Ugh, I have some weird deathly ill throat virus that started as body aches, moved to a cold, and now is agonizing pain in my throat and a gross clammy fever. I’ll be back next week with more extensive Morning Filing.
1. Cameras in Uniacke Square
Metro Regional Housing Authority plans to install security cameras in Uniacke Square.
From Jacob Boon’s article in The Coast:
Department of Community Services spokesperson Heather Fairbairn says the CCTV system is an attempt to address ongoing problems with unauthorized parking and illegal garbage dumping.
If we actually believe that issues with parking and garbage require a full surveillance system and are the only motivation for these cameras, then the implication is that MRHS has calculated that the right to privacy of people in the Square is worth less than making sure garbage is in the right dumpster. In this best case scenario, the rights of the entire neighbourhood have been deemed to be less important when weighed against the inconvenience of managing some cars and garbage effectively.
Garbage disposal is an issue around Halifax West too. Residents in North Preston have been complaining for generations about white people coming into their community to dump garbage, so maybe there should be cameras up in nearby white communities to surveil white residents. Hell, the city placed a giant garbage dump in the middle of Africville, so maybe they should pay reparations to the former residents, and then the North End community would have its own resources to decide what they want to do with their own housing, parking, and garbage.
It’s pretty clear, however, that residents aren’t buying this official explanation. Boon quotes Josh Creighton from the North End Community Action Committee:
“The number of complaints [MRHA] has received about the standard of living in Uniacke Square, and they haven’t done anything to address those issues,” he says. “But they have money for surveillance cameras? It’s just crazy.”…
…More bluntly, Creighton calls the cameras dehumanizing. They are an unknown authority staring down, unblinking, at a largely-Black neighbourhood that’s historically been disenfranchised.
“It’s like animals in a zoo, in a cage,” says Provo. “You’re putting up these cameras to watch humans, like they’re not even human.”
Kyturera Jones, a current resident of Uniacke Square, wonders why the MRHA is suddenly so concerned about its residents—and if there aren’t better ways it could be investing in the community.
“They don’t upkeep their units,” she says. “If they’re worried about our safety, they should come full-force about that.”
Coming upon the heels of the data about police checks revealing that Black people are stopped three times more than white people, and that the data used from these disproportionate checks is then fed into maps which are used to designate “high crime” areas and deploy more police into those neighbourhoods, it’s impossible to separate the installation of security cameras from the culture of criminalizing, policing, and surveilling Black bodies.
As the recent case of hacked school security cameras in Cape Breton made clear, the data from these cameras is not secure and can easily be accessed. If people are concerned about the privacy of children in Cape Breton, what about the images of Black children playing outside that can be misappropriated and shared online? And what about women and their families who may be hiding from an abusive partner, and who now can’t be sure that their location won’t be broadcast somewhere online?
Beyond the possibility of images being hacked, we still haven’t got any straight answers from the police about what happens to the data they accumulate from police checks. Desmond Cole’s protest at the recent Toronto Police Board meeting demanded that police restrict access to historical carding information, while police have argued they are legally obligated to retain the data. There is no reason to imagine Halifax Police respond differently to the information they gain from checks, and it is certain that they keep and access this information.
If the police maintain information from their checks, are we to believe that Housing is simply going to scan through the images, look for illegal dumping or parking, and then erase them?
And what happens if (when) the police demand the records and use them to form further profiles on people from the neighbourhood? These cameras allow police and other authorities to essentially track and watch community members from childhood, compiling profiles and images of everyone in the neighbourhood. And no doubt these images can then be used to prove so-and-so smoked weed and therefore deserved to be shot/beaten by police/lose their job/be evicted, etc.
As residents point out, Housing won’t spend money to renovate units or look after other safety concerns, but they can find money to install cameras. As always, the Black community is denied positive resources, but there’s always money to be made for others off of Black bodies. It won’t be a Black-run company who gets the contract to install cameras either (which still wouldn’t make surveillance okay), so as usual resources are extracted out of Black communities to benefit everyone but Black people.
Just as the prison industrial complex encourages us to “invest in punishment” rather than in employment, education, treatment, or healing for communities, contracts like these security cameras see Black communities as exploitable rather than fixable. Black communities are deliberately deprived of resources because they then generate money for other people.
