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Anti-Black racism in policing: Notisha Massaquoi talks to Metro Morning about the impact of Tyre Nichols’ murder

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Assistant Professor Notisha Massaquoi

Assistant Professor Notisha Massaquoi

As so many morn the loss of Tyre Nichols, who died January 10 after a brutal beating by Memphis police officers, some are asking whether the graphic video evidence of the attack needed to be televised.

CBC Metro Morning host Ismaila Alfa spoke to Assistant Professor and FIFSW alumna Notisha Massaquoi — founder of U of T’s Black Health Equity Lab — about the impact that broadcasting the video to the general public has on Black communities.

“As a community, we are repeatedly being traumatized by these images,” Massaquoi said. “Black people are the only race, the only group of people where a full murder of one of our community members is televised from beginning to last breath. I find it extremely problematic. It’s very traumatic. I don’t think it’s the mode we should use to publicize the need for police reform.”

Massaquoi pointed out that violent incidents with police isn’t just something that happens in the United States — it is also a reality in Canada. She cited studies that have found that Black people are 20 times more likely to be fatally shot by a Toronto police officer. They also more likely to experience police pointing a firearm at them when they are unarmed and other uses of force. [Read the “Use of force by the Toronto Police Service” final report, published in 2020 by U of T’s Scot Wortley, Ayobami Laniyonu, and Erick Laming.]

Massaquoi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Society at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus and holds a graduate cross-appointment at FIFSW. This semester, she is teaching the course Special Studies 3: Anti-Black Racism and Transformative Action in Social Work Practice at FIFSW.

“When you are teaching courses on anti-Black racism as I do, this is part of your curriculum,” she told Alfa. “You understand that in the year you are teaching, you will have the murder of a Black community member”

> Click here to listen to the full interview

Massaquoi is a Faculty Affiliate with the Centre of Research and Innovation for Black Surviros of Homicide Victims, also known as The CRIB. Founded and led by Associate Professor Tanya Sharpe, The CRIB is a multidisciplinary social work research centre focused on using community engaged methods and principles to advance research, policy, and practice for Black survivors of homicide victims. Last year it released a report that illustrates the disproportionate prevalence of homicides in predominately Black neighbourhoods in Toronto and the need to increase the availability of culturally responsive trauma-informed care.

“It is vital that we consider the systemic way that anti-Black racism permeates the very fabric of our society, infecting a plethora of systems and services that survivors of homicide victims engage with on a daily basis as well as the ones they need and interact with as a result of experiencing the murder of a loved one,” said Sharpe when the report was released.

> Click here to learn more about The CRIB’s Homicide Tracker and report on the social determinants of homicide