Monday, July 28, 2008

What I've Seen

I was driving back to the office the other day when I saw the tail end of a police chase.

There were several young black boys, barely teens if that, in handcuffs spreadeagle across the hood of an older Lincoln Towncar.

One of the boys is crying.

I pulled over. I often pull over to watch how officers interact with criminals. This rarely results in a story and I'm sure it doesn't endear me to the cops, but I think it's important that I get a first hand look at how the police do their jobs.

Anyway, these boys are handcuffed standing on the sidewalk or leaning over the cars. I see officers yelling into their faces, roughly pushing them around. I see one boy get slammed into the hood of car. Another boy is put down on his knees, arms cuffed behind his back, and then kicked in the back until he is facedown on the steaming concrete.

One of the boys is still crying.

I watched these police officers. At first they didn't see me, later they did. I apparently am gaining a reputation for being a watcher. I watched one of the boys have some sort of breathing attack. The police handed him an inhaler from a plastic bag recovered from the car. They also went through some pill bottles while questioning an older man in the back of squad car who may have been driving the vehicle that fled.

The crying boy now is out of the sun and is being comforted by the police.

I've seen the police interact with people a lot. I've interacted with them; so have my family and my friends. I've seen enough to know that every accusation of police brutality isn't true and every accusation isn't false.

I've seen enough that this story of police brutality doesn't surprise me at all.

I've seen way too much.


Deacon Blue said...

Man, I'm not sure if I should be praying that you are soon moved to a less baggage-filled beat than the crime beat...or if I should be praying for you to stay on that beat because you seem to have a commitment to doing it right.

As for the taser story, that is just so fucked up. But there's nothing I can add that hasn't already been said in the blog entry you linked to.

the uppity negro said...

I heard this story this morning on CNN or MSNBC, can't remember which one right now.

The officers tasing him and then tasing him for not moving fast enough just reminded me of the scene from Rosewood when the blacksmith's apprentice, is in the back of the pickup truck and they're strangling him, cutting off his air supply to talk, and then demanding that he talk.

Or, moreover, Jesus on the cross saying "I thirst" in pain and agony, but someone prolongs the torture by giving him vinegar.

Just overall adding insult to injury.

I think one of the commenters on the story was right, this officer should get a promotion to GITMO.

what part of NOLA u stay in?

Big Man said...

I live in New Orleans East. But this incident didn't happen there. It was somewhere else.


I don't mind the crime beat most of the time. I think it's a good place for me to be.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I'm always reminded of this clip when I hear of police brutality:

Of course I'm not implying the victims deserve it or anything, that's just a callous recollection of humor at an inappropriate time. These kids sound like they were definitely mishandled but the "adult" in the pack who led the cops on a police chase although it might be understandable to make sure the other parties in the car are restrained as you deal with the perpetrator, but it depends on the age of the kids.

White or black, if you misbehave when you get pulled over, all bets are off! I myself am white and I'm scared to death of the cops. After all, they can do anything they want, they can say anything they want. I recognize that black folks have a greater chance of being harassed but it certainly isn't exclusive. I was once pulled over by some militant looking bitch cop lady for speeding and the way she was barking orders at me even though I was fully complying with her, I was scared to death!

Big Man said...


I don't know if you are the same anon who posted earlier. I told that Anon about a bad habit many white people have. See, if black people say that race played a factor in something bad that happened to them, there is no need for a white person to say "Well I'm white and it happened to me too."

Yes, it could have happened to you. But, that doesn't mean it didn't happen to me because I'm black. The two are not related. People have different motives for how they treat different people. Sometimes it could be because you are poor and dirty, other times it could be because you're black. This is a key concept that white people need to grasp. said...

@ Big Man

Thank you for checking Anon3:29PM because I am very tired of hearing whites mentioning that THEY TOO face unfair treatment whenever black people mention RACISM... being treated rudely or unfairly is ONE THING...being vilified due to skin color is quite another!



Anonymous said...

Yes yes yes, but how can you know for certain? If a cop is just a prick how can you (you, the poster) just assume he's being a prick _because_ he is racist, as a default explanation in the absence of proof to the contrary?

I'm not saying mistreatment due to race does not occur, that'd be preposterous, certainly it happens a LOT, but you really must give each individual the benefit of the doubt, of innocence before proven guilty (of racist behavior.)

