Nothing changed for anyone yesterday but the policeman who shot a kid and the kid (and his family) who was shot by a policeman. My life didn't change, neither did yours. Stop acting like it did, all of you.
That one policeman, that one kid, did not change the world. And that kid, is no Trayvon Martin. And the shooter, not a normal everyday Joe with a racist ax to grind. Do not compare these two stories, they are not the same, nor should they ever be said in the same breath. Trayvon Martin was no perfect angel but he was an unarmed teenager walking home through the wrong area when a very outspoken racist tired of dealing with African Americans in his world, killed him. He just happened to be an African American kid in the wrong place at the wrong time when his life was taken by a racist asshole. We all saw that. What I find odd is that a mixed race Hispanic named Zimmerman found problems with other races. But here is that case summarized in one line; a racist shot a kid and got away with it.
I grew up in Toronto, I was born there, raised there, and only left it in my 40s. This is a city as a child I used to run amok in. I remembering playing in literal back alleys, it was the norm. Me and my big wheel were big shooters in them alleys. All the families doors were unlocked most of the day and night if anyone was home and kids, yours and others came and went. I remember my Mom once saying "and you are?", as my friend she hadn't met ran in to use the bathroom. I quickly explained but she didn't blink. This is a time when kids played outside until after the street lights came on. You know you remember when the lights went on we knew the Mom's were gonna start yelling. And we all said "quick hide, maybe they won't call us". It wasn't unheard but totally common place for a young girl and her bestie to walk 3 city residential blocks over to the local store at dusk to get a Lola. I rode the TTC at 12, and at 13 bused to school alone. High School was bus and subway, all alone. This is not my city anymore and it's why I don't live there anymore.
My issue is not one of race, it's of attitude. The "kids" of today's Toronto....I am gonna say it here......are really not in general, good kids. They aren't. If we did a majority check of teenagers today living in Toronto they either feel privileged, we owe them something, or hard done by, we owe them something. Then there's the, we are so owed things we are going to take things. And then there's the we are gonna do drugs so we don't care we are owed things. Then there's those nerdy kids, excelling at school, joining dorky clubs after school, or the jocks keeping busy trying to find untraceable 'roids. These kids generally, have parents who are vested in them, and the kids in their parents. These kids have a bit more sense of community I think. There aren't many of them out there. Even mine as I type this I think, "hmmm I think they need some reminding of how they aren't owed anything but love, the rest they earn".
These kids that feel "owed", can be okay kids in the right circumstances. In the wrong ones, watch out. These kids like to post pictures of themselves with guns and knives on Facebook. Gang hand signals and the finger are their poses on film. My personal favorite, the gun signal. A pose that says "gangsta, I will shoot you". It's a common stance where you make your hand look like a gun, arm outstretched, the hand the gun, the finger the trigger pulled, the other hand typically in the crotch area, the common, "fuck you" sign. They post pictures of themselves with drugs and booze well below the age of 19, because they don't care, what can you do to them? Nothing. Cause you owe them. These kids wear the gangsta rap type of clothes, sometimes in specific gang colours, sometimes just a mimic of the look. You know these kids, remember, two of them shot 13 people last year at an outdoor BBQ in Scarborough? Or the shooter and targets at the Eaton Center shootings. And apparently Justin Beiber wants to be one, the difference being his pants are customized to look that low and ridiculous. These street kids buy them that way. This is not about race or colour, it's this attitude.
