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Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Don't You Know Who I Am?"

     Eric Holder is helping out in Ferguson, MO, by complaining that he has been stopped for speeding on the the New Jersey Turnpike. Twice. And once, when he and a cousin were running to a movie in Georgetown, a cop stopped and asked what they were doing. Yeah, that's harsh, Mr. Holder. Couldn't possibly be that the cops were simply doing their job. Gotta be racism. 
     On Facebook, a person of our acquaintance told the sad tale of a young black man who was stopped while driving with a companion. Bright lights in the face, cops with guns drawn. The cops checked their ID and let them go. Gotta be racism, right? But the cops had been given a description of suspects-- two black men in that kind of car, in that vicinity. Sorry, guys, but you did fit the description.
     Remember when Susan Smith drowned her children and told police that she'd been carjacked by a black man? The police began to stop and question black men. When it came out that she had rolled her own car into the water, cries of racism were heard in the land. "Why were they only stopping black men?" Well, because they were told that a black man had committed the crime. That it was a lie is beside the point. When the only information they had was that the suspect was a black man, whom should they have looked for, Asian women?
     Guess what. Sometimes white people are "hassled" by police. I even experienced the bright lights in the face when I was taking kids home from martial arts class. I pulled out of the back entrance to the strip mall in my white Dodge van and was suddenly blinded by the fierce light. I slowed and pulled over, wondering why. Finally I realized I had forgotten to turn on my headlights. To the cops across the street, my van was clandestinely leaving a string of shops where there had been burglaries. Their spotlight revealed a startled blonde housewife with little kids. If I'd been a burly guy (of any color) in a watch cap, no doubt they would have come over and had a conversation with me. Other than the van, though, I didn't fit the description, and I went on my merry way, resolving always to turn on the headlights before leaving a parking lot. 
     Friends of any color, can we please brush all the chips off our shoulders and realize that any one of us may sometimes look suspicious-- or be stopped for an actual offense-- regardless of melanin? In a loose jacket and carrying a huge purse, I might well be seen as a potential shoplifter. Security would be wise to keep an eye on me. In short shorts and high heels down on the Trail, I might be taken for a prostitute. Or completely insane, given my age and veins. Anyway, young person, dark person, any person, if you're stopped by the cops for fitting a profile, the one to cuss is the criminal who created the profile, not the cop who's trying to find him. And if you're stopped for breaking the law, the only one to cuss is yourself.