Monday, May 28, 2007

Conscious Yet Complicit: Dispatch Number Four

From my comarade:

the first thing i'd like to say is that this dispatch will be spell-checked. my apologies for the myriad typos of the last one. i just had to get it off my chest.

i spent the weekend chilling at a friend's place in ramallah. it's a lively city and i'm a city girl, that's for sure.

on saturday morning, as two of us were getting ready to travel to ramallah, we received a call asking us to come to marda, a village actually on the way towards ramallah. the iof had taken over a house there, keeping the women and children inside, and not allowing the husband in.

so we finished packing our wee bags and headed to marda. once we got to the gate (this isn't a gated community - it's a village under the well-heeled boot of american-supported occupation) our contact called and said he would come with the car to pick us up. he was soon barreling down the road towards us. once inside the car we asked what kind of support he wanted from us. mainly, n--- wanted us to stay with the women and children to make sure nothing happens to them. of course, when we arrived and rang the bell no one answered. soon, an army head appeared above us like a chimera. we asked for the door to be opened. soon another appeared. they were growing. then they disappeared. k--- and i walked round the side of the house, looking for the soldiers, calling out for an answer of some sort.


when we returned to the front of the house the front door began to open. we
approached. it was the boys in drab olive, most looking no older than 17.
there were 6 of them. k--- negotiated our way into the house with the help of our
contact. we entered and found the family members upstairs, looking exhausted.
it was just past 10:30 in the morning and the army had been at their house since
4 a.m. and why? rumour (among the soldiers only) had it that someone in this
house had thrown stones at the army. the house is far enough away from the road
and the army that one would have to have spiderman's powers to toss a rock that
far. the owner of the house was visibly agitated now that he was allowed into his
own home. palestinian, he has israeli citizenship, so can work in israel. in fact, that is where he was when his wife and brother called to tell him the iof was in his house. when he got to his home, the army refused to let him in.

we walked in with m---, our contact, and started towards the stairs. i asked one of
the army boys what they were doing there. "we're on a mission" was the reply. we headed up the stairs. there were army backpacks and a few soldiers collected around the top of the stairs. we moved past them and asked the women and men and children if they were okay. they appeared exhausted but alright. m--- was upstairs as well, and was yelling at the soldiers. i tried to calm him, tried to get others to calm him, but it was difficult. what can you say to someone who had to leave his place of work in the middle of the night because the army's gone into his house; an army with a reputation for wrecking people's homes and harming the inhabitants. the shouting went on for at least ten minutes between m--- and one of the two older soldiers - he looked 20. k--- concentrated on talking to him as i continued to uselessly try to convince m--- to stop yelling at the soldiers.

the boys in fatigues said they would leave if everyone left the house. we immediately asked if the immediate family and the two of us could remain to ensure the army left and somehow, they agreed to this. was it because the owner possesses israeli citizenship? were they possibly embarrassed to be doing this in front of internationals? they gathered up their belongings. as they were putting some bags into a box, k--- handed them a bag of garbage they had left on the floor. i passed over an overflowing ashtray. one of the younger soldiers - looked no older than 16 - climbed the stair to the roof to collect large bottles of pop and water. as he did, he held his automatic gun towards the family below. what was anyone, especially those with no weapons at all, going to do? after all, the soldiers created this situation.

when they began to descend the staircase, we followed to make sure they left. k--- went up to the soldier she'd been talking with and that's when we learned it was about alleged stone-throwing. k--- mentioned that what were rocks compared to the automatic weapons they had attached to their bodies. another soldier said that rocks are dangerous when thrown at cars. they drive jeeps and tanks, one. and two, k--- pointed out how far the house was from the road. they, of course, refused to relent on any of this. they are convinced of their rightness. mission accomplished, i suppose. another palestinian family harassed and put on edge.

when we went back upstairs, m---'s wife found that the army had stolen $1550.00 shekels from her purse. they had unplugged the telephone line, and used the computer. when they had entered the house, they asked m---'s wife to make them coffee and prepare some food. she told them to make it themselves. when m---'s mother stated confronting them at some point, one of the soldiers grabbed a piece of her hijab and tried to put it over her mouth. they moved some of the furniture around to suit themselves, and in order to enter the property, they had destroyed part of the fence along one side of the house. the family also found two spent shells in one of the rooms. can someone out there explain me how this is "security" and how this isn't complete and utter harassment. palestinians live with the threat of home invasions, incursions into their villages and cities every day all day. when will this stop?

there are many recorded examples of the iof stealing money, electronic equipment and destroying the contents of people's homes because maybe someone threw a rock. a rock. a fucking rock. this is what justifies pulling people out of their homes in the middle of the night, often making the men strip down to their scivvies, keeping people outside for hours. this is collective punishment of an occupied people. this is in contravention of all international law, which i am convinced is utterly useless, because it's never enforced... consider the mass rapes occurring right now in haiti.

i have sent so many emails over time about all of this. but like my last brief visit to the unholy land seeing it up close is unspeakable. you cannot believe that this absurd system exists. but it does. and though i am trying to think about how i can help, i'll be going home to my comfortable but messy apartment with cats better fed than many people here. i have money in the bank and live in a country who controls its own water resources.

things are much worse than they were when i was last here. how can this be? why is it that we are not having an effect? being here makes it feel more dire, because it is. when i return home, i'll no doubt continue with activism as before, still searching for new ways to have an effect. consciously trying to take my cues from palestinians.

conscious but complicit.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dispatch number three: looking back at the last week: tea, trees and tragedy

More from my friend in Palestine:
i have begun to write this three times. it just doesn't feel right to throw just anything on the page, because i'm not only writing about myself and my concerns, vis-a-vis palestine. dare i say, i'm writing about a struggle and i feel i need a little more deliberation, a touch more consideration, before i throw up on the page and think "dispatch done."

a terrible melancholia wafts through palestine. this abjection is tied to occupation, continuing land confiscation and the endless threat of house demolition. people resist everyday, going about their daily lives surrounded by settlements, checkpoints and roads they are not permitted to drive upon. they farm, they work, they garden, they struggle.this is what prevents the depression from sinking into despondency. the will to continue. this is palestinian land, after all. and they plan to stay on it.

this friday past i went out to pay for the bread we order from a neighbouring household, and to return the tray it arrived in. this, of course, involved having shaay, or tea, sweetened with a good dose of sugar. we sat just inside the door, hiding from the heavy afternoon sun. palestinian hospitality never rests. it is warm and inviting even when you can not speak the same language. umm s--- taught me 'mother' - imm, and 'sister' - uht. we'll see how long it takes me to actually remember these few words. i carry a small book of arabic terms in my pocket...of course, they are not in the colloquial spoken here, and my ability to pronounce words i am unfamiliar with is still in development... so mostly i listen, try to understand the cadences and the body language.

after a time i made a brief trip to the nearest store to purchase water and milk. walking back to the house i found abu and umm r---. i was, of course, invited to more shaay. considering my usual dose back home, this is never a problem for me to accept. abu r---recognized me from my last visit which was three years ago. we used to run into each other on the roof where we both went for a smoke. we spoke, primarily in english. he mentioned the obvious, that life here is even harder with the withholding of palestinian tax revenues by israeli authorities... the strikes by teachers who have been paid sporadically if at all because of the freezing of funding to the palestinian government by the european union, canada, ad nauseum... he is, as i remember him from last time, melancholy. life goes on, sometimes bitterly. but it does go on. as we watched his youngest son on his small bike with training wheels ride ramshackle about the patio, abu r--- remarked that "he doesn't yet know the future that awaits him." by future he means occupation, jail and perhaps worse. after all, s---'s oldest brother is still in prison. abu r--- had also spent many years in jail. that is why there is a large gap in age between the two brothers.

it has been quiet in the house. my last time here which was my first time was spent going primarily to demonstrations in one village where they are building the wall. iwps be returning to that village to catalogue house demolition orders and any demolitions that have occurred. since there are no demonstrations happening within close range, we are focussed on the more mundane and far more necessary tasks of documenting , being on hand for accompanying farmers to their land, liaising with other organizations and what ever else may come up. it may not seem as exciting but it's actually the more important part of the work.

it's also better for your lungs.

this past tuesday, b--- and i went to al-hadidiya in the jordan valley. passing through this stark and beautiful landscape, we met an'am and her husband, omar. they are bedoin farmers who herd goats and sheep and make cheese which they sell. an'a m and omar have survived two home demolitions thus far. they plan to stay on their land and will not move, like a neighbour closeby has done. this is their resistance, to continue living their lives and raising their family. nearby kies the lie of ro'i, an illegal israeli settlement are they not all illegal?) but they need an international presence, someone to document yet another demolition, whenever it may ocur.

the jordan valley is a strategic location, and one of its principal resources is water. this is key to a lot of what the israeli state does. if you control the necessary resources, you control people's lives. israeli controls the water supply in the west bank. this was one of the primary results of al-nakseh or the '67 war as it is known outside of palestine (for more in-depth info. see: Palestinian refugees in Jordan - or - Water: the Red Linel - or - Obstacles to Peace: Water). there are four checkpoints that surround and cut off the jordan valley from the rest of the west bank. palestinians who do not reside in the valley are not allowed in. those who do live in there are under increasing pressure to leave. there is a national park overlooking the valley and, surprise of surprises: palestinians are not allowed in. if people cannot see the politic at play here, i'm not sure they will ever want to see it. the blatant and persistent disctimination and injustice - all terms far too mild to describe the reality on the ground here - is ubiquitous.

