Being pulled over by a police car is everyone’s nightmare, regardless of race. It’s usually bad news delivered with intimidating instructions.
A few years back, my brother and I were coming home from New Jersey in separate cars. It was at night and I was following him. He was a little confused about where to make a left turn and he swerved a bit getting into a turning lane. Immediately, a police car appeared and ordered him into a parking lot. I followed them.
Though stone sober, my brother was suspected of DUI. I approached the White officers to explain what they saw, but was ordered twice to step back and not interfere. I duly complied. I had no desire to end up in cuffs. Once satisfied that my brother was fit to drive, the police departed. However, we were sufficiently intimidated. How this would have played out were we African Americans, I cannot say.
In this age of cell phone and body cameras, a frightening picture has emerged of police encounters with African Americans. It seems that every encounter is a life-threatening experience, for both Blacks and cops. Based on my experience and the video footage I see, my take is: don’t backtalk cops!
This is not to say all policemen are unbiased or emotionally stable. They are trained to dominate any encounter and to be obeyed. Moreover, they cannot assume that you are trustworthy and unarmed – their lives are always on the line.
Videos may both clarify and inflame.
In a NYTimes op-ed this week, African American educator Melanye Price bemoaned the repeated broadcast of what she called “snuff films” of Black murders committed by the police and White civilians. She raises serious questions about the media’s intent and the psychological effects these videos have on African Americans and race relations.
The sight of Black victims in the throes of death-by-cop (George Floyd’s being the most recent) or by White civilians, appalls us all and serves to elicit emotions that a thousand words of prose cannot. But, therein lies the rub. Americans and the world are shown ghastly videos of racism that compel an emotional response. Our society is currently at the point of questioning whether the 155 years of civil rights progress ever happened – an absurd reaction!
You cannot blame African Americans, especially the young, for feeling America has failed them when video after video shows them being decimated by Whites. They hear daily about White supremacy, “systemic racism,” failing education, and even the coronavirus targeting them. They hear little or nothing about “systemic” problems within their own culture and community. Even introspection is deemed racist. The video has become their ultimate perspective.
But, there are no videos of Paul (86) and Lidia (85) Marino being shot in the head by a Black man, while they were visiting their son’s grave in Delaware on May 8th. There is no video of Columbia student Tessa Majors being robbed and stabbed to death in a Manhattan park by three Black teenagers on December 11, 2019. In both cases, these murders were not framed as race crimes. Whereas, every police shooting of Blacks has been deemed a racist act.
Black anger has become more vitriolic because of this. Chad Sanders, a Black author, wrote in the NYTimes of bothersome Whites who contact him to pledge their “white guilt” support. He dismisses them as useless unless they are willing to threaten their own “relatives and loved ones telling them you will not be visiting them or answering phone calls until they take significant action supporting black lives through protest or financial contribution.” Shades of Malcolm X!
A segment of Lester Holt’s NBC World News last week featured a Black activist who taught his 8-year old daughter how to act with White police: throw up your hands and proclaim you are unarmed. The poor girl broke down in tears as she demonstrated the required exercise.
But the real slap in the face came from a Black athlete interviewed by the Times, who recently moved to Red China with his 4-year old son. After being unable to rent an apartment and being denied seating at a restaurant, he’s had enough and wants to come home. But, “I don’t want my son to have this preconceived notion of Chinese people being racist.”
Sure, save that notion for use against Euro-Americans. –JLM