Report shows police are key drivers of racism against Black people: Akwasi Owusu-Bempah of UTM discusses the cycle of criminalization

September 22, 2020 by Kendra Smith

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah was recently featured in an opinion piece in The Toronto Star by columnist Shree Paradkar. The story discusses a new report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) detailing how Toronto Police are more likely to criminalize and use violence during encounters with Black people. The article Are we OK living in a society where (yet another human rights report shows) police are key drivers of racism against Black people?, cites Professor Owusu-Bempah speaking on the OHRC report. Owusu-Bempah explains how racism enters the cycle of criminalization beginning with the overpolicing of Black communities and accumulates throughout each level of engagement with the law enforcement and court systems. He highlights how the disruption of these encounters has broad and long-lasting impacts on Black lives well after individual encounters with law enforcement, and these effects can feed back into the cycle that finds Black people at a heightened risk of being criminalized.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the U of T Mississauga campus. He frequently provides commentary to public and governmental agencies, community organizations, and media outlets on topics related to his research focus: the intersection of race, policing and justice.

We've included an excerpt to the article below. Read the full article in The Toronto Star here (paywall).

Are we OK living in a society where (yet another human rights report shows) police are key drivers of racism against Black people?

By Shree Paradkar Race & Gender Columnist
Tue., Aug. 11, 2020

“We’re committed to learning and continuing to address the harmful impacts of systemic racism.”

Oh, Toronto police! At what point did you decide to make this commitment you declared to media Monday? Was it in January when Kanika Samuel-Wortley’s report on Durham police found Black youth more likely to be charged and less likely to be cautioned for minor crimes? Was it in 2017 when the Black Experience Project revealed, among other things, that 79 per cent of young Black men said they were stopped by police in public for no apparent reason?

Was it in 2010 when Barrington Walker identified historical trends in charges and convictions of Black Canadians beginning in 1858? The Roots of Violence report in 2008?

Or maybe 1998, when Clayton Mosher offered a historical examination of systemic racism in social, legal and criminal justice systems?

Or was it literally only Monday when a new report titled “A Disparate Impact,” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), found that Black people are far more likely to be arrested, charged, shot and killed by Toronto police?

“When we think about why it is Black people exist in the conditions they do in Toronto today, to what extent are the police playing a role in producing those conditions?” asks University of Toronto sociologist Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who co-authored the upcoming book “Race, Ethnicity, Crime and Justice.”

We’re awash with the evidence of violence against Black people in this country, in this province, in this city. That evidence-gathering is at least partly in response to policy-making naysayers who continuously couch their ignorance with the demand: “Where is the evidence of racism?”

However, racism doesn’t shift because data exists. The practice of brutalizing a people and calling them brutes wouldn’t survive 400 years if it were so fragile as to actually disappear in the face of evidence.

Read the full article...