COLUMN

Racism: an excuse for riots and theft

Flawed liberalism has sold blacks the notion that they are entitled to vent their frustration by stealing or destroying

BARBARA AMIEL May 18 1992
COLUMN

Racism: an excuse for riots and theft

Flawed liberalism has sold blacks the notion that they are entitled to vent their frustration by stealing or destroying

BARBARA AMIEL May 18 1992

Racism: an excuse for riots and theft

COLUMN

Flawed liberalism has sold blacks the notion that they are entitled to vent their frustration by stealing or destroying

BARBARA AMIEL

As riots go, the Toronto disturbances have been pretty low-key. They seem to start after school or work, and end by 11 p.m., thus allowing everyone to go home and have a good night’s sleep.

In the wake of the disturbances, everyone is trying to separate the peaceful protesters from the criminals. No doubt that many of the people who marched down to the U.S. Consulate had absolutely no intention of going on to break windows on Yonge Street, and a number of them may not have had anything to do with the subsequent vandalism. But to suggest that the march and the subsequent riot are unrelated is untrue.

Both the march and the riot were informed by a fatally flawed liberal perspective on racism that for the past 30 years has sold blacks in North America the notion that nothing in life is their fault, and that they are entitled to vent their unhappiness by stealing or destroying what belongs to others. This perspective was given official imprimatur in the 1965 Kerner presidential commission report, which, to cite U.S. sociologist Ernest van den Haag’s brilliant analysis, blamed “the riots on those rioted against.” This view was neatly updated last month by the U.S. black leaders and congressmen who, before the verdict was reached in the Rodney King trial, told Americans that if the four policeman were acquitted there would be “the greatest riot the United States has ever seen.” No wonder the verdict was a handy excuse for helping oneself to stolen goodies.

One can’t go into the Rodney King verdict in detail here, but briefly, though I believe the Los Angeles police were guilty of using excessive force, I do not believe that it was used for racist reasons and, clearly, the jury came to the same conclusion. Alas, anyone who has taken time to study cases in North America knows that the arrest procedures used on King are not unique to the handling of blacks.

The whole nature of policing needs some rethinking. There is a culture among some

policemen in which anyone who causes them inconvenience or lacks “respect” is seen as a candidate for strong-arm tactics. The police are not in business simply to arrest suspects who put their hands up meekly. Four policemen can easily handcuff an unarmed man like Rodney King who is already on the ground without the addition of 56 baton blows—and if they can’t resist provocation, then they ought not to be policemen.

While the vast majority of blacks remain lawabiding and hardworking, little support is given to them by our politicians and intelligentsia. Worst of all are the black activists who insult the great majority of the black community by emphasizing the so-called “oppression” of those who take to criminal activities or vandalism. Add to this the blatant political opportunism of a Jean Chrétien calling the riots “a wakeup call,” and the ingredients for trouble are in place.

The proximate cause of the Toronto riots was the shooting of a black suspect by police. “A black man wields a knife and is shot dead. Who can ever justify that?” thundered Rev. Ogueri Ohanaka of the Black United Front in Halifax on the front page of The Globe and Mail. The mind boggles. Any man running

towards the police with a knife in his hand, ignoring warning shots, would be fired at regardless of color. Furthermore, Rev. Ohanaka’s statement appears to have been made before he had a clue as to what the sequence of events was. How would he know that there was no justification? The independent investigation by John Osier seems to have confirmed the police version of the sequence of events.

Why have black activists trotted out this tired rhetoric about systemic racism in Canada? Canadians know themselves, and they know Canadian society is not racist. One can only conclude that some black activists want to incite as much dissension and unrest as possible among us all, in order to build a power base for themselves. One sees a parallel in the Nazis who exploited the very real problems in Germany to build up their power.

The real problem America and Canada must face is the growth of an increasingly violent underclass. Why is that underclass largely black? Clearly, it has nothing to do with race since so many blacks have achieved brilliantly in every possible field of endeavor, as well as creating stable workingand middleclass lives. Nor can the racism which long haunted the lives of U.S. blacks right up to the civil rights legislation of 1964 now be considered a cause: East Indians, Pakistanis and Koreans were not among the thousands arrested in Los Angeles. They work and prosper. The most recently oppressed people in California must surely be the Japanese whose property and freedom was taken from them in the Second World War, and yet not one of them sought revenge by taking part in the L.A. riots.

“I believe,” one American sociologist told me, “that blacks can achieve as well as any group with one difference: they must leave their communities and achieve as individuals, unlike Jewish, East Indian and Oriental people whose communities nurture excellence.” This may be true, and it could be the basis for new social initiatives—but, then again, it may not be true at all. We know nothing, because we are not allowed to know anything. The minute anyone tries to begin research on blacks, their culture or crime statistics—as one policeman once did—there is an unbelievable outcry. At the same time, black activists use statistics without batting an eye, claiming that while only six per cent of people in Toronto are black, they comprise 50 per cent of the jail population. I don’t believe these statistics for a moment, but even if they were true, Canadians will not buy the patently ridiculous notion that the police go around rounding up blacks for purely racist reasons.

One is hard put to think of a city in the world that has accommodated, so willingly and with such ease, a larger influx of cultures than Toronto. In the end, one’s heart goes out to the real victims—the Korean, East Indian and other merchants whose small shops had their windows broken and stock looted after years of patient hard work, of paying taxes, of taking nothing from this system but putting everything into it. They have been betrayed by a mob egged on by a dying vision of a decayed and corrupt liberalism.