RE: Not Black Enough
In October 2017, the Association of Black Law Enforcers (A.B.L.E.) celebrated twenty-five years of service to OUR members and to OUR community in Ontario and the rest of Canada. For a quarter of a century we recognize that many in OUR community, in particular OUR young people, may not have an awareness of OUR struggle and OUR shared history. For members of the community who don’t know OUR story, in October 1992 a small number of Black police and peace officers from the RCMP, OPP, Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, and Correctional Services Ontario came together to form an organization. The main goals of the organization were to: increase the numbers of Black people serving, protecting, and correcting in the law enforcement profession, improve the relationship between OUR profession and OUR community, to advocate for systemic change, and provide scholarships for OUR young people.
During the last twenty-five years we have worked with many of you as individuals or with organizations within OUR community to deliver and support programs, initiatives, and strategies aimed at improving the circumstances of many in our community. Whether it be through our scholarship and mentoring programs increasing the number of Black people employed in all facets of law enforcement, or advocating for systemic change that would result in fair, equitable, and safe law enforcement services for OUR community.
We have consistently struggled with the community to make things a little better than they were. We acknowledge that we may not have been the “loudest” voices in all the struggles, but we have been present and fully engaged both “visibly” and “behind the scenes”. During this period OUR members have taken risks that have stunted or clearly stopped some of their careers.
After reading an opinion piece authored by Desmond Cole and published in the Toronto Star on February 28, 2018, ironically the last day of Black History Month, I was reminded
of a prophetic line uttered by actor Samuel L. Jackson in his portrayal of Black New York City Police Detective “John Shaft” in the 2000 movie “Shaft”. During a scene depicting a racially tense moment between the police and the community, “Detective Shaft” said out loud “too Black for the Uniform, too Blue for the Brothers”. This is a reality we have accepted in terms of the question continually pondered both “inside” and “outside”. As a Black person in uniform, “whose side are you really on?”
After reading Mr. Cole’s critical commentary on the formation of the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC) and its’ current founding chair Justice Donald McLeod, it is clear to me that Mr. Cole is attempting to dictate on behalf of OUR community who is “...too Blue for the Brothers” (and Sisters). A review of the advocacy oriented histories of Justice McLeod along with the retired and active “police and correctional officials” he referenced in his piece, will clearly demonstrate their love for, and uninterrupted struggle with OUR community.
As A.B.L.E. members we are proud of OUR contribution to the building of community institutions such as the FBC and the things that they can and will achieve. It is important to remember that during the historical struggle for the human rights and personal dignity of Black people in Canada various members of OUR community willingly took risks or made sacrifices that jeopardized their positions. It is NOT helpful to OUR cause as Black people when other Black people who have recently come to the struggle, and have clearly not taken the time to learn the history of cooperation and collaboration between OUR community’s quiet and loud activism, cause destructive comments to be published. In any struggle, multiple strategies supported by multiple tactics are essential to success.
Every Black person has a responsibility to contribute to the improvement of OUR community. They also have a responsibility not to irresponsibly divide the community by pitting us against each other and turning allies into adversaries. The struggle for fairness and equity for Black people in this province and country is NOT about “I” and “me”, it IS about “us” and “we”. I and the men and women from OUR community who serve, protect, and correct and are A.B.L.E. members remain committed to the best interest of OUR collective future.