If we don’t educate Black children in schools, then white people can set up programs and organizations that get money to tutor those same children. If Black youth aren’t prepared for jobs because of this failure of education, white people can start non-profits to create programs with those youths to prepare them for employment, and profit from that.
If Black people are disproportionately policed and incarcerated, Black families are paying for lawyers, paying for phones in prison, paying for canteen, and otherwise sending resources out of our communities to prop up the prison system which couldn’t survive without us putting this money in (if prisoners refused to work, and families refused to send in any money to buy clothes, food, TV, phone time, etc. it would cost hundreds of millions more to run the system).
Of course, if Housing, for example, allowed long-term residents to rent to own and put money into keeping up the units so that they were desirable homes, the community itself would be empowered to control their own parking, garbage, and security without relying on outside companies or on the government.
The more agency people have over their living space and neighbourhood, the more likely they are to organize together to mutually care for that space and the less likely people are to damage that space when they have responsibility and ownership for it. But rather than helping the community invest in improvement, it’s better to just bring in a company to make some money off whatever problems in the community can be exploited.
Look at the “tour” of the community, for example. Rhetoric around the Square being high crime and dangerous has been circulated for years in white communities (for example, university first-year students report being told to never go in the neighbourhood). This narrative created about the Square as an area “we” don’t go in contributes to the stigma of the community, and furthers the othering of Black bodies. But let there be a contract out make some money off policing the community, and companies are now coming in to “tour” the area, to see where they can best position cameras.
There are a number of issues with this construct. For one thing, this essentially pre-frames the community. People who are unfamiliar with the community except usually through negative coverage are not being brought in to see the community in a different light — to get to know the people living their day-to-day, share in their experiences, or see all the positive things that take place in the community. Instead, they are being brought in only to see how the community can be watched.
This essentially re-inforces an already negative perspective. When we tell people not to go in a community, and then only bring them in to see the community’s problems, how can their interventions be anything but biased?
Then the installation of cameras further designates this community unsafe and a problem, feeding back into the same rhetoric. Rather than making the community safer, these strategies all label Black people as more dangerous than white people and in need of being controlled.
Judith Butler talks about how seeing isn’t actually neutral. We imagine we see “reality,” and that seeing is “objective,” but in fact we see what we are conditioned to see, and we don’t see what we are not taught to see. Seeing is actually ideological.
If we are taught to see Black crime, then we also install cameras to further that seeing, which then teach us even further to see Black people as uniquely criminal.
Here, for example, Butler examines how the video in the Rodney King beating that showed seemingly inarguable evidence of police brutality against white bodies was actually seen by white people as showing the Black threat to white police. Butler writes:
That it [seeing King as the threat and the police as victims] was achieved is not the consequence of ignoring the video, but rather, of reproducing the video within a racially saturated field of visibility. If racism pervades white perception, structuring what can and cannot appear within the field of white perception, then to what extent does it interpret in advance “visual evidence?” And how, then, does such “evidence” have to be read, and read publicly, against the racist disposition of the visible which will prepare and achieve its own inverted perceptions under the rubric of “what is seen?”
Butler explores how white people could see in the King video not a Black man being brutally beaten, but a body “threatening police, and saw in those blows the reasonable action of the police in self-defense.” Her point is that racism structures how white people literally see the world — just as earlier cartoons depicted grotesque parodies of Black bodies and faces that white people “saw” as accurate, racist narratives around neighbourhoods like the Square ensure that white people “see” these neighbourhoods differently.
Rather than simply installing cameras that will neutrally and without bias gaze upon the community capturing objective evidence, the very act of choosing to put cameras in the Square already determines how that community will be seen, and already “prepares” us to see evidence of criminality.
Black people, of course can barely set foot in white neighbourhoods without the police asking us what we’re doing there. We can’t even go buy groceries in the store without being accused of stealing. In our own neighbourhoods, we will be watched by cameras, and out of them, we will be watched by whatever other authoritative white eye reminds us we are out of place and do not belong.
Where are Black people to go and how are we to live and breathe when are options are stay home under the gaze of the camera, or come out and be followed around the store?
Meanwhile, Dalhousie students are doing $90, 000 drug deals out of the frat houses and equipping their apartments with gun safes, but sure, Black people are the only problem here. Given the number of sleep watchers, flashers, public masturbators, and rapists in the South End, you’d think maybe cameras would be a priority there.