also this past friday, k--- and i accompamied a farmer in hares to his land to see his trees. his land is bordered by the 12-year-old settlement of revava. he told us the land used to be lush with 600 olive trees. over the past 4-5 years, the occupation forces have uprooted 500 trees. the remaining hundred trees had been trimmed severely. what kind of people uproot trees? olive trees, famous for their branches of peace, are being butchered by army and settlers alike. i fail to see the security measures in this.

i fail, i suppose, to see a lot of things. but what i do see is a land besieged with settlers and a foreign army. because i am jewish, it is being done in my name. because i am human and believe in justice, i believe in telling the truth about palestine. and the truth is: this is not my land. nor is it the zionists' land. the truth is, it is stolen land and there is no excuse. genocide is not only the murder of a group of people, it is also the destruction of a group's identity and their history. this is a tragedy continually unfolding and this is what is going on in palestine.

we must stop it. somehow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

another day in palestine (actually a few) - dispatch two

This was received from my comrade in Palestine on Sunday:

i've been studying the map today and i realized that in my first dispatch, i made a brief mistake. petah tiqwa is not a settlement in the west bank. it was, however, the first modern jewish settlement in palestine, colonized originally in 1878. thus, though i was wrong in originally lumping petah tiqwa in with modi'in and ariel, two west bank settlements, i wasn't wrong in classifying it as a settlement. and you'll note, i use the word "colonized" to represent the ideology behind the establishment of the town. it was a beginning. a beginning of the colonial enterprise that we now call "israel."*

thursday, iwps (the international women's peace service) was called to the village of al-funduk because a family there had received papers saying they had three days to leave their house because the israeli army was going to demolish it. and why? they didn't have a "permit" to build it. now understand, dear readers, that the property in question is in a place still known as palestine. how is it that another nation's army can come into another country and decide that people need a permit to build their homes on land that they own? the answer is not because they are occupied because there are rules for occupying nations. so how can israel demolish homes of people in a land that they technically do not own? it's a fair enough question, particularly when an occupying nation is forbidden by international law from moving occupied people out of their homes or acquiring land through occupation. it is stated clearly in the fourth geneva conventions. (see: and for more information)
the owners of the house that may be destroyed have a copy of a deed to the land from 1964, before the military occupation of the west bank in 1967. it is a jordanian deed, which i wonder if israel would even recognize as legitimate. they also have copies of the two previous orders to leave their home from 2006. the three of us from iwps took photos of all the papers and the deed. documenting, documenting. pictures were taken of the house and emailed to a lawyer retained in jerusalem. just beyond one side of the house lies the ruins of another. it was the home belonging to the man's brother. it was bulldozed last year. we have been asked to come and document the army destroying this home, as the man and the woman who live their with their two young children are certain their house will be demolished. the wreck of the other house is a constant reminder.

so they continue their wait, not really knowing if there is any way to prevent this act that the israeli occupation forces are quite practiced at. we wait, as well, for their call with that awful feeling of the inability to stop this. sure, we will record it. we will witness. but somehow it seems like madness, documenting the inevitable, as if that is all we can do. and i'm not thinking we shouldn't do it. i'm just hankering for a way to be more effective.

the next day, k--- and i went to a demonstration against the wall in umm salamouna, a village near beitlehem. when we arrived, we had to walk by a phalanx of israeli occupation soldiers. looked like the border police were already there as well. we waited inside the gate to the land for about 30-45 minutes as people gathered. there were many palestinian men, quite a few israelis and internationals also. as we waited, many of us took photographs. the international and local press, in their glaring yellow press vests came in shooting also. at a certain point, there were so many cameras, it seemed we were only taking pictures of each other. then came the signal for us to coalesce. when it began we numbered 70-80 people, with perhaps 10-20 members of the media. and there were at least 30-40 soldiers. behind us lay a pastoral scene, scarred by where the bulldozers had ripped the land. stones lay like scabs at the base of the foundation of the wall to be built. we began with some of the palestinian men praying. once they were done, we were to walk through the gate, but the soldiers had another plan. linking their arms, they surged (a familiar word these days, no?) forward in a line, preventing us from going through the gate. they met the front line of the protest pushing violently. we pushed back, hoping to get out of the door. the army kicked some, punched another, and just tossed people aside. this went on for a time until the boys in green just stood the and we stood facing them. one of the local organizers of the demonstration got up and said we would not be able to go through the gate and that this is a non-violent protest. so we would walk back towards place where the land was torn and demonstrate there. once there, several of us began to pick up the stones and small boulders and toss them. some of the men ripped at the red plastic piping. this didn't last very long, as the army came round from the other direction. we turned to face them, linking arms. we then sat down in front of them. again, one of the organizers came forward. he spoke to the army, asking where is the one in charge. he then told the soldiers they were merely relying on power - where was their culture? what is their culture? a culture of power. eventually, he stood to face us, declaring the demonstration over. we were relying on love and peace, not power, he said. we walked away en masse, waiting to make sure there were no stragglers. we walked up the road towards the village. we stopped while transport was arranged for people. meantime, villagers came round with several large bottles of pop and cups and began to pour and hand out the soda. k--- and i learned from one fella from artas that the iof planned to bulldoze 300 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) of trees starting any moment now (it's almost three a.m. as i type, and rumour has it the army will be there at 4 a.m. they wanted to organize as large a demonstration as they could. a--- said that they had two problems: the israeli army and palestinians in the village that didn't come out to protest what is happening to their land. he mentioned they had already started to camp on the land a few days prior, as they want to stay there to protect their land. "we don't want them to change the land, we like it as it is." the army had shown up the night before at 10 p.m., claiming they were there to protect the villagers. a---said he informed them that they felt safe except when the army was around.

yet another village that israel wants to destroy, first by uprooting the trees, then by building that blasted wall. 25 feet tall and snaking its way through the west bank, grabbing land and water rights as it goes. destroying peoples lives and livelihoods. robbing them of their history and their home.

we stopped in ramallah after umm salamouna. we each visited with friends, having dinner, catching up against the backdrop of dispossession. it got late and we spent the night, vowing by mobile phone to leave early on saturday morning. far earlier than either of us could bare we were waiting for the bus to fill up with passengers. we left near ten-o-clock, i think. we'd be back soon enough. but at the checkpoint in bir zeit, a town just outside of ramallah, two soldiers got on. they looked russian and out of place. and aggressive and cocky. they rifled through the couple of overnight bags stored in the racks above the bus seats. they looked about, went back up front and asked the bus-driver to get off. they had him open up the bottom of the bus. they got on again and begain to stroll towards the back of the bus. they stopped in front of one of the younger men and asked for his huwiyya (identification card that palestinians must carry at all times). once it was handed over, the soldier left the bus and walked back towards the checkpoint. k--- asked me if he was taken off the bus would we get off as well? we both agreed we would and turned to watch the checkpoint. the army boy who'd taken the id card handed it to another and then began to play his game with the traffic. stop a few, ask for hawiyyas, check the trunks, let them through. turn his back towards traffic checking no one, talk with his buddies, abruptly turn round and pick a vehicle and make it stop. is this "security?" or is it the random terrorizing of a captive population who every day wonder "will i make it to work, school, my home, the hospital?"

we were there maybe 30-40 minutes before the young man without his id got off the bus to see what's what. k--- approached the driver to ask if he wanted us to see if we could intervene. he said okay, if we want. we got up and went to leave the bus. we were joined by an american who spoke fluent arabic. we went towards the soldier boys. the american fella asked in arabic what the problem was. the soldiers refused to answer. one of the boys in green got up and began to tap him on the shoulder repeatedly and roughly saying to go back to the bus. the american told him not to touch him at which point the soldier started to push him. k--- and i asked what was the problem in english and were pushed as well and told GO BACK TO THE BUS. as we walked back telling them not to touch us, the american said that in 5 minutes they would be retuning the hawiyya. and so they did. the bus closed its doors and we resumed our journey. another day in palestine.

did we make a difference? it's hard to know. does it make a difference sending this out to y'all so you have a brief blow-by-blow of the occupation and dispossession of palestine? where will these stories land? i feel committed to telling them, and many palestinians want them to be told. but see, the israelis have guns, god and capital on their side...and i'm wondering if we need to do more than just document this.

* Historical Background

The Zionist movement arose in late nineteenth-century Europe, influenced by the nationalist ferment sweeping that continent. Zionism acquired its particular focus from the ancient Jewish longing for the return to Zion and received a strong impetus from the increasingly intolerable conditions facing the large Jewish community in Tsarist Russia. The movement also developed at the time of major European territorial acquisitions in Asia and Africa, and benefited from the European powers' competition for influence in the shrinking Ottoman Empire.

One result of this involvement with European expansionism, however, was that the leaders of the nascent nationalist movements in the Middle East viewed Zionism as an adjunct of European colonialism. Moreover, Zionist assertions of the contemporary relevance of the Jews' historical ties to Palestine, coupled with their land purchases and immigration, alarmed the indigenous population of the Ottoman districts that comprised Palestine. The Jewish community (yishuv) rose from 6 percent of Palestine's population in 1880 to 10 percent by 1914. Although the numbers were insignificant, the settlers were outspoken enough to arouse the opposition of Arab leaders and induce them to exert counter pressure on the Ottoman regime to prohibit Jewish immigration and land buying. from:

Arriving in Palestine, Dispatch One

A good friend, with better than good politics, is currently in Palestine, witnessing the ongoing ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Israeli state. She has been sending dispatches, and i just heard from her that she's ok with my posting them here, so expect to see more of these over the next days and weeks.

