Saturday, March 07, 2015

Prejudice, Mistaken Identiy

A Letter From Black America - Nikole Hannah-Jones - POLITICO Magazine:

The attached article is a nice long explanation justification for blacks feeling put upon by police. It ends with the specific case "proving" (if there is any point to the incident brought up at all) that police also are biased against teens, or possibly just tend to want to be certain that they person that reports an incident is not involved / has a motive other than being a good citizen.

Way way back when I was 21 and already working in Rochester I was minding my own business walking down the street street one day dressed in my favorite red white and blue denim jacket, jeans, and no doubt colorful tennis shoes. Somewhat like a St Bernard or Lab that has not figured out that it is not a lap dog, I had not wised up yet to the idea that bigger people wearing bright colored things stand out -- you do need to remember it was '78, Disco, Village People, etc as well.

A police car cruised by, slowing rather obviously, and stopping to watch me stroll by. I was unconcerned having done nothing wrong and not opposed to police. I heard the doors of the squad open / bang shut and was surprised very shortly to hear, "Please Stop, we would like to talk with you."

As I turned, I noticed the officer closest to me resting his hand on his pistol from which the strap was already undone, the second officer was off on the grass at an angle to the side so it was hard to look at both at the same time ... his hand was even more prominently resting in the draw-ready position on his unstrapped pistol.

"Do you have any identification?" ... fortunately, I did, and rather SLOWLY reached to my back pocket, got out the billfold, then licence -- they looked at the ID, looked at me for a bit, then handed it back and apologized for detaining me.

Curious, I asked what was up. Apparently, a guy of my height and weight description "dressed like me" had escaped from a holding facility at the local enforcement center. It took me a few years to kind of figure out that particular description of physical characteristics and dress might have been a bit unusual, although I STILL like to think that I blend in anywhere! Moose are hard to spot!

Bill Berg is also a common name ... maybe not as common as "Mike Smith" (if that is actually anybody's real name), so I've had more than a few cases of mistaken identity there. When a Bill Berg of about my age was killed along the highway in an accident and it was reported in the news, a NUMBER of people were sure it was me.

It is also true that "teens" of any color are "targeted" by the police for certain kinds of crime -- vandalism, stealing cars, erratic and "display of power" sorts of driving, shoplifting, etc. The reason they are "targeted" is that they have a higher rate of perpetrating those kinds of acts than say 60 year old  overweight white guys, to pick a group that MIGHT be profiled completely at random.

Is there pure racism against blacks? Sure. But there is also what I would call "legitimate profiling" -- certain groups DO perpetuate certain crimes at a MUCH higher rate than others. If I want more police attention I can just put on some leathers, and rev my Harley up a bit in some areas -- add a few tats and such and the attention will rise even more.

While as I say, I'm certain there is SOME racism, I would be strongly surprised if a well groomed middle age black man in a suit and tie isn't going to get a lot less attention than a dreadlocked 20 year old with low slung pants, a bunch of bling, a hoodie and a baseball cap cocked to the side -- add a boom box on the shoulder blaring anti-cop rap and the meter likely goes up another notch or two.

The bottom line. PERSPECTIVE. Politico puts in an article in which the bulk is opinion, completely known to any breathing American from many previous sources, and the specific incident cited point to police treatment of teens that call in crimes on a cell phone, not to treatment of blacks by police which is ostensibly  the topic.

Black, white, young, big, biker, old,  hooker, etc -- profiles and stereotypes are part of living. Hang around and you will be old and uninteresting to anyone in law enforcement as other than a victim.

You may even gain some perspective.

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