Human rights lawyer Anthony Morgan, formerly of the African Canadian Legal Clinic compares the installation of cameras to the tracking and surveilling of Black bodies during enslavement.
It’s reminiscent of lantern laws in American cities like New York, where, before central electricity, Black folks were required to walk around with lanterns after dark so they could remain visible. The subtext of this is that Black, otherwise radicalized, and/or poor folks are prone and predisposed to unknown acts of violence, crime, and deviance, so they need to be under constant supervision of the state and higher authorities to maintain social order and public peace.
This is part of slavery’s afterlife. Instead of providing communities with resources and supports to decrease the push factors of crime (i.e. poverty. poor housing, unemployment and under-employment, etc.) we invest in violent technologies of surveillance and policing.
Just as theorists of the school-t0-prison pipeline identify the installation of technologies such as metal detectors, security guards and school police into Black schools as pre-conditioning children to being searched and watched in prison, cameras installed in communities similarly accustom Black people to being policed and incarcerated.
The Black neighbourhood becomes a “panopticon” prison, where Black people are policed even in the open air. As if it wasn’t enough to disproportionately put us into actual prisons, now even when we’re not in prison we can expect to be subjected to prison-like conditions.
As Angela Davis has identified, the technology of the prison always makes its way outwards into the so-called free world. Worst of all is the gaslighting to convince Black people that this is for our own good.
In her book Dark Matters, Simone Browne, looks at how Blackness is a key site through which surveillance is practiced. From the slave ship, to the recording of Black movement in the Book of Negroes, lantern laws, runaway slave ads, and other historical practices, to contemporary policing, prisons, and security, surveillance is a “fact of Blackness.”
Even when Black people use technologies of surveillance for our own purposes, such as filming the police, those acts can be turned against us — for example, King’s beating being read as him being threatening, police claiming they mistook a camera for a gun, police arresting someone filming and charging them with resisting arrest, etc.
Beyond formal practices of watching Black bodies, white people often collaborate in cultures of surveillance, for example by calling police or security on Black bodies perceived to be out of place and therefore threatening.
The constant logic of authority is that surveillance equals safety. We are increasingly convinced to mortgage our privacy rights under the belief that airport searches or school security officers or our work tracking our keystrokes is intended to keep us “safe.” This rhetoric is repeated so often that we never question what safety actually means or how “safety” is being deployed. If a claim is made to “safety,” then that claim becomes unquestioned, and is used to squash dissent.
Cameras will not make people in the Square safer. In fact, there’s a good argument it could contribute to making people less safe by further stigmatizing the neighbourhood, leading to less investment in the community, and further alienating residents from each other and from their own community.
What would make people more safe is affordable and secure housing without the threat of eviction, non-precarious labour, strong tenancy organizations, and returning ownership of the community to residents who are empowered to collectively make decisions about their own well-being and given the resources to make improvements.
Safety is being safe from police checks and safe from having your data kept forever. Safety is being safe from racism and safe from being criminalized. Safety is feeling like a human being.
2. Must be nice
Speaking of images, there’s a marked difference to the way Taylor Samson’s death is covered compared to how Black shooting victims are represented.
Testimony in the trial has indicated that Samson was selling 20 pounds of weed — worth $90,000 — when he was murdered. So he was a drug dealer. Of course, he is consistently described as a “physics student.” Even Sandeson, accused of the murder and also a drug dealer, is generally described as a “future medical student.”
Let Black people be arrested with bags full of money coated in blood and see how they describe us. Police seize a couple of thousand of dollars from Black people and they display it on the front page talking about they busted up a major gang in their operation. But when it’s white guys who are apparently drug kingpins with full security systems wired in their apartments and drugs growing in their closets and safes with guns and bullets in them, they’re still “students.” Where are the stories about “Operation Dalhousie” with police busting up drug rings at the university?
Friends and family are openly testifying in the trial that they knew about the drug dealing. Of course, if you’re a Black or Indigenous or poor woman who knows about your boyfriend dealing or about his criminal activity, then you’re probably doing jail time, or you’ve been threatened with having your children taken away, or they’ve used the threat of charging you as an accessory to try to get you to tell on him (and face being labelled a snitch and being endangered in your community).
