By Desmond Cole
As the realities of police carding become more known in Toronto, the public is increasingly rejecting the practice. Sixty per cent of respondents to a recent Forum poll disapprove of carding, the Toronto police practice of stopping civilians who are not suspected of any crime, and documenting their personal identification. Black voters, who admittedly made up a small sample size in the survey, rejected carding to the tune of 81 per cent. Given that innocent black people are disproportionately the targets of carding, this is no surprise.
Since I wrote a Toronto Life feature on discrimination, in which I documented the many times I have been needlessly stopped or carded by Toronto police, I've received hundreds of messages from people asking what they can do to counter this shady practice. I propose a simple but revolutionary intervention that nearly anyone can take up: if you see a black person being stopped in public by Toronto police, simply approach that person and ask, "Are you OK?"
In my experience, this suggestion evokes a curious amount of anxiety in people, particularly white people, the vast majority of whom are never arbitrarily stopped by police. They wonder if they might be putting themselves in danger by intervening in a police interaction.
To this I can only reply that in 2013, black Torontonians were up to 17 times more likely than white residents to be carded by police in certain neighbourhoods, particularly those with a majority of white residents. Those who are not targeted in this way might consider how scary it is for those who live it every day.