I am 19 years old. I am a black male. And I am tired of being harassed by authority figures in my life, from police, to security guards, to adults in general. I doubt I am the only one. I'm sharing my story with hopes that others will do so as well.
My parents raised me with a good head on my shoulders and taught me the rights and the wrongs of the world: Follow your morals, get an education, and live life to the fullest. They have also taught me that I will have to work twice as hard as others, because the system has set me up for failure.
Growing up, I've heard stories of my brother getting harassed by police, but I could not believe something like that would happen to him. He's not a criminal; in my eyes, he's a brother, a son, and a nephew. I couldn't truly understand his feelings during those moments until I experienced it firsthand.
As of this moment, I have been contacted by police on five different occasions for various reasons ranging from driving infractions, flying my drone, or just walking in a park. There is an implicit accusation here: I must be up to no good. This has led to me making safety precautions like installing a dashcam in every car that I drive. People tend to lie and exaggerate the truth; video doesn't.
I thought I was being paranoid, until I got accused of impaired driving at a drive thru by a manager. Maybe I showed common signs of being impaired, but I had just come from studying at home. When I told others about my experience they downplayed it, and assumed I probably had been drinking.
Until I showed them the dashcam footage.
It is easy to deny the existence of a force you will never feel.
Only then could they side with me. This taught me my words mean nothing, unless I am able to prove my own innocence with evidence. I am never given the benefit of the doubt.
My experience at the restaurant is what sparked me to take a stand, and voice my experiences on Reddit. The community response was overwhelmingly supportive, but others still had their doubts. "This was not race related, it's because you are a teenager. Racism is extremely rare and basically never happens." by Reddit user. For those who believe race has not been a factor, I turn to an investigation by Ivan Zinger, J.D., PhD on "The Changing Face of Canada's Prisons."
This investigation finds that a disproportionate amount of visible minorities are incarcerated significant rate compared to Caucasians. In 2013 minority incarceration rates increased by almost 75%, while during the same period Caucasians rate dropped by 3%.
While people may feel racism is long gone and we have moved past it as a society, they may not have to deal with the constant pressure of validating your innocence. It is easy to deny the existence of a force you will never feel.
The change I am seeking is cultural. These changes to society do not happen overnight, which is why we have to start today. For the time being, I ask everyone to walk in someone else's shoes. Empathy for one another will overpower these needless accusations, and will bridge us closer together with one another. We can go so far if we just give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Toronto is a city which is progressive and can adapt to new idea's and cultural changes. It starts in our homes first, we need to grow and overcome together.
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