Playing catch up for now, this was sent last week:

i awoke in the gate, seeing a line-up. worried that i'd missed the boarding announcement, i haphazardly joined the line. but i had to know if there had been an announcement - or was i that tired that i'd slept through it? i asked several passengers.

there had been no announcement.

odd, i thought. do israelis and jews just decide, hey, it's time, let's board? or are we all so paranoid, we don't want to announce anymore that we are going to the land that we stole based on a tale from so many centuries ago? is the heat on high enough? or are most just chalking it up to antisemitism?

i noticed as we waited to board a number of settlers. dressed in a kind of hippie fashion - women dressed in long dresses, kerchiefs atop the heads, many children. not all settlers dress like this, so perhaps there were even more than i thought. i began to experience the dis-ease i sometimes feel in large group of jews. there's the feeling like a target for someone's hate-on for the day. then there's wondering if the other passengers are all raving zionists and if they knew where i was
going and what i would be doing, what do they think about the issues, are they active participants in the dispossession of palestinians, do they care about the inequity that is written into the fabric of israel? and just a feeling of not belonging yet belonging. has it always been like this? is that why we in the various jewish communities are always wondering "what is a jew?" should i even be paranoid that for the first dispatch, this is what i send to y'all, a mixed group of people i do and don't know? worried some will think i'm disparaging being jewish while others will wonder exactly what kind of solidarity activist i am, going on about being jewish. aren't i just hijacking the cause and looking at my goddamned navel?

not all of the passengers were israeli jews and jews. some were christians, none palestinian. when dinner came, the flight attendents flew round separately, without carts, to different seats with kosher meals. this is what happens with vegetarian and other special meals on many flights. there are usually not so many and it usually takes a few seconds. so i noticed. the selection process came to mind...and so did the idea of chosenness. perhaps i need a bit more sleep...and reflection.

we landed 30 minutes late in tel aviv, at 6 in the morning. adding in a little jet lag, i felt confused and exhausted and geared up for whatever questions "passport control" would have for me. the young woman in the booth took my document, barely glanced in my direction, stamped it and handed the booklet back to me. i waited and nothing. i asked "where do i go," and she pointed in the direction of baggage claim.

what, no visa? i worried and went out. what did this mean? membership has its privileges, that's certain. was it that i had flown british airways? or that i had flown with a ukrainian company the last time (where i had a bit of questioning)? so i gathered my bags, brushed my privileged teeth and went towards the sherut (shared taxi) stands. it took over an to fill, but by 9:30 a.m. we lit out for jerusalem. there were signs along the way for various west bank settlements...petah tiqwa, modi'in, if they were part of israel. as if there wasn't a war going on. as if other people did not live there.

i had asked to be dropped at the damascus gate, so i could get a bus to ramallah. but before i got let out, we drove around for nigh on an hour, dropping off visiting christians at an evangelical hotel, others to parts of east jerusalem i know are settlements (we drove near pisgat ze'ev where my uncle settler lives) and eventually i got off in front of the jerusalem hotel.

after coffee and gathering information via the internet, i caught the bus to ramallah. we didn't get stopped at the checkpoint, we merely had to slow down. and everywhere that blasted wall. how anyone could ever think this was about security...a wall that bisects a street in half. i remeber seeing it in pieces awaiting assembly in al-ram three years ago. and here it was.

ramallah has the vibrant energy of manhattan. people walk everywhere and are aware of each other thus rendering the streets into a kind of dance between cars and pedestrians. no one bumps into each other as in toronto. everyone seems equipped with peripheral vision. after lunch with a friend, i met another who i would be heading out with to the house in hares. a demonstration was organizing in the manara (the central square - round, really - in ramallah). it was against what was going on in gaza at that moment. as many of you know, israel attacked gaza yet again, as factions of fatah and hamas fought each other. over 20 dead and counting. there have been many demonstations by palestinians against the infighting.

as i got off the bus from ramallah in hares, i noticed the new watchtower. it hovers, seemingly taller than any of the minarets. it has a camera and openings for snipers. in this agricultural village, it is incredibly out of place. the sensibility is prison camp. i have arrived in palestine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keny Arkana: La Rage

This was one of the many outstanding videos shown at the Queeruption benefit on Sunday night - dumbfuck that i am i had never heard of Keny Arkana, but i guess now i'm an inch closer to being hip seeing as i'm blogging her video... don't even need to be drunk to enjoy this...

Pure riot porn.

Joint Statement from the San Francisco Eight

The following just arrived in my inbox - the original is up on the CDHR website:

We, the San Francisco 8, would like to send this joint statement extending our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all our friends and supporters. As many of you know, this COINTELPRO persecution has been on-going for nearly 36 years. However, in the last few years, in accord with the implementation of the Patriot Act, state and federal authorities initiated plans to stifle political dissent, particularly targeting young activists. Similarly, COINTELPRO's objective was to "… expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black nationalist, hate type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder …" (COINTELPRO memo of August 25, 1967).

The FBI not only targeted the Black Panther Party, but according to this COINTELPRO memo: "Intensified attention under this program should be afforded to the activities of such groups as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Revolutionary Action Movement, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, Congress of Racial Equality, and the Nation of Islam. Particular emphasis should be given to extremists who direct the activities and policies of revolutionary or militant groups such as Stokely Carmichael, H. "Rap" Brown, Elijah Muhammad, and Maxwell Stanford." By March 4, 1968, COINTELPRO was in full operation leading to directing its full attention to the Black Panther Party when it came into existence in October 1968, to prohibit the BPP from developing durable long-term political and organizational relationships with various segments of the Black community.

This case represents the continuation of that COINTELPRO objective, to further indicate how the government will persecute today's activists. The government is seeking to rewrite the history of struggle as exemplified by the BPP, venomously trying to define that legacy of struggle as a "terrorist" movement.

We vehemently reject that labeling, as the government attempts to characterize the San Francisco 8 as "terrorists," "criminals," and "wanton killers." They will never say the SF8 were political activists and progressive civil/human rights organizers. They will never say they sought to relieve the community of all forms of state sponsored terrorism that is often found in Black, Asian and Latino communities today. They will never admit to the unconstitutional practices of the FBI COINTELPRO activities, despite the 1974 Senate Church Committee findings condemning those practices. Furthermore, they will never seek to establish remedies for those who are victims of the illegal FBI and local police actions under COINTELPRO, and now under the Patriot Act, if we don't demand they do so.

It is with this understanding the SF8 are issuing this joint statement, calling for friends and supporters to organize a national determination to ensure our victory. Ours will be a victory against fear and state terrorism; it will be a defeat against state torture tactics, threats and coercion.

This case and our call for action will teach today's activists what to expect from the state in its efforts to suppress dissent and protest of government repression. Indeed, this task will forward a broader understanding of what happened in the Movement of the 60s and 70s, and how COINTELPRO disrupted and destroyed the most viable Black political party that emerged out of the civil rights movement. Ultimately, what is here proposed will tell of a youth movement and how the government sought to undermine and destroy it. The proposal will expose how the government seeks to retaliate because those youth (who are now Elders) did in fact challenge the system of racist oppression. They not only challenged oppressive conditions in our collective communities, but also worked to support all oppressed peoples fighting against colonialism and imperialism at that time.

This case evolves out of a history of political struggle in this country, and it is our duty to fulfill that mission by expressing what happened then, and COINTELPRO's negative impact on today's social movements. Therefore, while we engage in a legal battle in the courtroom, it is imperative we urge our friends and supporters to extend the political front in the various communities. We must reach out to the various street organizations and youth groups, the animal and earth liberation groups, women's rights and LGBT forums, the immigration rights struggles, and the many ethnic communities who are struggling for a better life in this country.

Hence, the course of the overall struggle to win the release of the San Francisco 8 requires a broad political determination, reaching beyond the important legal issues of the case. For example, the question of torture, COINTELPRO, and matters of reconciliation are essential to this case. Therefore, a successful national campaign in support of the SF8 requires friends and supporters to achieve the following objectives:

1. Anti-Torture Legislation:

In 1909, the Niagara Movement evolved into the NAACP led by W.E.B. Dubois. The principal platform of the NAACP at that time was a struggle to forge an anti-lynching movement. Today, torture in its many forms has become a scourge in America: there is the inhumane use of restraint chairs in jails and prisons, an especially despicable device reminiscent of medieval torture mechanisms; there has been an increase in use of the taser as a weapon to induce confessions and control prisoners, resulting in many deaths, another inhumane torture device. In the case of the SF8, law enforcement officers employed similar torture techniques, including those used in Vietnam and in Abu Ghraib by U.S. military personnel. The use of torture permeates all facets of the so-called "criminal justice system."

Obviously, like the old anti-lynching platform of the NAACP, the San Francisco 8 call for a national campaign demanding anti-torture legislation on local levels (city councils and state legislatures). The SF8 hold that any form of interrogation that employs the use of water boarding, simulated drowning techniques, cattle prods, tasers, restraint chairs, physical beatings, sensory and sleep deprivation, and psychological coercion must be deemed inhumane and criminal. Therefore, the San Francisco 8 call for all progressive and peace loving people to join in a national campaign on city, state and congressional levels for proclamations and legislation outlawing all forms of torture.

