is that I could write forever about these tragedies, as there is a horrific abundance of situations similar to each one described above. The officers in question need to be held accountable and prosecuted, not only for their misuse of power, but also for the lives they took, hurting families and communities. Even if we got justice for the victims, we need to understand that these are not errors made by individuals, but rather systemic errors and injustices. This fact has become prevalent for many people within the last few months, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. We can hold these sickening men accountable to the highest morality, but if we cannot also change the system that produces and empowers these people, more are sure to follow and lives are guaranteed to be lost. Here are a few ideas that have been shared about mending the system and to what extent they are plausible:
Defunding the police is an initiative that has caught wind on social media and is seen to be one of the most straightforward solutions – if it is analyzed more closely. Many are deterred from this idea at first glance, including myself, as my instinctive thought was that police need to learn more about race, prejudice, and implicit bias so they can stop harming the communities they’re supposed to protect (thus actually needing more funding). In many U.S. states, their police forces can be traced back to slave practices where people were paid to capture escaped slaves, punish them, and then bring them back to their masters.
I have now realized that the police wear too many hats and, even with all the training in the world, they cannot do their jobs to the best extent. We need to re-evaluate their role in the community, and the push to ‘defund the police’ should actually be called ‘reallocate the budget.’ Invest in the communities that have originally been the most heavily policed, and give people an outlet away from crime. Invest in community workers and social workers, those trained in de-escalation practices, that could safely respond to a multitude of 911 calls in these areas. The Toronto Police Department has over 188 expenses, totalling over 1 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money. Many of these expenses could be reallocated, particularly the funds spent on the body equipment and cameras already proven to be ineffective.
Abolishing for-profit prisons has to be one of the most effective ways to counter this heinous systemic oppression, as it is the largest money-making step in the ‘oppression for profit’ process. This is the ultimate reason (mainly in the U.S.) for this systemic racism, as the more inmates these prisons have, the more government funding they receive to harbour them, and the more wealthy the prison owners and affiliates become. To put it simply, private prisons obtain the same amount of government funding as public prisons do, but cut costs wherever they can. This includes less and worse food, lower quality healthcare, fewer rehabilitation initiatives, poorly trained staff, and more.
This has led to some alarming statistics published by the Justice Policy Institute, as inmates are twice as likely to assault staff and bring illicit weapons into the prison. The inmates are also 28% more likely to assault another inmate. Prisons should be a place of equal rehabilitation and punishment. Private prisons accomplish neither, they just torture. The private prisons also make a profit off of free prisoner labour, and this issue can be addressed further by the documentary titled ‘13th’ – a highly recommended watch. It is obvious that to break this cycle, we need to abolish these prisons that clearly profit off of the oppression of human beings.
Facilitating Black entrepreneurship initiatives is a bottom-up approach to solving this systemic problem that we will be conducting here at Darkhorse. The mission is simple and obviously needed now more than ever due to COVID-19 – incubating entrepreneurial aspirations targeted at underdeveloped and systemically disadvantaged communities to create businesses, jobs, and most importantly, purpose. Out of all Fortune 500 CEOs, two are Black. Many BIPOC owned businesses will be the small boutiques, nail salons or barbers, convenience stores, and other ‘Mom n Pop’ shops in the community. If BIPOC weren’t already underrepresented in business, COVID-19 will prove to exacerbate the issue even more. An article by Fortune states there was a 41% decrease in Black-owned businesses since the start of the pandemic, a much greater decrease than any other racial group experienced. This problem is coupled with the fact that BIPOC owned businesses find it disproportionately harder to obtain funding from any banks. 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden stated in his op-ed that black entrepreneurs find it 20% harder to obtain funding compared to white entrepreneurs.
The issue surrounding funding doesn’t end there. The Paycheck Protection Program and other government bursaries implemented to counter the effects the lockdown has had on businesses have overlooked many BIPOC businesses, not offering adequate support. The Center for Responsible Lending estimated that 95 percent of Black businesses were tiny companies with a slim chance of receiving funding, and the same is true for Hispanic owned businesses. If we can start a fund and assist in start-ups from these communities or ones that target these communities, we have a much greater chance of combating this problem and achieving adequate representation of BIPOC in business. In addition, here is a list of black-owned businesses in Toronto you can support.
As stated earlier, there is no concise answer to this problem, because this ‘problem’ has been our reality for decades. The question now is how will we move forward? How will we assure that history doesn’t repeat itself? We have so many options for solving these problems in the pursuit of equality. Defunding police, abolishing for-profit prisons, and investing in entrepreneurs that can have a direct impact. There is no easy way out of this, but if we act now, over time we will see a gradual change. Two Black Fortune 500 CEOs will become ten, underdeveloped communities will rid crime through compassion, and our poverty levels in the U.S. and Canada will shrink. The work begins now.