One of my children is a walker. He regularly takes a walk after school and another after dinner. He does not yet drive and walks to his friends’, to the movies and to the store. He was been questioned by police eight times that I know of and illegally strip searched once.
Another son is putting himself through college and drives what can only be described, on a good day, as a beater. I witnessed a bogus traffic stop when he was pulled over in front of our home. When I ran outside the policeman put his hand on his gun and yelled at me to return inside. I sat on the porch and another police car soon arrived. The policeman from the second car placed himself on the sidewalk between me and the first policeman, hand on gun, providing backup. At 5’0″ I guess I look that scary. Two police cars, two policemen, for 40 minutes. A ticket for speeding was eventually written. My son fought the ticket; the policemen did not bother to show up in court to defend themselves.
The same son, in the same beater car, has been pulled over many times in Palos Verdes (a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles) and questioned as to his business and destination. In each case my son has explained that he lives with his uncle, a resident of Palos Verdes. On several occasions my son has been followed by the police to his uncle’s home, I assume to confirm his destination.
Regrettably, one of my children was arrested several years ago. After being pulled over on a minor traffic violation, the occupants of the car my kid was in admitted to illegal paraphernalia in the car and they were hauled off to jail. When I went to the station during visiting hours to see my kid (more likely, yell at my kid) I was told by a policeman behind the counter that somebody or other hadn’t showed up to work and no visits were allowed. I inquired as to whether one of the many policemen I saw in the station could perform the duty of whomever hadn’t shown up to work. Absolutely not, said the policeman. I pleaded. I was asked to leave the station.
I returned to the station and reminded the policeman that I had committed no crime and was incredulous that in my first visit to the police station in 25 years no one was willing to accommodate me. He then demanded that I leave the station.
I was finally allowed to see my kid (I mean, yell at my kid) after a lawyer friend contacted the station. My kid told me later that bail not being posted was a relief; safety in jail was one thing, safety at home was questionable.
My problem was not that my kid was arrested; my problem was with how I was treated. And how the simple request of a taxpayer was not accommodated until I got a lawyer involved.
So, above is a by no means complete history of my family and its experiences with the police in several towns. My kids have been treated rudely, in one instance to the point of harassment. Tickets have been written that police didn’t show up to defend; a middle-aged, short woman accused of no crime has been treated like a criminal and yelled at.
So … what do you think?
Does it sound like racism to you?
Did I mention we’re white?
What’s my point you ask? I read the manifesto of Christopher Dorner. Every time he was mistreated, he blamed it on racism. For years I’ve been hearing that this country desperately needs to have a conversation about race. We talk and we talk, but race relations only get worse. Why? Because if you’re black, and you’re treated badly, the first default is to believe you’re being treated badly, or not being hired, or being pulled over, or being treated rudely by a policeman, because you’re black. And everyone just assumes it’s true.
My point is that sometimes people are just jerks. As a country, we might finally get somewhere if we all agree that jerks come in all colors. If you’re black and being mistreated by someone, chances are either the someone is a jerk, or you are. There’s a good chance that your color hasn’t got a damn thing to do with it.
And that should be good news to all of us.