The Dream Explodes

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Authorities have made several arrests in Ferguson, where crowds have looted and burned stores, vandalized vehicles and taunted police after a vigil for an unarmed black man who was killed by police. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In his poem Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes asked:  “What happens to a dream deferred ?”  Sixty three years later, we have found an answer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Some people say the anger of the mostly Black population of Ferguson against the police and other authorities in that small city is predictable and long-overdue. It appears that the dream promised to all Americans — the ideals of freedom, equality and opportunity —  have bypassed the Black people of  Ferguson.

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?

The decades-old phenomenon of  “white flight” left Ferguson predominantly Black — more than 60 per cent — but it seems its residents have little, if any, involvement or voice in its institutions.

For example: The police department of 53 has three African-American officers, the mayor and five of its six city councilors are white, the school board is all white, about 12 per cent of residents vote in local elections and the poverty level stands at 22 per cent. It seems that Ferguson is not a good place for Black people.

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

As one resident told the New York Times, the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown was the straw that “broke the camel’s back.”

Details of the shooting continue to emerge but this we do know: Brown, an unarmed young Black man was shot to death by a white police officer in broad daylight after a confrontation.

Negative interaction with police and Blacks in Ferguson isn’t uncommon. According to reports, Blacks are 37 per cent more likely to be stopped by police than other residents. And although Blacks make up 67 per cent of the population, they accounted for 93 per cent of arrests last year.

Blacks in Ferguson have grudgingly tolerated this reality for decades.

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

But it would be a mistake to see the events in Ferguson as an isolated incident in America. The modern and more recent history of the interaction between African-Americans and law enforcement is a checkered one — Rodney King, Amadou DialloJordan Davis and Trayvon Martin.

In an interview,  Darnell Hunt a UCLA professor and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies, says although police were not involved directly in all of these incidents, ” they represent this whole idea that black male youth constantly represent a threat to police and deadly force can be used to keep them in check, even if they’re unarmed.”

Or does it explode?

In part, what we are seeing in Ferguson is what happens when people have little of no social capital; no connection to the wider community, each other or its institutions. Social capital, according to Robert Putnam, engenders trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation.

The police department and other important institutions in Ferguson have no connection — no social capital — with the Black community.

After calm has returned to Ferguson, as it must, the establishment of social capital must take place. As a start the police department must better reflect the community it serves.

Of course it will take more than having a few more African American cops on the beat. But reconciliation begins with honest and open dialogue.

It will not be easy. But the consequences of failure are written in history.

 Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

—Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

The World Cup of Diversity



world cup arguing with refThe World Cup is a cornucopia of languages, facial expressions and of course…lots of pointing. It’s a remarkable testament of the power of sport to unite. It also reminds me of my childhood.

Yuichi Nishimura

When I immigrated to Canada at the age of 10 from Jamaica I spoke one language — English. Okay, if you count Jamaican Patois I spoke two languages.

My family rented a flat in a house in downtown Toronto. The large house was owned and occupied by the same Italian family. There were Italians in the basement, Italians on the first floor, Italians on the third floor and us Jamaicans in the middle on the second floor.

As a result I learned a lot about Italians. I learned to love Italian food and I even picked up a bit of the language…granted, mostly the swear words I learned from the kids in the house. I also learned to love football (aka soccer in North America).

Watching this year’s  World Cup got me thinking about my boyhood days in the Italian house.  And although everyone in the house spoke English– at least some form of it — there were times when we could barely understand each other. However, through a series of hand gestures, facial expressions and yes…lots of pointing, we got along quite well.

Playing in the World Cup is a bit like living in a house crammed with people from 32 different countries speaking dozens of different languages all wanting the same thing. (Here yon find out how to say “World Cup” in 36 languages .)

world cup arguing
The poor referees — there are about 90 of them — are on the receiving end of this Field of Babel.

arguing with ref 3

As  Jeffrey Marcus, assistant international editor for the New York Times asks: “How does a Brazilian defender tell a Turkish referee what a great job he’s doing? And does an Argentine referee understand when a South Korean player confesses: “No, sir, I was not fouled by my valiant Russian opponent. I fell on my own!” (O.K., that never happens.)”

The reality is players can behave badly; they yell, swear,  and perform on the world’s greatest stage…in multiple languages.

faking injury 2Of course one universal expression requires no translation; the schwalbe, when a player fakes an injury.

Regardless of country of origin, cultural  traditions or practices, faking an injury ‘just right’ to draw a penalty against the other team is an important part of the game. Some players have perfected it to a science, leaving their opponents and fans bewildered.

Faking-InjuryAs I watch the World Cup (sometimes with the sound turned off) I am mesmerized by the beauty of the Beautiful Game.

 

World Cup Italians arguing with ref

I also work on my lip-reading and hand gesture skills when the Italians take to the field.