Crime, especially juvenile crime, is widespread throughout Toronto, Canada. A swarming, while somewhat uncommon in my area of Toronto, does occur. This morning while at the local park for preschool kids, I talked to a ~70 year old Grandmother who was looking after her five year old grandson. She told me that yesterday September 18 2010 at around 7:30pm she was at the local park for older kids, some 50 meters away and was swarmed by a group of 6 Black kids, ranging from 6 to 14 years old. The incident left her feeling vulnerable, afraid and unsafe in her Glendower neighbourhood, where she has lived for the last 20 years. When I explained to her that I was also a victim of swarming by local Black kids, she was also surprised. Her reaction and remorse did not surprise me because I had the same feelings after my swarming.
Swarming is when a large group of at least 6 kids converge on a single individual and basically gang up on the individual. In the case of this Grandmother, she was verbally assaulted and had playground bark and dirt thrown at her. The group of Black kids had a small Chihuahua dog that growled at and scared the 5 year old boy, leaving him afraid and in tears. The Grandmother was too weak to pick up her Grandson.
Other swarmings can be much more violent. The group can take the person’s possessions and beat them up. Thankfully this was a group of Black juveniles that did no more than scare the Grandmother. Other swarmings that I personally know of in my area have resulted in the theft of a bicycle. There is usually some hitting and punching of the individual who is swarmed.
The effect on the Grandmother was traumatic. She called police, who are usually very ineffective in these and other such cases. This time they did arrive but could not catch the group of kids. The Grandmother now feels she will not ever go back to the park. I have tried to tell her that if there are other families around it is quite safe and there is no risk, but she was adamant. I am sure that her Grandson was also traumatized but we did not raise the subject when he was within earshot.
She said that most shocking was the fact that the group’s youngest members, possibly 6 years old, could swear and insult like a seasoned sailor. Kids that have learned to swear like this are very rare here, and shocked the Grandmother. It shocked me as well when I was swarmed, but now I often see this behavior from very young Black kids in my area.
The trigger for the swarming, says the Grandmother, was that the oldest girl started swearing at her and the Grandmother tried to correct the girl. In hindsight the Grandmother did say that this was a mistake that she regrets. I do agree with her. The best form of action when verbally assaulted by such kids is to bite your tongue and walk away. No good can come from talking to these young Black kids.
The grandmother has been living near the Glendower area for over 20 years and has never had such an incident occur to her before. It was shocking to her that such a swarming could happen to her so near to her house where she felt so safe. This is so unfortunate but is not unheard of. Many people in my area do not venture out of their own existence and do not meet Black kids at the park, on the street, or at their school. Because of my Little Weed I have encountered this very early both at his school and at the playground after school.
The grandmother was racked with some guilt because she now thinks so badly of these Black children. She feels she is much more racist now than two days prior, and this pains her. We live in a multicultural society here in Toronto and seek to live together in relative peace. While we are brought up to treat all races equally, when you are attacked by some group, in this case a group of Black juveniles, this does change your thinking. As I have stated before these swarmings by Black juveniles are rare but not uncommon in my area, and I have also been swarmed by Black juveniles. Guilt ridden she may be, but this will soon melt away for this Grandmother, as her eyes are opened.
I believe the shock to this Grandmother and myself is that we live in a civilized Canadian society. Kids are respectful to elders and elders do their best to show kids the proper way to live. This means that if a child, even one you do not know, makes an error, you have a duty to help the child. This may be helping the child get up after s/he has fallen on the ground, or trying to correct a child’s language if s/he has erred. This is our social norm, for better or for worse. “It takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind.
In the neighbourhood of Glendower in Toronto, when dealing with young Black children, this social norm does not exist. This Grandmother followed what she thought best, it backfired on her and she was swarmed. Unfortunately this Grandmother should have minded her own business. I believe she has learned this lesson now. This break in her social norm clearly pains her, but self preservation will override past upbringing. When this social norm is broken, people who do not know each other will be more reluctant to help each other. This cannot be good for society in general.
I do not know these Black children, so I do not know how and who raises them. I will not guess at the socio-economic reasons for their behaviour, but it is troubling to have such kids in society in general. How they will travel when they grow older is their business. One thing for sure is that I do not want to cross their path and will be most reluctant to offer any form of assistance, unfortunate but necessary for this Grandmother, her Grandson and myself.
Growing up Without Men, CBC