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Do Something about it!

14 Aug 2005

I have had those lyrics in my head all evening. Maybe it is because I was listening to the song earlier today. Or maybe it is because of the Walking-While-Black incident this morning (more on that in a minute). I don’t know. But for some reason, Macy Gray’s “Do Something!” lyrics have been floating in my head all day.

Get up, get out
And do somethin'
Don't let the days of your life pass you by
You got to
Get up, get out
And do somethin'

And I was out doing something: meeting friends for business and looking for Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice to replace the one I left in the airplane on my way back from my recent trip to California and buying my Saturday Globe & Mail and Toronto Star and then some editing work in the evening and maybe a movie or some reading later and …

Speaking of California, I observed a funny phenomenon brewing there. I drove to the northern wine country and then from San Francisco to Los Angeles . Throughout the trip, I don’t remember seeing a person other than a Latino picking strawberries and grapes in the many farms that line California''s famous Highway 1. I don’t remember seeing a Black or White gardener in the many chateaus of Napa, Sonoma or Beverly Hills. There were also very few non-Latinos in the service jobs (restaurants servers, hotel baggage handlers/counter clerks, gas attendants, etc,..).  Many sectors of downtown Los Angeles such as Grand Central Market are essentially “Latino country”.  And beyond the low-end jobs, Latinos are also present in the skilled professions and in the corridors of power. The new mayor of L.A. Antonio Villaraigosa is Mexican-American, a job he won after many years as a speaker in California''s State Assembly. “Latino-Power” is real. This is a good thing. This is a great thing because it shows the determination of America’s fastest growing minority group to carve out their own piece of the apple pie and not just ask for it. According to statistics published in the New York Times on Friday, the same trend in terms of population growth and economic adaptation is occurring in many U.S. states including Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and Texas forcing officials there to recognize that “our future is increasingly tied to our minority populations."

African-Americans should take note. How many times have you heard a comedian on BET or a sista from some major U.S. metropolitan area complain about the “Korean women” in the nail shops? That always generates the same reaction in me: “What are you gonna do about it?”

We should also take note of the lesson here in Canada. Resilience, determination and hard-work are the only qualities sure to generate some results. “Playa hatin’ from the sidelines” (to use Lil’ Kim’s famous line) never leads to anything. So instead of complaining about what is not available in our communities or what others are doing to keep us down (all worthy endeavors, but not ends in themselves) let’s try to work towards building the dream ourselves even if it involves more effort than we envisioned and many tasks that we may deem menial or beneath us.

Back to the Walking-While-Black incident this morning; As I walked to my corner store to get some much needed coffee, a police car stopped a few meters in front of me and the officer proceeded to intently stare at me as I walked up to the level of his patrol car. The whole time I analyzed my options.

“He could get me on jay-walking since I just crossed the street far away from a pedestrian cross-point or an intersection,” I thought. “But I am fine. I am not carrying anything illegal. I am not walking in a threatening way and I have not committed any crimes outside of waking up this morning and choosing to walk the streets.”

As I almost reached him, he put his foot on the gas and with tires screeching drove away.

But that made me realize that if more brothas joined the force as part of Chief Blair’s new multi-million dollar recruitment drive, maybe they’ll be more sensitive to these types of incidents. Maybe they’ll understand the psychological impact of putting a “Potential Criminal” and “Untrustworthy” label on a person for a lifetime simply because of the color of their skin. Or maybe they would not. After all, being black does not necessarily imply being sympathetic to the plight of other blacks. But not being black certainly means you cannot fully grasp their condition. And how does one cure a disease they cannot diagnose?

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