God help a Black girl whose boyfriend was carrying 20 pounds of weed. They’ll be charging her as a co-conspirator and threatening her with 10 years.
This is the picture Global News chose to illustrate a story about Black shooting victim Daverico Downey:
This, in contrast, is the image used of Samson:
Black victims, of course, have their drug dealing, gang connections, previous records, and anything else to smear them reported. White victims, even when engaged in the exact same activity are still allowed white innocence.
Sandeson, accused of the murder, is interrogated with more kindness than innocent Black people get in encounters with police checks.
I’m not suggesting we should start smearing white victims, threatening their families, and traumatizing them. But it would be nice if even innocent Black people could be accorded the same humanity and dignity habitually granted to white people no matter what it is they’re accused of doing. We are assumed to be guilty just by existing, and are treated accordingly. White people, even caught on tape with bags full of drugs, are still allowed to be seen as people, not as criminals. And white killers are yet again viewed with more empathy than Black victims. If only some of that sympathy were ever extended to us.
Editor’s note: El Jones is an important and strong voice in the community, and we at the Examiner are proud to host her work every Saturday. To help us continue to provide Jones with this platform, please consider subscribing to the Examiner. Just $5 or $10 a month goes a long way. Or, consider making a one-time contribution via PayPal. Thanks much!
Thank you again, El, for such an excellent report!
How the Samson murder has been covered is truly ridiculous.
I ran across this article earlier today:
#2 How fortunate can an accused killer be? Corrections approved internet access during pretrial detention plus on-line paralegal course! Would a poor, accused person get that lucky?
So much to read here! The sadistic attack by law enforcement on Rodney King was torture. Judith Butler’s “racially saturated field of visibility” implies white people are racist and see one image through the hate lens. She’s wrong
Regarding El Jones #1 – If closed-circuit television is employed in Uniacke Square to “address unauthorized parking and illegal garbage dumping” why not plant that camera also on Barrington to capture vandals sticking trash into cemetery walls and throwing crap over them or at Dresden Row’s pathetic parking lot? If Halifax can spend bucks on CCTV for one area remember how wide this quaint little city is and share the initiative.
I used to be a racist. But I got woke from El Jones. I realized that the only way for Black communities to resist gentrification is to disavow white racist settler concepts like “facts”, “evidence” and “law and order”.
Without “safety” and “good schools” whypepl will not move into Black neighborhoods. Cameras are an important part of white supremacy. Because some racists will interpret Black culture as sociopathic criminality, it is important that Black communities remain inxvisible to whyppl communities. It is important
to note that any “statistical” problem in Black communities is a result of slavery.
Everything is by design, including the conditioning of generation after generation to react/think in a certain way towards non-white people.
I’d like to move past symptoms and try to uncover the answer to the root question: Why is racist conditioning injected into every aspect of society?
It can start as early as 3 years old when children are taught about how to deal with racism. The boogey man doesn’t exist until someone tells you about him: racial prejudice is such an ignorant concept; to actually believe that the tone of the skin determines value reeks of mental illness. If you start early enough with the conditioning, it’s easier for that mental retardation to assume a “normal” place in the foundational concepts formed by the human brain around how we interact with and react to each other.
One huge example of white-is-best conditioning is Jesus: born in the Middle East without the tan. If Jesus were alive today he’d look more like 0sama Bin Laden than a white dude (just sayin’). Make Jesus white and all of a sudden, no non-white person can ever (really) achieve that image of purity. With one fell swoop, deliberate religious conditioning elevated whiteness to a higher, in-the-image-of-god, level. It’s subtle and it’s not. The more important question is, whose idea was it to do that and what did they gain? Apply this question to everything.
The image of Jesus is surreal. Imagine history if this icon was truly coloured ???? Plus our future
jvangurp: I’ll join you.
1. Cameras in Uniacke Square
“They are an unknown authority staring down, unblinking, at a largely-Black neighborhood that’s historically been disenfranchised.”
I’ve often thought surveillance cameras would make wonderful targets for enterprising paint-ballers. Their efforts would certainly reduce the effectiveness and increase the expense of such oversight, plus it sends a message that this will not be tolerated by a target community.
