Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The plight of young black and latino men in the U.S. and of aboriginal young women in Canada...racism abounds

More and more frequently, the 49th parallel is becoming like swiss cheese....very porous.
This week, we learned that the American fast food giant, Burger King is purchasing Canadian business "icon" Tim Hortons, another fast food veteran of the past half century in Canada. For the American audience, the purchase/sale is about tax avoidance on Burger King's part. By joining a holding company, whose head office will be located in Oakville Ontario, a distant suburb of Toronto, the company will pay at least 10% less in federal tax, given the difference between the Canadian and U.S. corporate tax rates. For the Canadian audience, the merger is about lowering standards and tarnishing what has become a national "brand" of considerable pride, even though the coffee, donuts and other baked goods do definitely deserve to be known by consumers around the world.
The purchase price of $12 billion seems quite astronomic, given the waning sales of Burger King products over the last couple of years. Reports are that the two companies are not intending, at least for now, to merge their offerings: no burgers will Tim's coffee, and no Tim's Donuts with a Big Whopper.
This story has received much coverage in both American and Canadian news rooms for the last few days,
There are two other stories boiling on both sides of the 49th parallel that are boiling, yet separate and unique to each country.
In the U.S. there is a public outcry following the Ferguson Illinois police shooting of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown. Reports from various sources who are outraged indicate that there may be as many as 1080 unarmed  black and latino young men who have been murdered by police forces across the United States over the last two or three years.
In Canada, the issue is murdered and mission aboriginal women, some 1200 according to published reports. The most recent case involves a young aboriginal woman who was buried this past weekend in Winnipeg.
In the United States, the Justice department is conducting an investigation into whether or not civil rights charges might be laid in the Michael Brown case.
In Canada, however, the Prime Minister Steven Harper has steadfastly resisted a public inquiry into the murdered and missing aboriginal women.
A Justice department investigation and a Public Inquiry are clearly not the same thing. Canadians and Americans, through their public figures and governments do things differently.
However, both issues beg some obvious questions about the fabric of race relations on both sides of the 49th.
Black and latino young men being murdered by public police officers, paid by the taxpayers of various states and counties offer a continuing scourge on the reputation of a country that has not shed the shackles of deep and profound racism in well over 200 years.
The fact that over 1000 young women from First Nations communities in Canada are dead or missing, while the federal government refuses to open the discussion formally and fully to a public inquiry into the root causes of Canada's most enduring and most racist blight on her conscience is no slight cause of embarrassment for Canadians. Premiers of all provinces and territories are demanding a public inquiry. Citizen activists of all ethnicities are calling for a public inquiry. The Harper government insists the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women is a criminal issue,  requiring continued, uninterrupted police investigation. They contend that a public inquiry would only impede such an inquiry. Some in Canada are asking that public focus include the numbers of missing and murdered young men.
In the United States, we have not heard voices focusing on the needs and issues around young black and latino women,
So, amidst the racism that is magnetizing political conversations and debates in Canada and the United States, issues of poverty, ceilings on opportunities through education, employment, family nurturing and the relations that have existed and continue to exist between the black and aboriginal communities and the body politic, including those in government and those responsible for public peace and security, that means law enforcement overlap the issues facing public officials in both countries.
Focussing only or mainly on the legal issues, looking for the criminals both in the police forces in the United States, and the policed forces across Canada is merely a Band-Aid approach to the fundamental issues facing those young men and women living at the bottom of the sociological ladder in towns, cities and regions in both countries.
Both countries face a serious danger of objectifying these young men and women, by grouping them as statistical numbers, thereby reducing them from former living and vibrant human beings to digits under study, so they might fit into some policy forum, fixable through both the laying of criminal charges and convictions and removing the obligation on public figures to address underlying and root issues that are far less amenable to political or legal "pills".
Racism is not something that can be crammed into a politician's "file folder" under the broader title of "UNSOLVABLE ISSUES".... Each and every politician of all political parties in both countries is sharing responsibility for removing those clinging barnacles and tumors of both overt and more insidious nuanced racism, that includes a form of sexism. We are watching racism play out, with quite different faces and forms in Canada and the United States, while politicians in both countries would prefer to deal with single issues, one by one, without digging more deeply into the far more disturbing underlying issues.
To dig into those underlying issues, of course, would require a complete re-thinking of the fundamental principles of how the rich are getting richer and the outcasts are being thrown into the ditch in both cultures, with what looks like complete impunity on the part of those in power in both countries.
Clearly the top 1% in both countries have a common white face.
Also, clearly, the governments in both countries are comprised of primarily white faces.
Also clearly, the sensitivity to issues underlying murdered black young men, and murdered and missing aboriginal young women seems to be a publicly shared need by both populations in Canada and the United States. The power structure strongly resists digging deeply into the root causes especially of issues that have plagued these so-called "advanced" and "liberal" countries, because, presumably they do not wish to expose themselves to  the dangers of relinquishing some of their treasured and jealously guarded power "percs". However, for the power blocks in Canada and the United States to continue to bury their heads, hearts and eyes in the sands of denial brings shame on the people in both countries.
It is a no-brainer for ordinary folks to recognise the facts of racism, of ostracism, of insouciance and even of negligence of those most in need of public support throughout their lives, beginning at birth, continuing through early education programs and nutrition programs, access to quality health care, reasonable housing, public security and responsible parenting, as well as access to the same opportunities that "white young people" enjoy....
And, that gap is growing, shaming both countries.

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