I took the TTC to work back in the day, when I actually did that thing called work. I walked over to the subway, or bus stop, depending on the year and where I lived and rode down. I felt pretty safe. Only once in my 20 years of TTCing had a man rubbed himself (and yes I mean himself) against me. And only one other time had a drunk teen threatened me for my sneakers. So, as 20 years goes, that's safe enough right? I went into work at 7:30am, bad people I don't think get up that early so I was almost always with the exact same group of people day after day. Once the sun went down, if it was still rush hour, I was okay on the subway. After that, I asked my office to give me cab chits. Because one night, a group of kids, the kind I mention above, got on the car I was on and claimed it as their own. They were rude, and loud, and offensive, and frankly scary. They kicked my foot when I didn't react to them, I apologized and got off at the next stop, not mine. I felt better getting off the train than staying on it. These kids, they scared me. There was no respect in their eyes, I was nothing. Even the drunk kids threatening me for shoes, I saw question in their eyes and when I saw that I knew if I stood up for myself they'd back down and lucky for me, they did. These other kids, I knew right away to shut my mouth and get out of the situation. That was the month I made work rent me a parking spot downtown. I worked long hours and if that was to continue I was no longer taking the TTC, I didn't feel safe.
There are no more doors left unlocked if Mom's home alone. There are no doors unlocked all night long if Mom and Dad are home. 10 year old girls don't walk back alleys to get Lolas anymore but 13,14,15, and 16 year olds are walking back alleys for other reasons. There is no more standing up for the elderly on the TTC, more like "let's see if we can lift her wallet". Events in Toronto aren't enjoyable for me, I wouldn't consider Caribana, the Jazz Fest, Samba on St. Clair, none of them. Not because they represent different races, because the kids I mention above, let's call them "you owe me" ("YOM") kids flock to these things to party, to cause trouble, to shoot their perceived enemies in most cases without regard for anyone in the way.
Toronto is not the Toronto I used to know. When I was a kid we drank, we smoked pot, and maybe just maybe, we took a hit of acid *gasp*. A 24 hour high that made you look like a total moron. When I was a kid we were dressed in Tree Torns, Benetton, and Roots. So even stoned on acid we looked like stupid preppy kids. We had gangs then, they looked an awful lot like those in musicals. Our gangs got in fights, once in a blue moon someone brought a knife. Was like a bazooka at a sword fight, the fight just ended. Today guns are the norm and knives are a given. All those low pants wearing kids carry knives. School have started do random screenings and wand scanning like at the airport for these things even. I believe some even have full on metal detectors in the doorways. WTF? When I was a kid the only thing setting that off was either my roach clip or my rabbits foot clip. Today it's for guns and knives.
I think I have covered in my day pot, and alcohol was the go to stupidity inducer. Perhaps acid, maybe magic mushrooms (no the magic isn't in the taste), or if you were really rich, cocaine. I never saw it, I wasn't rich. It was really expensive back then. The only kids who got that were the kids with that look in their eyes, the owe me look and at my school they then had money so that's the owe, they took money, they shoplifted even though they didn't need too and they did coke at parties to look cool. These kids, not sure how many of them are still around, made it to this day and age. I find the YOM kids tend to have a shorter life span. If you feel you are owed and that's your attitude, you don't care, you don't want to work or earn, you may get in trouble or hurt.
Today's kids would laugh at our pot and alcohol. We did wine coolers and a joint, they do a bottle of JD, and snort coke, or heroin, or crystal meth. Ecstasy and MDNA (stronger version of ecstasy) are common place, you just don't go out without it in your system. But they make you happy and loving, our YOM kids can't be happy and loving, so they mix it up with coke, heroin, opiates, or meth. Anything to make them stay awake and keep on fighting for their rights, YOM! Meth which makes you crazy high, paranoid, black outs, but man, that's fun. Or Bath Salts. You know that new one. Look up crystal meth or bath salt videos online. It's crazy, these kids can't control their bodies, you can see the absolute terror in their eyes as they thrash and thrash wishing the feelings out of their bodies. And they will do it again. Maybe next time it will be a better high right, and the down, well that sucks, let's keep trying. I am sure you remember Bath Salts. There was that little story of two naked men high on Bath Salts and one ate the others face. If you aren't sure you read that right, look it up. He looks lovely with only half a face today. The "eater" was shot, several times, I believe over 10, to get him to stop eating his friends face.