“Rhetoric around the Square being high crime and dangerous has been circulated for years in white communities”
Ignoring for a moment the fair suggestion that it ‘pre-frames’ the Uniacke Square community, is said rhetoric true? Am I more likely to get mugged there than elsewhere in inner urban HRM?
“Butler explores how white people could see in the King video not a Black man being brutally beaten, but a body “threatening police, and saw in those blows the reasonable action of the police in self-defense.” “
I recall seeing that video clip with a half dozen or so cops standing over King on the ground and beating the living crap out of him. Everyone I knew (all white) felt this was a slam dunk case of police brutality, clearly and for once indisputably displayed. I was amazed that somehow this footage was successfully used in court to argue the cops had genuine concern for their personal security and should not be convicted. Yes, it didn’t show what happened before the camera rolled, but it clearly showed a subdued man surrounded by violent cops that had no obvious reason to fear him. I recall wondering if the same attorneys could have used British footage of the hideous liberation of Bergen Belsen to free Goering at Nuremburg.
I wonder if the police defense could pull of the same thing in Canada?
Video footage of RCMP tasering Robert Dziekański (a white man) to death at Vancouver Airport in 2007 was initially seized from its owner by the RCMP, and he had to go to court to have it returned.
“…The officers were served notices of misconduct by the commission … warnings allege specific but overlapping grounds … that they failed to properly assess and respond to the circumstances in which they found Mr. Dziekański … repeatedly deployed the taser without justification and separately failed to adequately reassess the situation before further deploying it … afterwards they misrepresented facts in notes and statements … Three of the officers appealed and lost. In July 2013 one of the three officers was cleared of perjury. The remaining two officers stood trial in 2014 … officer who fired the Taser on the night Robert Dziekański died … was found guilty of perjury and colluding with his fellow officers before testifying at the inquiry into Dziekański’s death, and on June 22, 2015, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dzieka%C5%84ski_Taser_incident)
Likewise footage of the tasering of Sammy Yatim (who was at least threatening people with a pocket knife) by a Toronto cop in 2013 helped result in “the only time an on-duty Ontario officer was charged and convicted in the death of a person since the inception of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in 1990”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Sammy_Yatim)
Whatever the nature of racism white Canadians may show toward black Canadians, I suspect it may not be identical to that of white Americans. (Neither groups is homogeneous in that regard of course). However white jurors on the King jury (apparently already hostile toward blacks) may have been carefully conditioned and persuaded by the defense to interpret the significance of footage of the King beating, it does not follow that Butler can simplistically generalize all white folks as racist morons. If I am one, why am I paying to read El Jones in the Saturday Examiner, much less trying to respectfully reply?
“We are increasingly convinced to mortgage our privacy rights under the belief that airport searches or school security officers or our work tracking our keystrokes is intended to keep us “safe.” “
Couldn’t agree more. Airport surveillance protects us from terrorist attacks that would wreck the airline industry. Those terrorists might be dispatched here because the West has continued to interfere in the sovereignty and finances of the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, at least. This has underpinned the wasteful use of cheap and reliable sources oil and the security of Israel. The groping and irradiation of toddlers and old women at airports and the demands for internet surveillance without judicial warrant therefore buttresses the right of the West (mostly the US, but also Canada) to continue to have its way in the Middle East.
There comes a point where one has to wonder what represents more of a direct threat to citizens living in a supposed democracy – terrorism or the expansion of an uncontrollable police state. That would be bad for everyone, but worse I suppose for ‘visible minorities’ who are already facing extra surveillance, like what is proposed for Uniacke Square – to monitor garbage (and parking).
“Am I more likely to get mugged there than elsewhere in inner urban HRM?”
NO. Take a look at HRM’s crime map:
nothing in the past 5 days in the vicinity of Uniacke Square..
Thank you El. It’s cartoonishly absurd that the Department of Community Services doesn’t see how outrageous this is. I hope there’s enough of a public understanding of the issue to see the plan shot down. Speaking of which, as a white guy I’ll volunteer for an all-white camera smashing squad, if the things ever get installed. The media will be very gentle in profiling me after the arrest and I’ll probably just get a short period of probation from judge Lenehan after being excused for being drunk at the time.
I’d go for that, not to smash cameras but to put pictures of white criminals in front of the lenses. Especially white collar criminals.