2. Reopen COINTELPRO Hearings:

It is well known that the FBI targeted the Black Panther Party for annihilation under the secret counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO). The FBI COINTELPRO effort resulted in the assassination, criminalization, vilification, and the splitting of the BPP leading to its destruction, with many BPP members today languishing in prisons. The FBI COINTELPRO actions worked in alliance with police departments across the country, and today, the Patriot Act has legalized much of what were illegal COINTELPRO practices. In 1974, the Senate Church Committee investigating the illegal FBI COINTELPRO activities declared such practices unconstitutional. However, the Senate Church Committee failed to create remedies for those who suffered from the unconstitutional practices of the FBI and police departments.

Subject to that reality, the San Francisco 8 hereby call for a national movement for the reopening of COINTELPRO hearings. We, the SF8, urge friends and supporters to phone/fax/write to John Conyers, Chair of the Judiciary Committee in Congress, and appeal for him to conduct public hearings on why victims of COINTELPRO languish in prison over 30 years after it was declared unconstitutional. We, the SF8, ask friends and supporters to contact your congressional representative, Congressional Black Caucus members and other elected officials urging them to enable John Conyers to reopen COINTELPRO hearings.

3. Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

At the conclusion of hostilities in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, many progressive forces took a path to resolve potential antagonisms subject to racial, socioeconomic and political strife during the decades of apartheid. That path led to the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, principally led by the Honorable Bishop Desmond Tutu.

In the United States, people of Afrikan descent suffered the trauma of chattel slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation laws, political repression and state terrorism under the auspices of COINTELPRO. However, unlike South Africa, at no time has there been a national determination to resolve political, social or economic antagonisms born out of centuries/decades of racial strife. In recent years, as a result of the reparations movement, some corporations, cities and states have issued apologies for having been involved in the Atlantic slave trade. Despite these apologies, the systemic inequities prevail with devastating consequences on every vestige of life confronting the majority of people of Afrikan descent in America.

The San Francisco 8 understand that these historic dynamics perpetuate social-cultural determinants that inhibit the necessary psychological inducements towards self-reliance and self-determination. Therefore, we are calling for progressive peoples to open dialogue and begin the process towards organizing a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address these inequities. We believe such a Commission could serve as a catalyst to forge substantial resolutions to heal America's racial trauma.

In conclusion, it is these three areas of concern we jointly agree will empower a national campaign to virtually expose the negative impact of both COINTELPRO and the Patriot Act. We call for all progressive peoples in support of the San Francisco 8 and all U.S. political prisoners to find the means to organize committees and coalitions to implement this proposal on local and national levels.

Again, we, the San Francisco 8, extend our heartfelt appreciation for your solidarity and support. Let us, together, build a sustainable and durable initiative that redresses civil and human rights violations, as we organize to win the freedom of the San Francisco 8.

Free All U.S. Political Prisoners!
The San Francisco 8

[Montreal] Saturday May 26th: Conference on Racism, Islamophobia and 'National Security'

The following in Montreal next Saturday - i'm thinking i'll be there transit strike or no transit strike, as i'm curious to see how some of these topics get broached:

Teach-in and strategy forum

Saturday, 26 May, 1pm to 9pm
Pavillon J.-A.-Sève, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
320 Ste-Catherine East, Montreal (Berri-UQAM metro)

WORKSHOPS and a PANEL DISCUSSION with Sherene Razack, Adil Charkaoui, Faisal Kutty, Salam El Manyawi, Najlaa Bennis, Ross Perigoe .... and many more!

  • Screening of footage from the People's Commission
  • Exhibit of Photos and Banners
  • Action materials

:::: Game room for kids (with supervision) (room DSR-340) :::
::: Free and delicious food ::::
:::: Whisper translation in English, French, Arabic and Farsi::::

Spies, media, corporations and politically-constructed public debates ... In the name of "national security", many forces in our society are helping to mobilize underlying racism and Islamophobia against Muslims, Arabs and others. The result is often devastating on people's lives.

Targetted communities are marginalized and unable to participate fully in political, economic or social life. When extreme measures such as security certificates are used against individuals, communities are often too intimidated, alienated or constrained to respond effectively.

Join us on Saturday, 26 May to take an in-depth look at some of the concrete ways in which the national security agenda is being advanced in Canada. The teach-in will bring together community members, academics, NGOs, legal experts and activists in order to develop effective strategies to resist racial profiling and defend the liberty and dignity of all.


1:30 to 3:30 Workshops

"National security" and targetting of Arab and Muslim communities (EN)
Room: DSR-520
facilitated: Helen Hudson
  • Salam El Menyawi, Muslim Council of Montreal
  • Faisal Kutty, Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association
  • Sameer Zuberi, CAIR-CAN

The "Security Industrial Complex": the new Homeland Security industry (FR)
Room DSR-525
facilitated: Raymond Legault, Échec à la guerre
  • Roch Tassé, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)
  • Sophie Schoen, Block the Empire

3:45 to 5:45 Workshops

Media and CSIS: partners in profiling (EN/FR)
Room: DSR-525
  • facilitated: Tamara Vukov
  • Ross Perigoe, Associate Professor, Concordia University Journalism Department
  • Alex Popovic, Political researcher

Racism and the debate on "reasonable accommodation" (FR/EN)
Room DSR-520
  • facilitated: Khadija Benabdallah
  • Nazila Bettache, No one is illegal
  • May Haydar, Centre communautaire musulman de Montréal
  • Layla Sawaf, Principal, JMC Secondary and Primary School

5:45 Light meal, followed by a testimony by Najlaa Bennis, Justice for Anas

6:45 Panel Discussion: Countering the instrumentalization of 'national
security' (EN/FR)
Room DRS-510
  • video: extracts from testimonies at the People's Commission hearings
  • Sherene Razack, Professor, Sociology and Equity Studies in Education,
  • University of Toronto: Understanding "security" and racism
  • Adil Charkaoui: Lessons from the campaign against security certificates


Najlaa Bennis is the sister of Mohamed Anas Bennis, who was killed by police officer Bernier of Station 25 on 1 December 2005 in Côte des Neiges. The Bennis family and the Coalition Justice for Anas are demanding access to all information concerning the death of Anas, a public and independent inquiry and an end to police brutality and police impunity.

Nazila Bettache is a Montreal-based organizer and member of No One is Illegal-Montreal.

Salam El Menyawi is President of the Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM). He has been an outspoken defender of human rights and against racial profiling for many years.

May Haydar is a member of the public relations committee of the Centre communautaire musulman de Montréal.

Helen Hudson is a Montreal activist working in solidarity with Political Prisoners, primarily in the United States, as well as on other social justice issues including immigration and feminist questions. She is also a programmer at CKUT community radio.

Faisal Kutty currently serves as general counsel for the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA) and as vice-chair and legal counsel to the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. His dissertation explores the impact of anti-terror laws and policies on the rule of law. In the course of his legal practice, he has also advised and acted on behalf of dozens of individuals and charities that have been directly impacted and targeted by anti-terrorism laws and policies. He is currently acting as counsel to CAIR-CAN and the CMCLA at the Iacobucci and the Air India Inquiries.

Raymond Legault has been an active member and a spokesperson for Échec à la guerre over the past four and a half years.

Dr. Ross Perigoe has taught at Concordia's Department of Journalism since 1985. Prior to joining the faculty, he was a full time journalist for 12 years, later working in CBC management. His early research focussed on the portrayal of visible minorities on television, particularly surrounding the Oka Crisis of 1990. Dr. Perigoe has done a study of the Montreal Gazette's portrayal of Muslims immediately after September 11, 2001. Dr. Perigoe is now examing the representation of Muslims in the french press during the same period.

Alex Popovic is a political researcher with a keen interest in national security, law enforcement and governmental ethical issues.

Sherene H. Razack is a Professor at the Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She is the author of - among other works - "Dark Threats and White Knights: Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism" (2004) and "Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics" (forthcoming December, 2007).

Sophie Schoen is an organizer in the student movement and with Block the Empire Montreal.

Roch Tassé is National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group / Coalition pour la surveillance internationale des libertés civiles, a pan-Canadian coalition of NGOs which formed in response to the introduction of Bill C-36. Tassé co-authored "Control Freaks: "Homeland Security" and "Interoperability"", published in differenTAKES, January 2007.

Tamara Vukov has been active in a range of autonomous social movements, independent media and media arts in Montréal over the past 15 years (recently including SAB/SSF, the People's Commission on Immigration Security Measures, Global Balkans, and the Volatile Works collective). She is currently completing her PhD in Communication at Concordia, where her research looks at the racialized impacts of Canadian news media events focused on migration, including the post-9/11'security' agenda.

Sameer Zuberi is Communications and Human Rights Director at CAIR-CAN. Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Sameer has worked in Kuwait as an elementary and high school teacher. While studying Mathematics at Concordia University, he served two terms as Vice President of the Concordia Student Union. Subsequently, through the United Muslim Students Association, he focused his activism on educating and linking the Muslim community to grassroots social justice movements.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Three New T-Shirt Designs from Kersplebedeb

And just in time for the Anarchist bookfair this weekend...



it's an old IWW image, as many of you will recognize, only with some new text and red red lips... funny thing is, the person is assumed by most to be male in the original, but some people have been referring to this version as "she" - a draft version included the words "fuck your assumptions" across their chest - the background "abuse of power comes as no surprise" i saw graffitied on a wall, and is one of the most basic of political realizations...



