Making an enemy

pacific-centre-mall-menBeware of trigger-happy accusations

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 27, 2016

I was watching this show on Netflix. I believe you might have heard of it. It’s called Making a Murderer, and it follows the heinous trials, mistrials, and accusations against a man named Steven Avery.

The 10-part documentary covers many levels of the legal process from the investigation, to the prosecutions, to the judgment. It’s an intriguing and frustrating watch and a fine example of injustice presented as justice. It’s an example of how our society always has a finger on the trigger, ready to place someone in the line of fire so that we can feel safe. If you have been resisting the urge to see Making a Murderer, don’t. Watch it. It’ll teach you to think twice the next time you point your finger.

This has been the case closer to home. On January 12, three suspicious men were spotted filming exits and entrances of Pacific Centre in Vancouver. The images of these men, who just so happen to be “Middle Eastern looking,” were leaked onto the Internet and news feed were flooded with the question: Can you identify these individuals?

When I saw the images of those men, my initial reaction was perhaps the same as many other citizens. With the Paris attacks fresh in my mind, I wanted someone to find these people and get them locked up as quickly as possible, and I’d just stay as far from Pacific Centre as possible. It’s true that, while racial profiling is wrong, the instinctual reaction to protect the hive is not. For those that shared the images of the suspicious behaviour, I say, well done. Although it might have been a false alarm, we did a good job alerting everyone about something suspicious that could have escalated into a horrific crisis.

I’d also like to commend the Vancouver Police Department for efficiently exonerating those men. Apparently, the reason for filming everything in the mall was because of a sight impairment. It was a curious case, but nothing illegal. To me it still sounds rather suspicious, but I haven’t spoken to those people. All I know is what the media is offering… and so it goes.

The police could have easily taken the other direction and showed some grit. But if we started punishing innocent people for incidents like this, then the terrorists would have won. Many department stores have policies that forbid filming and photography; perhaps Pacific Centre can implement something of that measure to keep the innocent behaving innocently.

As for the fact that we were all in one way or another caught in the act of racial profiling, I want to ask: how can we avoid that in the future and still stay diligent? Let’s be honest, if there were three Asian men taking pictures in Vancouver, we wouldn’t bat an eye. But since they were “Middle Eastern looking” we all jumped to conclusions.

We must honour the fact that people are innocent until proven guilty. We must remember how disgusted we felt when watching the world turn their back on Steven Avery in Making a Murderer. Should the world be documenting us for a Netflix original, do we want to be a despicable character? Or do we want to be the ones that side with the full story and justice?

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