Black in Kingston: Youth Perspectives on "Blackness" and Belonging in a Small Ontario City
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Within the past decade, two major events raised the national profile of the experiences of black youth and the realities of racism in the city of Kingston, Ontario. The first event occurred in the spring of 2001 and involved the dramatic “high-risk takedown” by Kingston Police of two innocent black male youths who were wrongly profiled as suspects in an assault case. The second event involved the subsequent release of a report commissioned by Kingston Police which confirmed that black male youth in Kingston were almost four times more likely to be stopped and questioned by Kingston police than any other racial group (Wortley and Marshall, 2005). This research, while not addressed to the specifics of racial profiling and policing in Kingston, focuses on the marginalized voices of male and female black youth in Kingston. Eight youth volunteered to participate in this study. Participants took part in one-on-one interviews with the researcher and three participated in a follow-up focus group session. Themes explored in the one-on-one interview and focus group sessions included factors influencing the construction of black identities within a predominantly white city, the negotiation of friendships and relationships, and interactions with public authorities such as teachers and the police. This study addresses the various ways in which black youth, male and female, experience life in their city – at home, at school, and in the community – and how they feel their blackness affects these experiences. It highlights the perspectives and insights of black Kingston youth. The findings of this research can help us better understand how black identities develop in small Canadian cities, how blackness is policed, and the internal and external “regimes of power” that govern these relations. (Foucault, 1977, p.112). The study offers a medium by which these voices may be heard and may contribute to long-term community-based anti-racism work in Kingston.