This was an early Soviet poster promoting literacy (in the original, the person was shouting "books"), early enough in the daze for most folks to have felt that what was happening in the USSR was an example of permanent radical social change... it was subsequently used by anti-fascist women in Spain and then by radical dykes in the united states - of course all those days are either going or gone, as are many of the realities of the 20th century, but at the same time capitalism remains and remains just as deadly and able to summon up nightmares that seem dead and buried - thus the word on the side "against the new racist capitalist patriarchy just as bad as the old racist capitalist patriarchy"



No i did not get Marcos to pose for me - some of you will know who did, others won't... the full original quote goes "The right to rebellion, to defy those who oppress us with different alibis (always the gods of Power and Money with different masks), is universal" (April 2003, quoted in The Quotable Rebel)... the burning police car is from an old flier made after the White Night riots in San Francisco...

As you know, you can see all my t-shirts on the Kersplebedeb T-Shirt page here...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kersplebedeb Catalog Summer 2007

It's just 584K and you can view it in PDF format here...

See - i told you all i was being busy!

Monday, May 14, 2007

[Montreal] Festival of Anarchy

A third-way through the fucking festival of Anarchy in Montreal, and i still haven't posted anything about it. Guess it's about time to remedy that...

Events for the rest of May:

Tuesday May 15 - 7:30pm
  • Diego, a film about Abel Paz Anarchie

    Café l’Éxode CÉGEP Vieux Montréal 255 Ontario Est

Thursday May 17 - 7pm
  • Art and Anarchy: from the Paris commune to the Fall of the Berlin Wall - de Allan Antiff (Arsenal Pulp Press)
  • Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority, compiled by Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland (AK Press)

    Cafétéria cinémathèque 335 boul. De Maisonneuve Est

Friday May 18 - 8pm
  • Anarchist Cabaret: A benefit for the 8th annual Montreal Anarchist Bookfair
    Main Hall, 5390 St. Laurent

  • Featuring:Please Don't Put Charles on the Money, Sarah Mangle, Paula Belina, Marni and Melissa, On Bodies, Amal El Masri, Anarchy Marchy

    $5-7 suggested donation

Saturday May 19th - 10am-6pm
  • Anarchist Bookfair
    CEDA 2515 rue Delisle

  • Vendors, Film Festival, Art Exhibit, Kids Program, Introductory workshops and more!

    Click here for more details.

Saturday May 19th - 10pm
  • Party : Benefit for DIRA

    Comité social centre sud 1710 Beaudry

Sunday, May 20 - 10am-6pm

Sunday, May 20 - 9pm
  • A benefit event for Queeruption-Vancouver

    At the Saphir 3699 St.Laurent (corner of des Pins)
    Suggested donation: 5$(no one turned away)

  • presentation of Queeruption 10 Vancouver
  • screening of Homotopia - video by members of Gayshame
  • trash drag performances...
  • open mic
  • and then, everyone on the dancefloor!!

Monday May 21 - 7pm

Tuesday May 22 - 7pm
  • Building Radical Mental Health Community

  • Struggle with mental health issues? Support someone who does? Concerned about what it means to be labelled “mentally ill” in a world gone mad? Do you wish there were some sort of a radical support resource in montreal? Us too!

    Join local activists + out-of-towners from the icarus project to discss these issues and strategize around building radical mental health support in non-judgemental ways.

  • Location TBA or

Thursday May 24th - 9pm

Friday May 25th - 7pm
  • Launch of Rubrick # 13

    2235 rue Delisle Métro Lionel Groulx

Saturday May 26 - 4pm
  • Documentary : The empire of the African Palm : state crimes and civil resitance in Columbia (french)

    Projet accompagnement Solidarité Colombie –PASC -
    Cinéma ONF 1564 rue St Denis

Saturday May 26/Sunday May 27th- 4pm

Monday May 28/Tuesday May 29 - 7:30pm
  • Anarchist Theatre Festival
    Sala Rossa 4848 boul. St Laurent

  • The festival includes plays or monologues that are original new work, or that have already been performed, or that have been written by anarchists (historical or contemporary). The pieces are either full productions or staged readings in either French or English. The work is anti-State, anti-capitalist, non-sexist, non-homophobic, anti-Empire, anti-authoritarian, etc, and written by either anarchist playwrights or writers who are sympathetic to anarchism.

    Click here for more details.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Some Initial Thoughts on Racial Profiling in Canada: Challenging the Myth of 'A Few Bad Apples'

Racial Profiling in Canada: Challenging the Myth of ‘a Few Bad Apples’
by Carol Tator and Frances Henry. Published by University of Toronto Press, 2006

In their book Racial Profiling in Canada: Challenging the Myth of ‘a Few Bad Apples’, authors Carol Tator and Frances Henry – and contributors Charles C. Smith and Maureen Brown – examine four related aspects of racist policing practices. These are (1) how people talk about racist policing; (2) how people talk about “race” and crime; (3) what makes police so prone to racism; and (4) the lived experience of racist policing, both anecdotal and also as it plays out by the numbers, from the perspective of its victims.

Early on, Tator and Henry set themselves an ambitious, and important, goal. In their words, “To describe individual police as racist, or even to blame general systems of social control in society, is to evade the real question: Why does racial profiling occur in modern, industrialized nation-states such as Canada?” (p. 17)

Unfortunately, the method by which they hope to find an answer, and which really sets the tone of the whole book, is a weak one: “discursive analysis”. This involves looking at the ways in which journalists and government and police officials talk (or don’t talk) about crime and race and racism and the stories they tell about Black people and the police, and how all these “narratives” flow from different institutions throughout canadian society, holding up systems of power and privilege for the “elite”. Tator and Henry’s challenge to this power and privilege comes in the form of picking apart bits of these “narratives”, which is what i guess they would call “deconstruction”.

Discourse (what gets said) exists intertwined with ideology (what gets thought), and together these are said to constitute the wellspring of racism in canadian society. As the authors state in their introduction, “Racialization begins with ideology, which is then filtered through the everyday micro-interactions and discourses of police, security officers, judges, journalists and editors, educators, politicians, and bureaucrats, among others.” (pp.8-9)

This kind of argument has a certain appeal to people who do not want to think about political power or radical social change, as it confines the problem to the realm of speech and ideas, which are more comfortable things to challenge than class or the State.

Along with such fuzziness is an unfortunate masculine bias throughout this book, and this regardless of the fact that both Tator and Henry are women. In a quick footnote they state:

Because racial profiling is directed primarily against men, we exclude from our study discussion of racialized female body imagery. However, we recognize the importance of such imagery, especially in regard to the Black women as sexual object in history and in contemporary society. We also note that there are issues surrounding Black homosexual men, although we do not deal with this added dimension
(p. 23, Racial Profiling in Canada)

In this they are simply keeping in step with the overwhelming majority of researchers and activists who study police violence, almost all of whom describe this problem as one which almost only affects men. It is ironic that those who are so able to deconstruct statistics to show police racism and not crime is the cause of so many Black men being stopped, arrested and imprisoned, remain largely uninterested in why Black (and other) women remain “off the books”.

As has been excruciatingly detailed in the recently published book The Color of Violence (South End Press 2006 - soon available from Kersplebedeb), women of colour experience heightened police violence and State repression in a variety of ways that male-dominated movements and methodologies do not see. From being raped by police to having one’s children taken by social services to being physically attacked for defying gender norms and “looking like a man” to being ignored or criminalized when in need of help, women experience a variety of forms of State violence which men are often happy to ignore. This is all the more true for working class women. Especially so for working class women of colour...

While i will examine the problems and implications of “discursive analysis” as well as these sexist distortions in future postings, at the moment i want to focus on where Racial Profiling in Canada rises above its weaknesses and provides information useful to anti-racists in canada.

Learning from the Black Community

From an activist perspective, the two best chapters in this book were those that actually described the reality of racial profiling – and these sections were written by contributing authors Charles C. Smith and Maureen Brown.

It is worth noting that these chapters are each based heavily on studies that Smith and Brown were commissioned to write for the African Canadian Community Coalition on Racial Profiling in 2004.

You see, there were a series of revelations regarding racial profiling that appeared in the Toronto Star starting in late 2002, and these created a sense of crisis in “community-police relations”. The “best parts” of this book were written at the behest of community groups responding to this widespread community hostility to the police. Both of these original reports – In Their Own Voices by Brown and Crisis, Conflict and Accountability by Smith – are available in PDF format online, yet one is unlikely to come across them unless you actually know what to look for, whereas Tator and Henry’s book is available in stores across Canada.

(There is a lesson here. Much of what is most worthwhile in this book was in fact written separately as a result of political developments within the affected communities themselves. However these parts “enter the record”, and certainly i only encountered them, within this context of this academic post-structuralish post-modernish book... not that this is in any way Tator or Henry’s fault – in fact, it says something good about them that they chose to include these pieces – but you know: there most definitely is a lesson here...)

Brown’s In Their Own Voices contains insights and experiences which are essential to understanding the effects of constant racist harassment, documenting the experiences of Black people in Toronto. These testimonies end up giving meaning to any discussion of racial profiling - but for the purposes of this review, and of providing a statistical glimpse at the reality of racial profiling in Canada, Smith’s work is the place to start...

Racist Policing in Canada: Some Numbers

Chapter three (pages 55-91) by Charles C. Smith is entitled “Racial Profiling in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom”, and it aims to provide an overview of statistics and incidents in these three countries. As previously mentioned, it is largely drawn from a study Smith wrote for the African Canadian Community Coalition on Racial Profiling in 2004 – specifically from pages 27-75, the rest of the original report being devoted to official sounding recommendations for remedying matters. (Tator and Henry did well to cut these out.)

What emerges right away from Smith’s work is that all three countries have roughly the same thing going on: Black people getting harassed, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and killed by the police, and in numbers far greater than their actual proportion of the population.

