Tag Archives: Akwasi Owusu-Bempah

Black and Blue: Akwasi Owusu-Bempah in U of T Magazine

owusu-bempah-5x7portProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of race and policing. U of T Magazine featured an interview with him in the Winter 2017 edition. The entire interview is available here and includes a link to the TEDxUofT talk that Owusu-Bempah and Scot Wortley, Professor of Criminology, presented in 2015.

Black and Blue

Like many Canadians, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at U of T Mississauga who studies policing, has been following the spate of police shootings of unarmed citizens, mostly south of the border. U of T Magazine editor Scott Anderson recently spoke with Owusu-Bempah about these incidents and how relations between police and racialized communities in the U.S. and Canada could be improved.

What strikes you when you hear the reports of unarmed African-­Americans being shot by police and the social unrest that follows?

The unrest in places such as Ferguson and Baltimore is partly in response to police violence, but it also reflects the frustrations that many African-Americans feel over the failed promise of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality is still just a dream for many black Americans. Police violence often acts as a spark for social unrest. But there are a lot of underlying issues that motivate people to get out into the streets and protest.

How does policing in Canada differ from the U.S. with respect to people of colour?

I prefer to look at the differences between racial groups within each country. What we see in Canada is that, compared to whites, black and Aboriginal people are more likely to be victims of police violence. Blacks in Canada may fare better than blacks in the United States but they don’t fare better than whites here.

You’ve said that Canadians have some “blind spots” when it comes to race and policing. What are you referring to?

For one, we don’t have readily available policing data disaggregated by race. While the police gather race-based data in their investigations, it’s not made public, as it is in the U.K. and the U.S. As a result, we either think we don’t have a problem or we look to other places, such as the U.S., to see how we’re doing. Let’s also not forget that Canada has done a good job of erasing its racist history. The apartheid government of South Africa borrowed from Canada’s reservation system. We had slavery. We had segregated schools until almost the end of the last century.

Read the rest of the interview.

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah in Spacing Toronto on Pride and Black Lives Matter

owusu-bempah-5x7portProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of race and policing. This piece, written with Mariana Valverde of the Centre for Criminology, was published in Spacing Magazine on January 25, 2017. The complete piece is available online The following is an excerpt of the longer article:

The truth and post-truth about Pride and Black Lives Matter Toronto

Toronto’s police force has long been known for its sophisticated, expensive PR machine. It is thus not surprising that in the wake of the January 17th community meeting to set policy for Toronto’s Pride 2017, the police version of “Pride policy” was quickly taken up and reproduced in countless media stories, many complete with sad comments from gay or lesbian police officers who (no doubt sincerely) believed they had been exiled from Pride events. The truth was that the meeting voted to exclude police force floats and booths from Pride events.

The Pride organizers have not seemed particularly organized lately, so there is some uncertainty about how things will work out. However, what is indeed true is that Black Lives Matter’s demands, accepted by the majority at the community meeting, did not include banning police officers, queer or otherwise, from participation in Pride events.

First, on-duty police are needed to close streets and regulate traffic, and they will no doubt be treated with respect by Pride organizers, as has always been the case. Off-duty police will be as free to march in the parade as anyone else. Whether they are allowed to wear their uniforms is a matter for police management to decide. (There are very good reasons why officers and soldiers are not generally allowed to wear uniforms and carry guns while off duty).

What Black Lives Matter activists wanted — and what their allies of all races at the Pride meeting agreed to do — was to prevent police forces from using Pride events as PR opportunities.

Welcome New Faculty

This year the Department of Sociology welcomes ten new faculty members into our community of scholars. This is the largest cohort of new faculty members we have seen in decades. They cover research and teaching interests ranging from classical theory to criminology and immigration studies and will help shape the character of the department in the years to come. Though housed across the three campuses, all faculty join together in contributing to the tri-campus graduate department.

Professor Ellen Berrey joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga teaching in the area of Law and Society. She graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University in 2008 and has previously taught at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and at the University of Denver.

Professor Irene Boeckmann is a new faculty member in Family and Demography, teaching at the St. George campus. Professor Boeckmann completed her PhD at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2014 and spent 2015 as a post-doctoral fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany.

Professor Emine Fidan Elcioglu brings her expertise in political sociology and immigration to the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Professor Elcioglu received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 2016.

Professor Steve G. Hoffman received his PhD at Northwestern University in 2009 and taught for several years at the University at Buffalo, SUNY before coming to the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Professor Hoffman teaches in the area of social theory and the sociology of disaster.

Professor Rachel La Touche comes to the University of Toronto at St George this year where she is teaching in the areas of research methods and inequality. She received her PhD from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2016 and has previously taught at the University of Mannheim-Germany and at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research(ICPSR) Summer Program at the University ofMichigan.

Professor Yoonkyung Lee joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, St. George. Professor Lee received her PhD at Duke University in 2006 and has previously taught at Binghamton University. Professor Lee is a political sociologist with a focus on Korean studies.

Professor Sida Liu is a new faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Professor Liu is a specialist in the sociology of law. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2009. Before coming to Toronto, Professor Liu taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also currently a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah received his doctorate in 2014 from the Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies here at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Before coming back to Toronto, Professor Owusu-Bempah taught for a year at the Indiana University, Bloomington. Professor Owusu-Bempah is a specialist in policing and race.

Professor Kim Pernell comes to the University of Toronto, St. George with expertise in economic sociology, organizational sociology and social policy. Professor Pernell received a PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2016.

Professor Ashley Rubin joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga bringing expertise in the sociology of punishment and prisons. Professor Rubin received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013 and previously taught at Florida State University.

Teaching Police that Black Lives Matter

OBempah.jpgProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of race and policing. This piece, published in The Walrus, draws on his dissertation research. The complete piece is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article:

Teaching Police that Black Lives Matter

Black officers on how police and black communities can get along.

In 2011 and 2012, I interviewed fifty-one black male police officers from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as part of a wide-ranging academic project aimed at surveying black attitudes toward the police. They spoke to me candidly but confidentially. I agreed not to publish their names or identifying details.

At one stage of my interviews, I asked these officers to put forth suggestions on how to improve relations between the police and the black community in the GTA. Given the robust public discussion that is now taking place in regard to the Black Lives Matter movement—and this month’s tragic killings of both innocent black men and police officers in the United States—it is worth exploring these suggestions in some detail. These suggestions are unique as they are informed by the officers’ experiences as black males and their immersion in police culture. Both perspectives are evident in the text below.

Read the full article