For some reason a kid named Sammy Yatim boarded a TTC streetcar and made decisions that would change his life and that of his family and friends forever. He pulled out a knife, he made threats, he exposed himself until the streetcar stopped, everyone disembarked and the kid was left alone with a knife. We will never know why he didn't put that knife down and simply walk off the streetcar. You see we can't know, he is dead. He was shot dead by a Police Officer, someone else we don't know. But I ask you to think, why didn't he simply put the knife down? Why was he yelling and swearing he was going to kill the police? Had he taken something, one of these scary drugs these YOMs seem to think are fun and games until someone eats another's face. What was the look in his face that night?
Now, what was that cop thinking? Was he racist? Was he YOM racist? I am, I am YOM racist. That look, the YOM look, in groups of kids, it scares me. I bet this cop was YOM racist, if I can be, couldn't he? Don't you think this cop has seen hundreds of these kids spit on humanity. Don't you think he's had a knife or gun pulled on him before with a YOM looking him in the eye without even blinking? Or do you think it's never happened to him and he was scared. I mean it did appear he didn't act all that rationally didn't it appear so? Do you think this police officer has kids? Do you think he could have been thinking about his daughter's safety in that heated moment or maybe his son, mixed up with the YOMs? Do you think that cop could have been scared shitless about a kid with a knife threatening to kill him? Do you think it's possible? Beyond a reasonable doubt, can you say he did it to shoot someone, that's it, something he's always wanted to do?
I bet one things for sure, that kid was scared. Facing all those cops with guns, there were how many of them there? 10, 12? Why didn't he put the knife down and lie down? I would have, wouldn't you? Isn't that the natural reaction? I don't know, again, I have never held a knife to a cop and told one I wanted to kill them, so I can't say what my head would be saying.
What my natural reaction is not to make a kid with a knife a martyr because he died yielding a knife at the cops. I do not think it's right he died. I do not think bringing a gun to a knife fight is fair but I do know this wasn't an "angel" kid or a kid in his right mind. He was yelling he was going to kill people. What I also know is this was, (horrible word to use), overkill. That cop should have been trained enough to use a single shot to take that kid down enough to stop him from coming at them or the taser but not 9 shots and a taser. Is this particular cop blind? Are we hiring the blind as policemen for equalities sake now?
This whole situation is horrific and it will be investigated and that cop will likely lose his job. We all know this wasn't right. But neither was this kid. Don't forget that. This kid didn't die because he was unjustly shot for no reason, he was yielding a weapon and threatening people. He was yielding the knife and exposing himself to a streetcar full of people and he simply would not stop. He would not put the knife down and simply lie down. The cops said it over and over, there was 10 of them there, why didn't he just lie down? So why don't we see what happens. Let's protest when we see what the cop faces in the way of discipline, why are we protesting now? Are we protesting the cops in general?
I mourn for this kids family I do. But if I hear angel one more time I might scream. And if I hear society blame every policeman on the planet I might scream. And if one more person mentions this knife yielding threatening the cops kids name next to Trayvon Martins name one more time I might.....well you get the gist of this.
Every single day my best friend in the world puts on her police uniform, drives her young kids to school and then goes to work. Where I would bet my life, she's had knives pulled on her. I've seen the bruises she's brought home from an assault. She does it because she has always wanted to be a cop. Her Dad was one and she thinks it's the most amazing job in the world. She thought it a revered career choice in fact. Until she became one. Then she had to work the G20. Suddenly the city was turning on her. I remember her telling me how that felt. How the media coverage seemed to be labelling her. She was in the back lines, she was doing her job. She was watching police cars being lit on fire. Or how about hearing that a crazy person just ran your friend over with a garbage truck, because he was simply high and crazy. All of this is taken home to her kids and all she thinks about are her kids. Her motto, "I just need to do my job well for my city AND get home to my kids". That's what she thinks of Toronto as, "her city" and she wants to keep it safe. Would she have shot a kid 9 times and tasered him, I doubt it, can't say for sure.
What I can say is that you are no better than George Zimmerman if you label all cops bad because of one's actions.
RIP Sammy - I wish you had made better decisions that day and I hope when all is said and done, investigations are completed fair and justly, thus preventing this from ever happening again.