For instance, in the united states:
  • In opinion polling, 72 per cent of African Americans between eighteen and thirty-four said they had been stopped by the police because of their race; 37 per cent reported having been stopped more than once, and 15 per cent more than ten times.
  • Between January 1995 and June 1996, in Maryland, 732 individuals were detained and searched by the state police. Of these, 75 per cent were African American and 5 per cent were Latino (Morris 2001, 80).
  • In Philadelphia, African Americans comprise 79 per cent of those stopped and searched even though they are only 42 per cent of the population;
  • In Illinois, Latinos comprise 41 per cent of those stopped and searched even though they are less than 1 per cent of the driving population. Furthermore, one in every 75 African Americans is stopped compared to one in every 163 Whites (Kearney 2001, 62-80)
  • In New York City, a review of 175,000 cases indicated that African Americans were stopped six times more often than Whites. Also, even though they were only 25 per cent of the city’s population, African Americans accounted for 50 per cent of all individuals stopped (Bobb 2002, 6).
(pages 59-60, Racial Profiling in Canada)

While in the united kingdom:

The 2001-2002 West Midlands statistics comparing resident populations tell us that 5 Whites, 41 individuals of African descent, and 17 Asians were stopped/searched per 1,000 of each of their cohorts. [...] This is consistent with the national average of racial disproportionality across England and Wales: 13 Whites were stopped per 1,000 of their population, whereas people of African descent were stopped 106 times per 1,000 and Asians 35 per 1,000. Furthermore, stops/searches under CJPOA [the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act – st] indicate that per 1,000 population, 1 White is stopped/searched; 26 individuals of African descent and 7 Asians are similarly treated. In England and Wales this compares respectively as 0,5 per 1,000 for Whites, 5.5 per 1,000 for people of African descent, and 3.5 per cent per 1,000 for Asians; in other words, people of African descent are ‘28 times more likely to be searched and Asian people 18 times more likely to be searched in comparison with their White counterparts’ (Bowling 2003, 9-10)


Furthermore, people of African descent [in Britain] were subject to:

  • more multiple vehicle stops – 14 per cent were stopped five or more times compared to 4 per cent for Whites, 6 per cent of Indians, and 2.7 per cent of Pakistani/Bangladeshis;
  • more multiple pedestrian/foot stops – 18 per cent were stopped five or more times compared to 12 per cent of Whites, 10 per cent of Indians, and no Pakistani/Bangladeshis; and
  • increased traffic stops/searches – 9 per cent of White people were searched compared to 34 per cent of people of African descent and 14 per cent of Asians (Clancy et al. 2001, 59-71)
(pages 69-70, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Even legislation crafted to target disproportionately white forms of illegal activity ends up being applied unevenly, with an anti-Black bias. So “Afro-Caribbean people are 27 times more likely than White people to be stopped and searched under a special police power designed to tackle ravers and football hooligans” (“Black People 27 Times More Likely to be Stopped,” by Vikram Dodd, Guardian Unlimited 21 April 2003 – quoted on page 68) and “Stops under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989, which was ‘designed specifically to combat terrorism from the Provisional Irish Republican Army,’ indicate that in 1996-7, 11 per cent of the 43,700 stops in England and Wales were of individuals from subordinated racialized groups. In 1997-8, 7 per cent of those stopped were people of African descent.” (p. 69)

As Smith points out, the UK is “94.1 per cent White, 1.8 per cent people of African descent, 2.9 per cent South Asian and 1.2 per cent Chinese,” which as he says, makes the whole situation “mind boggling.” (p. 71)

By examining the “hit rates” - the number of people who, once stopped, are found to actually by committing a crime - Smith shows that the victims of racial profiling are in fact less likely than others to be committing the crimes they are investigated for. If you think about it for a moment this makes sense: if something other than actual likelihood of having broken the law is motivating police checks, then the total number of those who suffer these checks is likely to include a higher and higher proportion of people “doing nothing wrong”.

Unfortunately, Smith offers little in the way of explanation of these facts, or analysis of the societies within which such racist policing occurs – other than indicating (somewhat tautologically) that they sure are racist. Somewhat strangely, he describes canada, the united states and the united kingdom as being three countries with “vastly different historical developments”. This seems particularly odd from a canadian perspective, seeing as the history of repression and social control here since 1763 is largely a byproduct of american and british developments... but i guess once imperialism and colonialism are wiped from the blackboard, these three imperialist and colonialist countries do suddenly look quite different. This weakness is exacerbated by the rest of Tator and Henry’s book, i’m afraid, but more on that another day...

For obvious reasons i found what Smith had to say about canada to be the most interesting, and it is also certainly the most detailed and historically grounded. That said, a note of caution is in order: Smith’s original study was commissioned for an organization in Ontario, responding to a crisis in “police-community relations” in Toronto. As such it was really just about anti-Black racism in that province. When transplanted into this book on racial profiling “in Canada”, the author was obviously asked to add sections on other realities, but he did so with only mixed results. Whereas he does include some detailed – and harrowing – examples of racist treatment of Indigenous people west of Ontario, that’s about it. A failed attempt to deal with Quebec should have been rejected by the editors, as it seems solely informed by a few superficial articles in the Montreal Gazette and Montreal Mirror, failing to go beyond the threadbare and anecdotal. Nothing at all is provided about Atlantic Canada, Northern Canada, or the experiences of other oppressed communities throughout the country.

Anti-Black Racism in Ontario

Smith begins by refuting the argument that racist policing in Canada is some kind of recent phenomenon. This is of some consequence, as he is trying to argue that despite the major changes in the country’s demographic makeup over the past forty years, present day racism is largely a continuation of past practice.

In regards to Black people in Canada, he reminds us that:

People of African descent have a long history in Canada, one which has been marked by racist laws that have severely impeded African Canadians’ advancement. In early Canada, the enslavement of Blacks was legal, and even after slavery was abolished here, the law forbade Blacks to own land. This included those Blacks who had come to Canada with the British Loyalists during and after the American Revolution. Subsequently, laws were passed so that schools and residential areas were segregated.
(p. 72, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Smith draws on the work of Clayton James Mosher (Discrimination and Denial: Systemic Racism in Ontario’s Legal and Criminal Justice Systems, 1892-1961, Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1998), providing the following evidence of racist policing throughout Ontario’s history:

  • In six cities in Ontario, including Windsor, Hamilton, London, and Toronto, 12 per cent of all public order charges were against African Canadians, 11 per cent against Aboriginal people, and 2 per cent against Chinese. This was vastly disproportionate to their actual numbers in these cities. Of those charged, African Canadians and Aboriginal people were the most likely to be imprisoned.
  • In their efforts to control public order offences, the police in these Ontario cities tended to focus on African Canadians. This led to the use of ‘disorderly-house and other public-morals laws ... to control Black populations.’
  • African Canadians were required to appear in court more often than other groups to defend themselves against charges of property crime, and they received longer sentences when convicted.
  • African Canadians found in areas where property offences had occurred ‘were often identified as suspects, and the courts often found them guilty on the basis of such limited evidence.’
  • The mean sentence length for African Canadians for property offences was 10.51 months, compared to 8.33 for Aboriginal people and 6.26 for Whites.
(p. 73, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Now while i found the above to be “of interest”, i question whether this kind of statistical approach tailored towards proving discrimination is really the most appropriate way to discuss anti-Black racism from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. While racism does run like a thread through Canadian history, adopting such a narrow statistical approach to “race” shorn of class or nation can only be misleading. It leaves unspoken who these Black, Chinese and Aboriginal people were, what was their relationship to the State and capitalism, what were their political and economic trajectories... instead such a statistical account simply gives evidence that racism existed in 19th and 20th century canada, not an especially earth-shaking revelation...

Really, this all begs the question as to why discrimination exists, and who profits from it. As we shall see, some very incomplete and unconvincing answers to these questions are provided elsewhere in this book, Smith’s work clearly being used to contextualize and ground Tator and Henry’s “racist discourse/ideology” argument. So perhaps it is too much that we look for explanations here – instead, let’s stick to the numbers.

Smith draws on recent studies by University of Toronto scholars Phillip Stenning and Scot Wortley, and from the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System as well as the radical grassroots Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, to show that the tradition of anti-Black discrimination carries on into the present.

Quoting Stenning’s 1994 study Police Use of Force and Violence against Members of Visible Minority Groups in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Police and Race Relations) he shows that:

  • In responding to ‘minor offenses,’ police drew their weapons when arresting African Canadians more often than with other groups (25 per cent of the time, compared to 6.7 per cent for Whites and 6.7 per cent for ‘others’)
  • Rates of police use of force – at the time of arrest as well as after arrest – were significantly higher for African Canadians (33.3 and 31.4 per cent respectively, compared to 25.0 and 25.0 per cent for Whites and 30.8 and 23.1 per cent for ‘others’) (ibid.m II.9-II.24)
(p.74, Racial Profiling in Canada)

i think it is worth mentioning the other finding from Stenning’s study, which made it into Smith’s report to the ACCCRP but not this book:

  • [African Canadians were ] sworn at more often by police (58.8% v. 38.3% for Whites and 43.6% for Others) and subject to racial epithets more often as well with 31.4% indicating they had been subject to racially derogatory remarks from police officers v. 5% for Others

Certainly these findings explain much.

