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Politics in Wisconsin as they roll up to every level... and some other thoughts that may cross my mind are explored here from my lefty point of view. My values shape my opinions. You'll always find them in here. Let's have some fun exploring why Liberal values are American values!

Your comments are both welcome and encouraged!
(The watercolor is called Magnolia Tree for Momma, by Audrey Crawford)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Professor Gates

This entire episode is getting surreal for me...  Those of you who have read my blog know that racism and subtle racism are frequent topics I like to address out here.  In fact for several years I tracked the days the Milwaukee Sheriff's Department was on the lakefront pulling over people of color for no reason and giving as many as 80 seatbelt violation tickets a day.  He has been less aggressive this year, but then again, it's not an election year...

On one hand, I KNOW for a FACT that when I'm driving in Fox Point or Bayside or WFB or several other communities in and around the Milwaukee area I'm in danger of being pulled over for no reason at all. 
  • Once my "kids were out of their seat belts" only for me to turn around angry at them and see that they had them on and were just as surprised through their scared tears as I was that they were being faulted for the stop.
  • Another time I was pulled over for having a tail light out. I politely asked to get out and see the problem and the suddenly very nervous cop reluctantly said okay, slowly backed off and when he and I got to the back of the car, it was clear I had no problems with my tail light... "Let me see your driver's license anyway" was his reply.  He still wrote the ticket that said I needed to get it fixed in 5 days or so and then bring it back for a police inspection.  I drove straight to the police station that night and had another officer check it out and he signed off on the ticket...
  • Another time, I was accused of "speeding" on the lakefront when I was by far the slowest car on the lincoln memorial...I always am...much to the chagrin of my family and friends...
  • Another time, I was pulled over headed out of a suburb and accused of running a stop sign. When the officer saw my license he SAID "Oh! You live here! Well, then I'll just give you a warning." Sigh...
The point is that I can do this all day... I can tell you stories of clear, obvious and annoying racial profiling all day long that happened to me personally. My husband never believed in it when we first met. He's a true believer today though...

After being pulled over for no reason over and over and over again (and I have a damn good driving record because once they find out I'm not up to any wrong doing, they DO usually let me go...) my entire lifetime, it's just a fact of life that several times a year if I'm driving in the wrong neighborhoods, I'll be pulled over and checked out.


The bottom line is, that I GET why Gates was ticked off. He's older than I am and male, he's had it worse than I have guaranteed... and eventually, it will happen on the wrong day when you're tired or irritated about something else and yeah, at that point I understand why he might have lipped off to Gates. Unleashed a lifetime longer than mine of irritation and anger with having your life interrupted regularly because your skin's too dark for law enforcement to trust you to be on your way without a check in first... 

I also understand that the officer who probably prided himself in his ability to train fellow officers in these encounters and deal with these situations appropriately, lost his cool when he found himself in a situation with an old cranky man accusing him of being heavy handed over the one thing he didn't want to be accused of... racism... and with his career on the line decided to call for back up and take him in rather than risk a he said he said situation.


I more and more think two somewhat reasonable men found themselves face to face in a situation they were not expecting to find themselves in at that moment and both overreacted, both got out of hand and the one with the ultimate power to arrest went too far with it all rather than backing down and letting this one go...  Obama is still right the officer did ACT stupidly.  

And I'm irritated, confused, and disgusted because as people of color, we have to be good. Not just good, but REALLY good ALL the time or our risk of incarceration is really high. It's just not the same for everyone in this country. 

That's the ultimate problem. The inequity in how good you have to be just to survive in this America. Yes, Barack has proven that if you are PERFECT you can achieve ANYTHING in America regardless of your race. 

Perfect is a pretty high margin. Professor Gates was pretty damn perfect for a black man in America and he still ended up getting arrested for being in his own home that happened to be in the wrong neighborhood...

6 comments:

biko said...

yeah...I put on my best behavior face when I drive outside of the city limits. racial profiling is alive and well!

Great blog!

MAL said...

Thank you for one of the few rational commentaries on Prof Gates, profiling and racism.

I'll never forget being pulled over in Fondy for being male and dark-brown. The cop was named Barr, who we found out later was fond of the N-word. Big surprise.

Bob Herbert has another clear-eye piece in this morning's Times that your readers might appreciate.

In the face of Republican reaction to the successful effort passed this year to collect data to check racial profiling and what seems a near universal skepiticism by white writers towards the plight of the innocent Gates, the conclusion is inescapable that the majority of whites can not be counted on as allies to protect civil rights. As the for the GOP, the White Party, we can count on overt hostility.

See Herbert's "Innocence Is No Defense" at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/opinion/04herbert.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

ΕΡΜΕΣ said...

great commentary.

Chris Rock on being a successful black person in a white neighborhood: "[My only three black neighbors are] Mary J. Blige, one of the greatest singers of all time, Denzel Washington, one of the greatest actors of all time, and Jay-Z, one of the greatest rappers of all time." His white neighbor? "A dentist. And he isn't like the greatest dentist in history either. I had to host the Oscars to get that house — a black dentist in my neighborhood would have to invent teeth."

Jonathan Brady Spiegel said...

Great & familiar points, my wife and I have noticed racial profiling following her around in multiple states, from police to churches to shopping malls to...wherever...I wish that were the worst racism we've experienced against us as an interracial couple but of course it has gotten much worse than that on both sides.

Jonathan Brady Spiegel said...

Hi this is Jonathan's wife Kahmena. I just wanted to say that the best place we have lived so far is the Tucson area. We live in a haven for interracial couples!I am sure that profiling goes on here but as far as looks and a general feeling of acceptance it is great! I sometimes forget we are interracial. I never felt that way in the midwest or eastcoast. Take care

Crawford's Take said...

There are of course havens all over the country. In fact, I've lived in Shorewood long enough that it's been years since they pulled me over here. I belong... and I take advantage of that in that I continue to live in this community. I also know I'm an exception...

I'm happy you've found a haven as well. Unfortunately, millions in this country have not and it's more important while attempting to avoid the traps as well to continue to advocate for equality in policing practices across the board.

Thanks for all of your comments!

Rae