March 8, 1996 Halifax Herald

Racism no defense for indefensible actions

Reading about the details in the papers, and seeing on the tube the intimate hurts connected to the Darren Watts's case, awoke memories of a somewhat similar incident which happened to me in the early 1950s. I was living in Boston at the time, a young lad of 16 or 17, when one night, I was jumped by a street gang called, ironically, the Saint Gang, and given a severe beating.

The main similarity between the Watts's case and mine is that the beating I received was also administered by a large group of boys. However, unlike his case, where he was given a brutal beating because of his efforts to assist a person who was being assaulted, mine was administered in an attempt to intimidate me into complying with an invitation to join the gang and partake in its criminal activates. Also, although I could just barely see through massive shiners, and the rest of my body was covered with lumps and bruises for a few days, my beating wasn't given in a manner to cause permanent physical harm, just psychological.

I never reported the incident to the city police because, when it came to street gangs, it would have been much easier to find a rain drop after it fell into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during a rain storm, than to have justice done from that source. Street gangs, in those days, were generally left alone by the police, and perhaps, in 1996, still are.

Several days afterwards, I received word that Jimmy L, the gang leader, wanted to have a chat. At our meeting, the gist of the conversation went something like this: "Hey, man, have you come to your senses and agree to join your buddies?" My response was, "No," followed with: "If your gang ever does that to me again, they’d better make it good because, I swear to God, I'll do anything, and whatever is necessary, to avenge myself after the next time, and..." I'll leave the rest of the conversation up to your imagination. For the rest of the time I lived in the neighbourhood, four or five years, I was never bothered again.

I did what I did, even though I had my heart in my mouth at the time, because to have caved into those cowards would have meant giving up my dignity, freedom and integrity. I was no hero; some would even say I was a fool. But I did what my conscience dictated to be the right thing to do; and quite frankly, in order to protect my right to live free, I would do the same thing again today. To give up one's life to the will of cowards is not the way to keep one's freedom and self-respect. The way to achieve and keep freedom and self-respect is the way Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did it when he so bravely stood up to, and took on the cowardly American segregationists in the 1950s - and won!

In the case of Darren Watts, from what I've gathered, he was also assaulted by cowards; but in his case, they apparently acted with sadism. The condition the young man is still in today is testament to that statement. The savage kicks he received to his head and body, before and after he lost awareness, were the works of individuals who meant to, or didn't care if they did, cause grievous bodily harm.

Some say, because of the fact he was white and his assailants were black, that there was racism involved in the prosecution of his assailants. To me, one who has lived most of his life fighting intolerance and injustice, I find those kind of statements to be most repugnant. Racism, my friends, is a hard enough disease to fight in this country without having someone trying to use it as a defense for the indefensible actions of a group of boys who happen to be of a visible minority. Such offenses, whether committed by people with red, black, white or any other human complexion, are indefensible and inexcusable.

In reaction to this kind of thing, perhaps the federal Justice Minister Allan Rock should - before he and his colleagues give violent prisoners the right to vote, and build more swanky country-club types of prisons for them - ponder this: We have a major problem in this country stemming from the evil works of cowards. Its not unusual to read, or hear, on a daily basis, about an elderly person, or a disabled or otherwise helpless person, who has been assaulted, beaten, raped, and also sometimes also robbed, by a person or persons of this nature. Some victims are left so badly traumatised by such experiences that quality lives for them are over - yes, they have been robbed of their lives!

Perhaps it’s time Mr. Rock and his federal and provincial colleagues to get over your fixations with punishing law-abiding citizens by unwanted interference in their lives, and start finding ways to tackle this major problem. And, my friends, I don't think disarming the law-abiding citizens before disarming and disabling the element that preys upon the weak - and sometimes, as in the case of the Prime Minister, the strong - is the way to do it. It’s turning us all into setting ducks for their attacks. In the past, not knowing what awaited them should they break into an occupied home, or assault a person, was a strong deterrent to these people. What's going to happen when they can rest assured that governments have left us defenceless?

Perhaps Mr. Rock and his colleagues should give some thought to the protection and welfare of the citizens, before setting their agendas for justice reform!

Daniel N. Paul


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