The already predictably tragic consequences of this police violence are aggravated by the fact that Black people are more likely to find themselves stopped by police in the first place. Drawing on findings in Wortley’s 1997 paper “The Usual Suspects: Race, Police Stops and Perceptions of Criminal Injustice” (presented to the 48th Annual Conference of the American Society of Criminology in Chicago), Smith tells us that:

  • 28.1 per cent of African Canadians reported having been stopped by police, compared to 18.2 per cent of Whites and 14.6 per cent of Chinese Canadians;
  • 16.8 per cent of African Canadians reported having been stopped twice by police, compared to 8.0 per cent of Whites and 4.7 per cent of Chinese Canadians;
  • 11.7 per cent of African Canadians reported having been stopped by police ‘unfairly’ in the past two years, compared to 2.1 per cent of Whites and 2.2 per cent of Chinese Canadians;
  • 42.7 per cent of African-Canadian males reported having been stopped by the police in the past two years, compared to 22.1 per cent of Whites and Asians; and
  • 28.7 per cent of African-Canadian males reported having been stopped twice in the past two years, compared to 9.9 per cent of Whites and Asians (ibid., 18-19)
(p. 75, Racial Profiling in Canada)

So Black people are twice as likely as whites to be stopped by police. Once they are stopped, they are more likely to be subjected to (often racist) insults. When these situations degenerate into an arrest, Black people are more likely to be subject to violence, and with tragic concsequences, they are four times more likely to find the cops drawing their guns on them.

Is it any wonder that so many Black people end up getting shot by police? And given all the racism leading up to the shot being fired, is the classic excuse that “It just went off by accident” really enough to say that race is not a factor in these police murders?

Even though the majority of police stops may not end in death, the sorting of people into different racial streams continues in many different ways. Drawing on findings of the 1995 Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System, Smith shows that:

  • The police stop African Canadians (especially African-Canadian males) twice as often as Whites.
  • Whites are less likely to be detained before trial than African Canadians (23 per cent against 30 per cent), especially for drug charges (10 per cent against 31 per cent).
  • Between 1986-7 and 1992-3, incarcerations of African Canadians for drug trafficking rose by 1,164 per cent, from 25 per cent of 524 admissions to 60 per cent of 2,616 admissions. This compares to a 151 per cent increase for Whites during the same period.
  • With regard to drug charges, White accused were released more often than African Canadians. Also, African Canadians were denied bail more often, and the conviction rate was higher for African Canadian men: 69 per cent, compared to 57 per cent for White men.
  • In the six years leading up to 1993, the African-Canadian population of Ontario increased by 36 per cent; over the same period, the number of African-Canadian prisoners admitted to Ontario correctional facilities increased by 204 per cent! The numbers of White prisoners admitted increased by only 23 per cent.
(p.75, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Finally, in regards to Black people in Ontario, Smith reminds us of the findings of the Toronto Star’s 2002 series on racial profiling:

  • Although only 8.1 per cent of Toronto’s populations African Canadians accounted for 34 per cent of drivers charged with out-of-sight violations.
  • African Canadians were overrepresented by 4.2 times for out-of-sight driving offences, by 3.8 times for cocaine possession and by 2.1 times for simple drug possession.
  • Though Whites comprised 63.8 per cent of those charged with simple drug possession (more than ten thousand cases), Whites were released at the scene 76.5 per cent of the time, compared to 61.8 per cent for African Canadians.
  • After being taken into custody, African Canadians were held for court appearance 15.5 per cent of the time, compared to 7.3 per cent for Whites;
  • For cocaine possession (more than two thousand cases), 41.5 per cent of African Canadians were released at the scene, compared to 63 per cent of Whites.
  • African Canadians comprised 27 per cent of all violent charges, even though they were only 8.1 per cent of the population.
  • In 51 Division [in Toronto - st], 40 per cent of African Canadians charged with one count of cocaine possession were held for bail hearings, compared to 20 per cent of Whites.
  • African Canadians were overrepresented at police divisions with low African-Canadian populations. For example, they were four times overrepresented in out-of-sight traffic offences at 42 Division and seven times overrepresented at 52 Division [in Toronto - st], even though these divisions do not have significant number of African-Canadian residents. These data supported the African-Canadian community’s anecdotes that they were being singled out by police (Rankin et al. 2002).
(p. 90, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Such a plethora of numbers and statistics can be alienating and discouraging to read, both because of the reality they represent and because most of us find long lists of numbers somewhat mind-numbing. Truth be told, they do a poor job at conveying any of the real life results of racist police harassment (for that, see Brown’s In Their Own Voices!). Yet i found this section to be so useful, and worth quoting at such length, because these figures clearly establish two of the characteristics of racial profiling: that it is a mass phenomenon affecting most if not all members of targeted communities, and that it is diffuse, occurring everywhere and anywhere and yet much more often on the level of (for instance) harassment and intimidation than murder. Furthermore, by establishing this context empirically Smith helps us to counter the deniability of almost any single incident of racial profiling when it is viewed in isolation.

Racist Treatment of Indigenous People in the Canadian Prairies and West Coast
The colonial world is a world cut in two. The dividing line, the frontiers are shown by barracks and police stations. In the colonies it is the policeman and the soldier who are the official, instituted go-betweens, the spokesmen of the settler and his rule of oppression.
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

The statistics and experiences of Indigenous people in Canada are harrowing. As i mentioned above, this section of Smith’s chapter was obviously written separately from his work for the ACCCRP, and for someone like me who is ignorant and not from “out west”, it seemed a good overview of how the Indigenous relationship to colonial police plays out, in terms of harassment, imprisonment and murder.

For instance:

According to Corrections Canada’s own statistics, Aboriginal adults are incarcerated over six times more often than anyone else. A one-day ‘snapshot’ of all offenders in this country’s correctional facilities by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics conducted in 1996 (see Hylton 2002, 140) showed that although Aboriginal people are 2 per cent of the adult population of Canada, they account for 17 per cent of federal inmates. In Saskatchewan, Aboriginal people were being incarcerated at almost ten times the overall provincial rate; they were 76 per cent of that province’s inmate population. In Manitoba, 61 per cent of inmates were Aboriginals; in Alberta, it was over 35 per cent. Another shocking statistic: in Saskatchewan, 70 per cent of sixteen-year-old Treaty Indian males can expect to be incarcerated at least once by the time they reach twenty.
(p. 81, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Understand that: in Saskatchewan seven out of ten sixteen year old Indigenous guys will be imprisoned at some point before their twentieth birthday. In a province where 25% of the youth are Indigenous, this is a particularly horrendous level of racist mass incarceration, of a kind more commonly associated with the united states than with canada...

(For more on the nature of colonial imprisonment in canada, i suggest readers check out Prison Justice dot ca’s Facts and Stats page)

Of course, this kind of mass incarceration is one result of a highly focused sort of police repression. Another result of this highly focused repression is plain old murder, as white police officers partake in the time honored canadian tradition of killing Indigenous people just for the hell of it. Smith continues:

In recent years, several Aboriginal men have been found frozen to death in Saskatoon following police interventions. In November 1990 the body of an Aboriginal teenager named Neil Stonechild was found frozen in a field just outside the city. The injuries and marks on his body were probably caused by handcuffs. A friend reported that he last saw Stonechild bleeding in the back of a police car, screaming that the police were going to kill him. [...]

In January 2000, the body of Lloyd Dusthom was found frozen to death outside his locked apartment after he had been seen in police custody. That same month, the frozen body of Rodney Naistus was found on the outskirts of Saskatoon near the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station. Five days later, Lawrence Wegner, a social work student, was last seen alive banging on the doors of relatives’ homes in Saskatoon. Later testimony would indicate that he ran away when the police were called. His frozen body was later found near the power plant. After Wegner’s body was found, another man, Darrell Night, came forward. Night reported that he had been dropped off by the police south of the city on a bitterly cold night but had managed to get to a nearby power station for help. These deadly excursions became known among Aboriginal people as ‘starlight tours.’ Two Saskatoon police officers were found guilty of unlawful confinement in the Night case and were sentenced to eight months in jail (ibid.).
(pp. 81-2, Racial Profiling in Canada)

Nor are such police murders of Indigenous people confined to Saskatchewan:

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2005, Aboriginal leaders demanded answers after the police shot and killed two young aboriginal men within a few weeks of each other. In January in Norway House, an RCMP officer shot and killed Dennis St-Paul after trying to arrest him for parole violations. The following month, Matthew Dumas, eighteen, was fatally injured when the police fired two shots during what they referred to as a ‘scuffle’.
(p. 83, Racial Profiling in Canada)


In Vancouver, a public inquiry was called by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs as well as the B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner in the matter of Frank Paul, who froze to death in 1998 after police dumped him in an alley. In 2000, the Vancouver Police department suspended one of the officers involved in Paul’s death for two days; another officer received a one-day suspension. When rumours began to circulate that [Vancouver] police were dumping ‘drunks and troublemakers’ in remote areas, police chief Jamie Graham defended the provision in the Criminal Code that allows police to remove citizens to other parts of the city for breaching the peace: ‘It’s a good law. It’s a good tool for police officers to quell those disturbances that require people to be removed from certain areas’ (Carmichael 2004)
(p. 83, Racial Profiling in Canada)

All of which is horrific, and Smith provides activists with some valuable information here; and yet... the great levels of structural violence we’re talking remain unexplained. Or should i say, unconvincingly explained. A section on “Public Perception and the Media” and a gushingly naive section on the court system seem to suggest that for Black and Indigenous people, it is simply white people’s racism that it to blame for the discrimination they suffer. Not racism as in “capitalism in inherently racist” or “the State is white supremacist”, but structural racism reinterpreted in its most timid and narrow sense, namely that the courts and law enforcement agencies are staffed by prejudiced white folks, and changing this (partly through education and mainly through hiring and promoting more people from racialized communities) is the best way to end racist policing. This is Tator and Henry’s argument throughout the book.

