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This is one of the most personal reflections on my reality as a Black engineer in the great land of Canada and also University College professor there. When I graduated as a software engineer with a concentration in Computing Science and Mathematics and worked for big companies like Montage IT Services (now acquired by AT&T of America) wherein I completed engineering projects for NCR, an American company that makes ATM Bank machines and others like Google Inc. of San Francisco, I thought that my harsh reality as a Black man would change.
Far from it! I got detained in airports; got violently attacked by a group of White guys; some of my schoolmates got attacked or murdered for consorting or marrying White Canadian women. I was subjected to brutal stares for consorting with White women and the list is endless. As a father of a boy who is a Canadian Native, I worry about his safety as a result of Canadian police shootings of unarmed Black men. Police shootings of unarmed Black men happened a lot like a tourist attraction when I landed in the great City of Ottawa in 1989.
After shooting a Black man, White police usually gave flimsy reasons like a Black man was shot and killed on a mistaken identity meaning they thought he was the criminal they were looking for. I recall the story of a Jamaican-Canadian Vincent Gardner who was shot by a group of White men in his apartment in Ottawa. It later emerged that the White shooters were police in plainclothes who mistook Gardner’s Reggae guitar for a gun and shot him in self-defence. This is like someone mistaking your cup of coffee for a hand grenade in your house and shooting you for it to die from your wounds. Vincent Gardner later died in hospital from his gun wounds. The University of Ottawa subsequently established a memorial scholarship in honour of Vincent Gardner.
This litany of flimsy and imbecile reasons for shooting and killing a Black man is endless and legendary to a Canadian society! There was no public outcry for this case of Vincent Gardner as is the case in these matters wherein a Black man is on the receiving end of state terrorism or racist violence. There was, however, a public outry the following weeks when police shot a dog. Thus, according to the Gatineau-Ottawa citizens it is not an outcry to shoot and kill a Black man but it is an outcry for police to shoot and kill a dog. This is the harsh reality of the Black man in a Canadian society who continues to be brutalised by the daily aggressions via a spectrum of racist behaviour patterns and thereafter to be concocted that it was a victim’s fault as defined in the book A Woman In The Bush.
I recently read an article Black Toronto residents 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police, study says in the UK Guardian Newspaper reporting about police shootings of unarmed Black men as a reality that continues to exist in a Canadian society. It is curious that we read about this in a foreign newspaper and not in a Canadian newspaper.
In the same article based on the book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present written by Ms. Robyn Maynard of the University of Toronto, the writer details the many forensic cases of the demise of the Black men in the hands of the Canadian Police.
Ms. Robyn Maynard is the published author of the book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present. Picture Credit: The Guardian Newspaper.
Ms. Maynard, who draws parallels with US police who shoot unarmed Black men, makes the following chilling points:
“Black people’s ability to circulate in public space is… very different than that of white Canadians”.
“We see a climate of hostility that black communities are still experiencing by the police that at times does escalate to excessive force and even to killing.”
The President of the Canadian Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, flagrantly denies the hand of police in the killing of Black men as shown below:
“it’s a bit of a stretch” to suggest that Canada has a problem comparable to the U.S.
“Police in Canada have embraced the notion of community policing and public engagement for many, many years.”
This grandiose and unmutual denial is congruent with the Canadian principle of social taboo on the subject of racism and racial killings of Black men in spite of community policing and public engagements referred to herein.
Let me tell you a little bit about Canadians. Nobody knows Canadians and the Canadian culture better than me! I was embedded in the Canadian culture for more than twenty years in both the English and the French speaking provinces of Ontario and Quebec. I know the pulse of the Canadian society like the back of my hand!
Canadians are very polite and hospitable. They are not into your face and aggressive like the Americans. Americans are more like Afrikaaners of Azania (South Africa) whereas Canadians are more like the the English of England. Some American can swear at you and use epithets. Some Afrikaaners are the same way. The Canadians are not like that. This is an inescapanle paradox that I had to resolve because Canadians and Americans are the direct descendants of the English but they couldn’t be different.
Canadians are more reserved and polite whereas Americans are more forthright and aggressive. Notwithstanding, the Canadian politeness should not deceive you. I am scarred by those who brutalised me in the great City of Ottawa. I am scarred by the deaths of Black men in the hands of Canadian police and some racist Canadians. Not all Canadian police or people are the same. Some of my greatest friends are Canadians! There are great Canadian police who are venerated by me and some appear in my books like A Woman In The Bush. So, we are not painting everyone with the same brush.
The denial of the President of the Canadian Police Association with regards to the police shootings of unarmed Black men is a dutiful litany we have gotten accustoned to and if he didn’t invoke this litany of denial he would be accused of racial betrayal by his organisation and colleagues.
