Do you know why I post dumb silly stories about stuff like Hello Kitty or Fifty Shades of Grey? I like to think of them as palate cleansers. Nice, innocuous little tidbits to break of the monotony of me always ranting about racism or sexism or classism. Keeps me sane. Anyway, back to normal.
Everytime I decide to write about race, I expect some amount of backlash from some white (at least usually, but not always) guy who sides with the racist, saying that the victim was out of line or that it’s my typical liberal bias siding with the obvious criminal… stuff like that. First, let’s get things straight, I’m not really “a liberal.” If anything, I’m more of an anarchist. Only, most people don’t really know what that actually means politically. Anyway, when I wrote about the Ferguson/Michael Brown case the other day, I got some comments like that, though not on the post itself. One guy, commenting on someone else’s Facebook page who linked to me, argued that I was full of shit because he interprets the statistics differently than I do and black people are more likely to be committing crime in Ferguson. I pointed out that what I wrote wasn’t really about the statistics, so even if he was right (he wasn’t) it didn’t matter, but he didn’t really care because, his interpretation was based on the fact that police only stop and search someone if they have probable cause to do so. And uh… yeah…
Another guy sent me a direct message telling me that I wasn’t being fair to Wilson (the cop) because the video of Brown in the convenience store clearly shows that he was a “violent individual” so it isn’t too much of a stretch to give the cop the benefit of the doubt and assume that Brown was being a dangerous threat and trying to kill him. I asked this person why he was telling me this in a direct message rather than posting a comment since all my blogs and Facebook posts have open comments and he told me that he doesn’t like to do that because when he gave his open and honest opinions over the Trayvon Martin case he ended up “losing too many friends” who called him racist because he felt that Martin was in the wrong. As a general tip to anyone, white, black, green, whatever: If you want to say something, but you’re worried that something you strongly believe in is going to be “taken wrong” and racially offend a bunch of people you care about, chances are you are about to say something that is hella-fucking-racist.
Anyway, a little earlier, my friend, Rod Roscoe, posted this story about Chris Lollie, a black man who was tased and arrested by the police while he was sitting on a bench waiting to pick up his kids after work. Sitting While Black (SWB) is apparently a crime in Minnesota. Anyway, once the cops showed up, Lollie had the foresight to start recording everything that happened to him on his cellphone and the footage was used to exonerate him during his trial. The video is below:
First of all, I want to mention a great idea for an invention I just had. You know how everyone is always trying to figure out a use for robot drones? Amazon wants to use them to deliver packages and stuff? Well, I want to get them and attach GoPro cameras to them and sell them to black men. Basically what I’m looking for is a little robot like Skeets that follows me around 24/7 and records everything I do. Whenever I’m walking through an expensive store, driving through a middle class neighborhood, eating a chocolate chip cookie, or fucking a white woman, I want constant video proof of my innocence! People worry about Big Brother. I welcome it! In fact, now I’m inspired of a name! That’s what I’m gonna call it. “Brotha’ Eye!” (patent pending)
But back to Lollie. Let me anticipate the casual racism response: “If he had just done what he was told, listened to the cop, given his name, and moved, none of this would have ever happened.” *sigh* Well, maybe… maybe not. And yeah, if it had been me, I probably would have been far more cooperative than he was (the Levar Burton technique I linked to before). Mostly because I’ve been tased before and getting tased sucks. That said, Lollie really wasn’t out of line. Sunil Datta wrote a little op-ed piece for the Washington Post last week where he tells people to “ido everything the cop says and they won’t get hurt.” I guess that’s nice wishful thinking, though they’re also the exact same words that every bank robber in every film ever has said the second they start a heist. Furthermore, even if it were true that black people had nothing to fear from the police, — even if it were ok to blame the victim (remember when people basically said Trayvon was asking for it by how he was dressed? Where have I heard that before?) — the fact that we have created a culture where at least 10% of the population fears (with good cause or not) unwarranted violence and discrimination from law-enforcement based purely on their genetics is really kind of a problem.
Back to Levar’s advice for being stopped by the cops. I ask my white readers, when you’re pulled over by a cop for speeding or running a red light or whatever, does it ever even occur to you “Ok, keep calm, because you don’t want to get shot here?” Do those words ever pass through your mind? Because they pass through my mind every time. And that’s scary as fuck.
Have you ever been stopped and questioned by the cops? It’s an extremely intense situation. It really puts you on edge. The fact that people expect African-Americans (who whether you believe are racially discriminated against currently or not, you must acknowledge there is at least a history or such discrimination in this country and that shit is hard to get over) to be more trusting and conciliatory than normal in that situation is indicative of the problem. Let’s just say black people are just naturally (genetically, socially, whatever) more aggressive and belligerent towards authority than white people. If that were the case, don’t you think there’d be a bunch of nice counterexamples of “proper behavior for when the police stop you?” Hey, maybe there is! Let’s check. I’ll just open Youtube and search for “white man stopped by police” and watch the top result:
ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?!?!?! Cops catch dude with no gun permit visibly carrying a gun in his holster and dressed like discount GI. Joe. His excuse was “well, I’m not from around these parts.” Well that makes sense. So lets take you to jail and… wait, letting him off with a warning? Offering him a ride to his next destination? HE WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET WITH A GUN! So yeah, I mean, I guess you could try to argue that this guy was being calmer towards the cop than Lollie was, but he was still arguing… not that he wasn’t breaking the law, but that the law was stupid. The cop was also way calmer towards him, and other than the handcuffs, much nicer.
Huffington Post had a nice piece the other day about the way we perceive race in this country based on news headlines. White suspects: “Son in Staten Island murders was brilliant, athletic — but his demons were the death of his parents.” “Oregon school shooting suspect fascinated with guns but was a devote Mormon, friends say.” “Ohio shooting suspect, T.J. Lane, described as ‘fine person’.” Black victims: “Trayvon Martin was suspended three times from school.” “Montgomery’s latest homicide victim had a history of narcotics abuse, tangles with the law.” and my favorite “Police: Slain Lakeland Teen Had Been Shot Before; Death Possibly Drug Related.” That literally translates to “he might have been doing drugs, and he was shot before, so it was ok to shoot him again.” And that, is called institutional racism.
Jon Stewart had a nice little tirade about this on the Daily Show on Tuesday:
Which both echoes a lot of my feelings pretty much perfectly and shows that some white people out there do understand. Is it exhausting? Yes, Jon. Yes it is.