But colonialism and white supremacy are more than just irrational grudges or malicious prejudice, they’re actual ways of building an economy and government. What i mean is: “discrimination” is an essential feature of capitalism. Which is why you can’t have an unracist capitalism, even though there are no rules as to which group might end up suffering racist subjugation. As radical intellectual J. Sakai has pointed out, “‘Class’ without race in North America is an abstraction. And vice-versa. Those who do not get this are always just led around by the nose, the manipulated without a clue - and it is true that many don't want any more from life than this.”

The quote by Frantz Fanon that began this section is not from anywhere in Smith’s chapter, or elsewhere in this book. (The two times the revolutionary theorist gets mentioned, it’s all about that “White gaze”, making him sound like a pomo academic.) For colonialism remains the elephant in the room here... clearly present, but we’re not gonna talk about it...

Perhaps this is why, unlike his discussion of anti-Black racism, Smith’s section on anti-Indigenous racism lacks any attempt to provide historical background. This makes perfect sense, for to do so would be to strain the meaning of “racism” beyond recognition, as what we are talking about is centuries of national oppression and military conflict, woven together in a unique yet unmistakable tapestry of genocide. That this resulted in, and was reinforced by, racism, certainly does not mean that it can be reduced to racism alone!

After all, it wasn’t “racial profiling” that all the children in residential schools were Indigenous, any more than it was “racial profiling” that only Indigenous people were subject to pass laws in Canada (these were the laws South Africa copied for its apartheid system). It was a national thing, a military thing... police and prisons being important weapons in the ongoing colonization of the First Nations. Not colonization as a consequence of “discourse”, but of policy. And not of policy passively reflecting ideology or “bad ideas”, but policy with a clear and conscious goal: the destruction of Indigenous sovereignty and the genocidal reduction of Indigenous peoples to a tiny minority within the Canadian mosaic.

The oppression of Black people in North America also has a national dimension, but it is true that within Canada this is far less obvious than in the united states. Certainly the neo-colonial immigration policies of the past forty years have created new (though not better) realities for the historically oppressed Black communities in this country, with a majority of Black people being first or second generation immigrants. While racist discourse and ideology – and policing! – certainly play an important part in ensuring that these immigrant communities will be oppressed, the racial segmentation of the canadian economy seems to me to be a central piece of the puzzle.

Specifically: since Canada abandoned it’s “whites first” immigration policies in 1967, there has been an increasing trend to reconfiguring the country’s class structure along new racist lines. Proletarian immigrant communities from Third World countries are being formed and forced into the areas of greatest exploitation. At times this may represent a continuation of the exploitation suffered by Canada’s historic Black communities – i don’t know this, but i’m open to believing it – but in other instances (i.e. the Filipino and Arab communities) these people are being forced into new proletarian communities with specific characteristics and trajectories of their own.

This is important, as i would argue that these colonial and class imperatives – the war on Indigenous sovereignty and the proletarianization of Third World immigrant communities – form the not-so-hidden foundations upon which the new 21st century canadian capitalism is being built. As such, they also form the backstory to canadian racism today, the missing element explaining the connection between people across this country who suffer from “targeted policing”.

So the long history of canadian racism is not insignificant, but on its own it falls short of explaining the ongoing reality of racist oppression. Rather than simply reflecting grand-dad’s bigotry, canadian racist ideology is an expression of today’s racist canadian class structure, and the ongoing canadian dependence on colonialism.

Is this nitpicking?

Well, it all depends.

Given that a central feature of racial profiling is its deniability, the mere act of documenting all this crap is certainly worthwhile. So regardless of possible political differences, i obviously find Smith’s work worth discussing – and recommending as a source of information.

In a sense am not sure how much of what i am getting at is a fair judgment. i mean Smith only wrote one chapter of this book, and not every chapter of a book has to contain both facts and explanation. So perhaps i am holding him unfairly responsibly for Tator and Henry's exclusive reliance on “discursive analysis” and the like... but whoever is to blame it must be said that by not engaging in any kind of economic or political analysis of the communities which suffer racist abuse - or the classes which profit from this violence - Smith (or perhaps just Tator and Henry) incorrectly cuts the world of speech and ideas loose from the realities of class and power.

Admittedly, the “semi-autonomous nature of ideology” is not clearcut, or easy to stuff in a box. It would be foolish to mimic certain ultraleftists and ascribe any and all racist abuses to economic imperatives. Furthermore, ideology and discourse can have real effects, including material effects. Given the petit bourgeois class origin of many immigrants – who find themselves once in Canada working in the shittiest working class jobs, often part-time, casual or under the table, hardly ever unionized – one could make the argument that discourse and ideology, combined with the racist policing practices they encourage, together push immigrant communities into a proletarian position. Perhaps.

However, even though that may be one part of what is going on, it would be a mistake to not see that Canadian immigration policies are based on the need for certain kinds of labour which most Canadians are privileged enough to be able to refuse.

Let me give one galling example.

Over the past twenty years over 100,000 women from the Philippines have come to Canada under this country’s Live-In Caregiver Program. These women, many of whom have trained professionally as nurses in the Philippines, must work for 24 months of their first three years in Canada as “live-in caregivers”, meaning that they must reside in their employers’ home during this period. The work they do can fall under many categories: childcare, healthcare, homecare and more. While they receive a wage calculated on a 40-hour workweek, given that they are always “at work” they suffer from all the joys of highly flexibilized labour. Plus all the joys of being a highly gendered and atomized workforce, with employer-employee relations marked by inconsistency and paternalism. Needless to say, sexual and other forms of abuse are prevalent.

In previous generations, the work that these women do would have mainly been done by Canadian women, either paid or unpaid, as wives, daughters, mothers, nuns or "domestics". But changes in gender relations and in the Canadian economy have created a new international “demand”, just as capitalist development of the Philippines countryside pushes people off the land and creates a convenient "supply".

Once these women have worked all of their required (indentured) months, most of them join the Filipino working class communities that are growing in major cities across Canada.

So certain processes are maintaining Third World women, even those with university degrees, in a subservient relationship to First World citizens. How is this “proletarization” being accomplished? are Filipinos being proletarianized as a result of “discourse”? or “ideology”? or the Philippines’ Labour Export Program combined with Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program? or a bit of all the above?

To return to the point at hand: across Canada the past years have seen a number of cases of anti-Filipino violence, including racial profiling. In one particularly horrific incident, on May 24th 2004 Toronto undercover police shot and killed Jeffrey Reodica, a Filipino teenager who at the time was running away from them.

Chances are Reodica was killed because he was Filipino - but my point is that the reason why being Filipino might be enough to get you shot by the police is because the Filipino community is at this point working class – and one role of the police is to discipline, control and intimidate working class people, especially working class youth. That some people get killed as a result of this process is one of those things that the white middle class can live with.

So once and again: am i nitpicking?

How we understand the relationship between racism and capitalism will have important long-term consequences as to what kind of political work we engage in, who we work with and what we work for. This is true whether we are organizing around police brutality or so-called hate groups or gentrification... or anything else for that matter!

In regards to racial profiling, concentrating on the interplay between racist policing, colonialism and Canada’s racialized class structure provides us with an entirely different set of solutions, and alliances, than a view which confines racism to the personal realm of malice, speech and ideas.

Firstly, it lays the basis for an alliance with other people who are victimized by the police, as class runs like a thread (or chain) connecting and revealing the various different groups who are targeted for such abuse. Without forgetting the fact that racism and national oppression are important factors in many cases of police abuse, there are sections of the white working class which also suffer targeted police violence. Not only semi-criminalized groups like prostitutes and street people, but also those sections which for whatever reason have reaped scant benefit from the general imperialist bonanza. These sections are likely the least committed to the pro-capitalist politics which infect most white society - including most white workers - and as such constitute a potential base of support for our politics. (A base that those of us who are white should pay particular attention to...)

Secondly, while warding off the lure of easy (and doomed) solutions like electing social-democrats or hiring Black cops, integrating class into our analysis can lead us to the most reliable avenue of social change, namely mobilization of the oppressed in their own interests and on their own behalf. Rhetoric aside, the ability to relate one’s work around a particular issue (i.e. racist treatment by police) to other parts of your life (i.e. economic discrimination and super-exploitation) is a skill that strengthens one’s position on all fronts. Middle class people might object that adding class to the mix makes things too complicated, or constitutes too big a challenge – but for working class people, for the vast majority of people who suffer at the hands of the police, class already is part of the mix. Acknowledging this can only help us actually take up the work that needs be done.

Finally, and conversely, anti-police work will sharpen our class analysis, as the reality of police oppression can help bring people’s actual position (and their communities’ position) within capitalism into greater focus than simple income analysis. It also deepens our ability to understand colonialism, as the police remain the frontline occupation troops on Indigenous land across this continent.


This has been a very long review – and of just one chapter! My thoughts on this matter are not crystal clear, but i’m working on it – i'm hoping some of you will help me out and let me know where you think i’ve gone wrong...

i have obviously taken the liberty to use Smith’s work to broach several subjects well beyond the scope of Tator and Henry’s book. If i have been somewhat critical, it is because this question is one which is important, and prone to easy confusion, but i should point out that “on its own merits” as a “progressive” study included in a fairly liberal anti-racist book, Smith’s work remains an ok contribution.

Though remember – you can read much of it online for free!