Considering race-based statistics – Opinion/letters – Considering race-based statistics
November 22, 2008

Re:Race stats confine black youth, Nov. 17

As a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, I was a constant target of racial profiling by the Kingston police force. I was constantly being followed in my car, trailed while walking home, searched, questioned, singled out and humiliated in front of my peers. My stories were met with suspicion and disbelief by friends and acquaintances. They did not believe the police would target me without just cause.

In 2005, after I had left Kingston, its police force released the results of the Kingston Data Collection project, which showed that black and aboriginal youth were far more likely to be stopped, charged and arrested than other youth. Without this kind of data, those of us who see institutionalized racism as a key factor in youth crime can only offer anecdotes and suspicions.

Rosie DiManno’s suggestion that race-based data could be used to exploit black youth misses the point. The state is already exploiting them, and it is using the complete lack of data collection, transparency and accountability to pretend it does not discriminate based on race. We need hard data to shame our governments, police, judiciaries and the public into action.

Desmond Cole, Toronto

Statistics are an integral feature of every contemporary democracy. But Rosie DiManno is absolutely correct to point out the need for caution when they are used to shape policy, for the categories they use are not value-free.

Unfortunately, DiManno seems to want it both ways. On the one hand, she argues that “race-based statistics cannot possibly be reliably benign or helpfully instructive,” and then goes on to prove precisely the opposite, by insisting that black youths are “disproportionately vulnerable to family breakdown” and suffer from “intolerably high dropout rates.”

How are we to know that these proportions and rates are accurate in the absence of race-based statistics? What we should strive to eliminate are not such statistics, but their abuse in the public domain.

Kenton Kroker, Toronto

McGuinty eyes race stats, Nov. 15

Reluctantly, it would appear, Dalton McGuinty states, “I just think that none of us any longer enjoys the luxury of bringing an ideological approach to dealing with race-base data.” Too bad he doesn’t reject the “ideological approach” to other policy areas as well.

Successive provincial governments have followed the Community Living ideology to close facilities for people with disabilities despite objective evidence that such moves were against the wishes of the most affected individuals and families, and that communities and parental homes were inadequately prepared to accommodate people released from the facilities as well as the large number already living “in the community.”

Proof of this contention is to be found in the Nov. 15 article by Helen Henderson, Help falls short for home-based care. To quote: “Kids with disabilities and their families continue to suffer needlessly from shortfalls in provincial programs and services that are supposed to help them cope at home.”

Mr. Premier, an ideological approach to any policy is not a “luxury” as you note; it’s a recipe for ineffectiveness at best and for human disaster at worst.

Dennis Paproski, Kingston

The notion that collecting race-based statistics will somehow help address youth violence is shallow. What does an Ethiopian-Canadian share in common with a Canadian of Jamaican origin? Lumping together ethnic groups based on their skin colour with utter disregard for the huge differences among them isn’t going to help address the unique challenges each community faces. This amounts to collecting gender-based statistics merely because men are overrepresented in violence. How is that going to practically help?

Petros Woldeyohannes, Toronto

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