Moving on! I wrote this literary piece The Legend of the Melanin to pay tribute to the unconquerable spirit of the Melanin and to recharge the African spiritual batteries of my people. We hear stories of how our Black people are dying disproportionately in North America from the Covid-19 disease particularly from the cardiovascular complications. Our hearts and moral support go out to our people. I shall be writing a comprehensive article about Covid-19. Without further ado, The Legend of the Melanin:
The Legend of the Melanin
Mocholoko (Dr), Zulumathabo Zulu © 2020
Undefined by adversity
Like a flawless execution
Incredible sense of aplomb
Birthed by the Black African womb
To anchor the legend of the Melanin
Hitherto, educated feet
Hereafter, despite bittersweet
Undefined by a balance sheet
Despite bullied and tackled to the ground
By the killing machines of the White establishment
He rises to his educated feet
Routing the hired guns for the exit of the legend
The great Nkwe (the African leopard) of the African grasslands embarked on a do-or-die hunting expedition on account of an override of hunger that threatened his survivability. He needed a big score to enhance his survival experience and that of the members of the clan. He was hungry enough to reimagine the strategy as a paradigm case to climb to greater heights with respect to the new syntactic demands of the hunting expedition and to disrupt the unassailable status quo to achieve the impossible.
He spotted Kwena (a crocodile) at a great distance on the beach of the African lake looking away and basking the endless African sun in a trancelike state of ecstasy. The incumbent Kwena was oblivious to the brewing storm of danger in the treacherous jungle on account of his exuberant confidence in the protective bossom of the African geography of the waterways.
The Genesis of the Expedition
The contrarian Nkwe began his expedition towards his intractable target still a great distance away. Kwena was strategically protected by the impregnable geography of the African jungle. After traversing land, Nkwe had no choice but to stealthily traverse the unsuspecting waters towards his dangerous target. This was a perilous move considering that the water is a natural and defensive terrain of Kwena and Nkwe is not a high speed swimmer like Kwena to escape the clutches of the vanguard. In the great struggle for survival, Nkwe is the underdog and Kwena is the top dog. Thus, Nkwe was stepping into the defensive rings of a formidable adversary as an obscure underdog with no fighting chance but he was hungry enough not to be disuaded.
Nkwe swam like a stealth submarine and eventually got within a striking distance of his big target. Like a deafening African thunderbolt, Kwena was struck and grabbed on the neck with hungry canine teeth and powerful claws from behind while soaking in the endless African sunshine. The nabbed Kwena mightily shook off Nkwe but Nkwe held on like a tenacious monkey on his back.
The struggle for survival went on for a couple of minutes and Nkwe had the upperhand. Kwena was not robust enough to recover from setback. With a jugular of Kwena in the tight grip of the mighty Nkwe, there was neither escape nor leverage to reverse the fortunes of Nkwe. Kwena later succumbed to the tight grip of Nkwe and was dragged away like a carcas for lunch.
African leopard squeezing life out of an African crocodile in Azania (South Africa). This leopard versus crocodile case happened in a different location from the story of this article but the theme is resonant. Picture Credit: Hal Brindley and Telegraph Media Group.
The Moral of the Story
The moral of the story is that the jungle exacts stringent punishment upon those who fail to pay attention to the small details of their surroundings and the infinitesimal changes that are driven by the transcending principles of deterministic; probabilistic and stochastic causality of the dangerous jungle. Moreover, the jungle detests those who are smitten by a victory’s disease as was the case with Kwena who had gotten used to an unbroken record as the dominant reptilian predator in the African jungle. This time around, the gods of fortune had abandoned Kwena and he became dispossessed of his terrain and his life as a result.
It is not enough to be the incumbent behemoth who relies on the default protection of the geography of the terrain and the past records of victory. The volatile principles of causality can reverse the fortunes of the status quo. You must recruit the terrain using cosmic resonance and humility to protect you as the unblemished and uncontested architect of destiny. You must conspire with nature and the gods of fortune to enhance your survival experience.
It is also imperative to be possessed by a cognitive awareness of a cruel fact that even if you are a successful defender in the jungle, it is feasible to become dispossessed and victimised by your success and thus to be unseated. As a result, you must be fortified by the strongest medicines and be immunised against the victory disease something that Nkwe is diligent about.
For these reasons and to enhance your survival experience, you need to cultivate a neurotic sense of vigilance; cosmic resonance and attention to detail with respect to the abrupt infinitesimal changes that materialise in the jungle. The jungle does not favour the incumbent. From time to time, the agnostic jungle gives an attacker’s advantage to the gutsy underdog challenger and a flawless strategist regardless of the asymmetry of power relations and the default privileges of the status quo.
La lucha continua (The struggle continues); No rendirse (No surrender); Nunca jamas (Never never); El destino es nuestro (The destiny is ours); Thokoza Makhosi (High Veneration to the Ancestors). Tsamaroko! Ezamathongo! Mocholoko, Zulumathabo Zulu.
Zulu, Z (2014). The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert: African Philosophical Transcendence. Madisebo University College Press: Johannesburg.
Zulu, Z (2014). A Woman In The Bush. Madisebo University College Press: Johannesburg.
Zulu, Z. (2009). The African Philosophy of Coexistentialism, Unpublished, Ottawa, Canada.
Zulu, Z. (2019) “African Metaphysical Science and Decolonisation”, Faculty of Education, North West University – Potchefstroom, North West Province, Azania.
Zulu, Z. Ontological States of the Object, Unpublished, Ottawa, Canada.
Zulu, Z. African Rules of the Jungle, Unpublished, Ottawa, Canada.