Saturday, July 11, 2009

Don't let racist element blur the view on stupid boys fighting

Nobody needs an ugly video of a three-on-one street fight in Courtenay to remind them that racism is alive and well in our country and around the world. We humans always need an enemy, and physical appearance has long been an easy fallback for the purposes of defining “us” and “them.”
I feel sorry for the town of Courtenay, which in my experience is no more of a hotbed of racism than any other community. I grew up there and did see quite a bit of street-fighting in my teen years, however, most of it involving stupid young guys fighting for no particular reason.
When racial taunts were available to the boys of my generation, I expect they used them. Courtenay was a fairly white town in those days, though, so they generally needed a different excuse for singling someone out for a roughing up. But there was always some hurtful insult available if a guy needed to goad somebody into a fight.
I know we’d like to think we’ve changed as a society since then. But what I see most clearly in the sad video footage of Jay Phillips getting jumped on in Courtenay last week is just more proof that the legacy of stupid young guys lives on.
In this case, the three young men allegedly started the fight by grabbing the most obvious racial epithet to hurl at Phillips. But I hope we don’t get so lost in the race issue that we overlook the very unsocial fact of guys fighting each other in the street. Yes, racism is a terrible thing, but to see Phillips’ attackers conveniently packaged as “white supremacists” is to completely miss the point that the problem at the core of this incident is violence.
More than 8,400 people have already seen the video of the street fight uploaded to YouTube. More than 220 people have commented, almost all of them condemning Phillips’ attackers for racist and cowardly behaviour. Headlined “Black Man Fights Off White Supremacists,” the video is hard to miss. Courtenay will wear the shame for years to come.
The truth is, such fights go on among young men everywhere. To categorize this as a racial problem in Courtenay is to miss the point that stupid boys fighting is a problem that continues to elude us in every community. Even the vicious gang wars in Vancouver boil down to stupid boys fighting, albeit with much more sophisticated weaponry.
Ask Victoria Police how they spend their Saturday nights downtown. They’ll tell you all about the stupid boys fighting after the bar closes, hurling their share of racial slurs and insults to heat things up.
Were there to be a bright new future where nobody used racial slurs, those guys would just latch onto some other equally offensive name-calling for their fights. The whole point is to offend.
Of course, we’re not talking about all young men. Only a small minority are violent - affirmation that we’re doing many things right. But we’re still ending up with a persistent population of young men looking for a fight.
Anybody can find a fight if they’re looking for one. In the Courtenay case, the three young men were reportedly driving around in their now-infamous red truck and called out a racial epithet as they passed Phillips. When he swore back at them, they stopped their truck and swarmed him.
If I thought jail worked as a deterrent for unsocial behaviour, I’d have turned into a law and order type a long time ago. But prison time alone does little, and the macho atmosphere just amplifies angry-young-man syndrome. What really needs to happen with those three men and all the generations to come if the goal is to curb the anti-social behaviour of (some) young men?
If convicted of assault, I imagine the Courtenay guys will end up with a court order aimed at giving them an education about racial tolerance - volunteer hours at the multicultural centre or some such thing. Good idea. So is an anger-management course. The good news is that they’ll likely give up such foolishness in a few years no matter what, because street-fighting is by and large a young man’s game.
But what about the young men who never get caught on film? What of the generations of boys to come - the ones who need to see past the racism of the Phillips attack and into the senseless violence at its core? Yelling racial epithets is unacceptable, but beating people up is the bigger problem here.
Credit the new age of public videotaping for once again bringing an ugly human moment to our attention. Now what?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are wrong and as stupid as the mayor who denied that there was racism in Courtenay. Wake up.

This man was targeted out of the blue for one reason and until you fully understand this, your ignorance will precede you throughout your life.