I heard a well-respected man today on the radio while he was being interviewed by the host of a morning talk show, and something he said in passing not once but twice caught my ear and made me extremely disappointed.
He was being interviewed on the subject of police carding; the practice of stopping people on the street and getting personal contact information on them despite no crime being committed. There is a move afoot in Toronto to abolish this practice and people are coming down on either side of the issue, either for or against the practice.
So here’s what this gentleman said that struck me. “There is a group of some important people who are coming together to end this practice.” He then went on to name some whom I had heard of and some I had not. In a matter of 90 seconds he again mentioned this group of being made up of important people.
I found myself profoundly annoyed on two counts: 1) the interviewer hadn’t picked up on these two words, ‘important people’ and 2) the fact that he’s identifying some people as important has to by its very definition mean that there are others who are not important people. Isn’t that troubling? I wondered then if he had been immediately asked who the unimportant people were, would he have backtracked and said that’s not what he meant, or would he in fact have the courage to public state on the radio the population of people he grouped into the unimportant category he clearly must have in mind.
I can only guess that from the names I recognized in his list, that important people include past mayors, politicians and I believe he mentioned a well-known author. There was an irony in the position he was taking. You see he referenced that many of the people the police were routinely stopping and carding were to use his words, “black or brown”. He felt that many of these people who may be carded on several occasions would then grow angry and learn to mistrust the police; a group we should trust.
However, in stating that some people are more important than others, isn’t he also labeling some people in society as less important based on their lack of fame, prominence, popularity? So you and I who hold down jobs, pay taxes, dine in restaurants, attend public events, live and work in these communities; aren’t WE important even though we may never be in a newspaper or hold a public office?
Hence the irony; don’t card people because by their colour they might be of interest in some way to the police, but it’s okay to ‘card’ or designate some in positions of power as important. The fact that the CBC interviewer missed this in its entirety not once but twice had me wondering too if he didn’t also agree that there are some people who are more important than others.
We tell our kids that they can be anything they put their mind to. We tell them to hold on to their dreams, believe what they can achieve and then go out and make it happen – make a difference. Does it rely on the work, the job or the career someone has in order for the rest of us to consider someone important? I sure hope not.
If I need a heart transplant the mayor of a city suddenly becomes very unimportant; I need a Heart Surgeon. If I need to get to work, the Bus Driver suddenly becomes very important, as do the skills they possess. If I have been robbed or mugged, a Police Officer becomes important to me, and they may not have been 20 minutes before the mugging.
We are all important. Many of us do important work that may or may not be in the public eye. A Researcher working in a lab may be entirely invisible to us on a daily basis until that moment that we or someone we know benefits from the work they do. Were they any less important before we needed them? No. The work they chose to do is important work because of the possibilities, but the person themselves remains important whether they find a cure or not.
Yes I was and remain offended that this gentleman thinks some of us more important than others. I’m troubled too that he’s in a position of some influence; and maybe that’s what makes him important. That’s not a contradiction; he is important. So are you and so am I.
Now there are a lot of people who lack self-esteem and who have a low self-image of themselves and would if asked tell you they aren’t important. They might feel they have no family, no job and if they should die tomorrow nobody would really miss them so they can’t be of any importance. I would disagree even with this. Every living thing is important. Why even the shrinking bee populations around the world are suddenly important as are issues of climate change, recessions – even the world soccer governing body for heaven’s sake.
Importance is absolute. As soon as you say something or SOMEONE isn’t important, someone will stand up and counter your statement and if you are wise enough, you’ll reconsider your position. And so for me at the very least, I’ll add my voice to the position that there are no people who are any more important than others.