Your right and your duty to speak up

Have you noticed that your Caribbean Camera newspaper has not featured its popular feature “Views on the News” for some time now?

There is a reason for that and it has nothing to do with our newspaper’s policies. The fact is that it has become more and more difficult to find six persons who are willing to publicly give their opinions on the issues of the day.

Can you imagine our weekly challenge in having to call sixty persons in order to get six of them to agree to provide their comments on any given issue? Sometimes even one out of ten may not be enough to bring in six comments for you to read.

Rest assured that our newspaper has no intention of giving up on this important and valuable column that mirrors our community’s viewpoints and opens up a microphone for our readers to share their opinions and concerns. So we firmly intend to resume publishing your “Views on the News”.

The point we are making is that it is more than a frustrating experience. It is a telling indication of the extent to which our community members are afraid to speak out publicly.

Since when are we becoming such victims of fear? Or is it that we have already lost the courage to stand up and be counted?

There is an even more worrying indication of our evolving culture of silence due to fear.

Last week, two men were killed and one woman was seriously injured when gunshots interrupted a birthday party in the north-eastern corner of the GTA. It was allegedly a house party with about 200 persons, mainly Blacks, many of whom must have known each other in one way or another.

And yet, nary a soul has come forward, even anonymously, to provide any information on the identity of the attackers. Bear in mind that, according to news reports, the three victims of the shooting have been categorized as “known to the police”.

What explains this pattern of silence in the face of fear? Fear of whom or of what? Is it fear that the perpetrators would punish anyone who provides information about a crime to the police? Is it fear in the minds of potential witnesses that the police’s confidentiality and protection systems are not good enough? Or is it that the members of our community do not want to have anything to do with the police period, due to an ingrained lack of trust in the police and the police systems?

Or is it simply an unspecified combination of all three of those factors?

So what does all of that mean? What has the Black community come to? Are we in a stalemate or a dead end?

Therein lies the issue: it is one thing to have a hands-off attitude towards the police, but quite another to have the same hands-off attitude towards crime.

How can we justify to ourselves such a hands-off attitude towards crime when we see that Black people account for such a high proportion of the persons questioned, arrested, convicted or jailed in the police, court and prison systems?

Either we want to do something about the causes and consequences of unfavourable outcomes for such large numbers of Black people or we don’t. Sitting on the fence or remaining quiet will leave those undesirable realities unchanged.

Do we care enough to work to break the vicious circle of Black persons remaining at the bottom of the society? Are we satisfied that some of us and our families are doing well enough in education, employment and quality of life, while so many of our Black community are figuring prominently as the perpetrators and victims of crime?

Can we be proud of such a short-sighted mixture of complacency and selfishness? Or do we get involved only when one of our loved ones gets caught up in the merciless web that traps criminals and victims of crime at one and the same time?

Let us get out of that trap before we get ensnared.

Let us exercise our right and our duty to speak up.