And one could obtain such proof by looking at the cop's record, or if he simply spoke in a manner that indicated he was not too fond of black people (calling you, as in black people, "boy" and other obvious tells) but unless you have that, you simply cannot make that assumption, it is totally unfair.

I mean, it's all about demeanor too, I'm just as uncomfortable around a white person who dresses like Eminem as I am around a black person who dresses like Snoop Dogg. It's not the race that makes me uncomfortable, it's the demeanor, the aggressive nature of the speech, and the body language. Most people are just as comfortable around a black person who behaves and dresses like Bill Cosby as they are around a white person like Mister Rogers.

I think that before a conclusion can be drawn, lacking direct proof such as that which I mentioned above, then you really cannot assume. I'm sorry but you can't.

Remember my anecdote about how I make a special effort to behave more cheerfully and politely when around black people? Well are all white people supposed to discriminate with their behavior in that same way all the time on the oft-chance someone may misinterpret their prick'ness for racism?

It's almost like... I dunno, when I'm around little kids, well of course I take on a more innocent and kind persona. I'm not saying black people are like children, and you know that that's not what I meant, but the behavior discrimination is the same concept you know? Black people cannot possibly enjoy this sort of discrimination, even though it's "positive" discrimination, but it is made necessary by the default assumptions made by people such as yourself, you see what I mean? Am I insane?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to tell black people their pain is an illusion or some such patronizing nonsense, I'm just trying to chime in and challenge the assumptions. Or will you just dismiss me as just a racist white guy who spews nonsense?

I think this is that dialogue "we" are supposed to have but have been too afraid to have, no? Hell look at me, I'm anonymous, I'm _afraid_ that by simply discussing this I will labeled racist, which would be extraordinarily damaging to me because it's the kind of accusation you cannot disprove, ever.

Cheers :)

Deacon Blue said...


It isn't always possible to "know," but it is often very possible to sort out the likelihood. It's sort of like a court case...most cases are won on circumstantial evidence because rarely do you have something like a video tape of the crime or something else that would be ironclad evidence.

So, let's put out some examples:

- Well-dressed black person gets followed around by security guard in store, even though there are plenty of middle age white women and they are far more frequently the shoplifters.

- Police are doing "random" stops. Plenty of cars with white people are passed along. Almost all of those that have been pulled over contain black people.

- Biracial lad is walking down the street having just bought a sandwich. He is accosted by a police officer and questioned and said officer refuses to bring him home and involve parents in the questioning, even though said young man has announced he is a minor and lives three blocks away. Oh, and he was questioned about trying to open car doors, which he wasn't doing; in fact, the perp he supposedly fit the description of was white and far shorter than him.

- White man goes years having been pulled over by police only once in more than 15 years of driving. He gets pulled over at least half a dozen times since marrying a black woman, and almost every time, it was when she was in car with him.

Anon, these are just a few examples from the experiences of my mixed-marriage family. A few drops in the bucket.

All I am saying is that there are often tip offs that a person is being targetting because of race. Not always, but very often. Very often indeed.

Anonymous said...

deacon, I appreciate what you're saying, that if you look at a large sample of incidents that yes, black people will have a significantly higher number all thing being equal. However, there will be many false-positives and therefore you cannot assume anything about individuals.

If you are pursued in a store, even though you have nothing especially interesting about you that might cause them to believe you have sinister intent, then yes you can definitely claim there is a strong possibility of the pursuit being racially motivated.

However, for all you know, the security personnel just like to follow everybody around, not just you. So unless you see that out of a sample of customers who all have the same demeanor, and you are the only black customer and are the only one being pursued, then you can say with 99% that you are being racially profiled.

Deacon Blue said...

I didn't say you could "assume." I specifically said, in fact, that one couldn't "know."

What I said you could make some very good guesses about motivations.

I hope you aren't suggesting that blacks should, when confronted with what seems clear racially motivated bad behavior, give everyone a pass and never look for signs that they are being mistreated.

My point is that while it may not be right to point to someone and shout "You're being racist," it is certainly within a black person's rights, when feeling what seems like unwarranted heat, to probe and even ask a person sometimes, "Is this because I'm black?" People who do ignorant things because of racial/ethnic/color reasons are not going to stop (or even examine themselves for personal growth and improvement) if they are not called on bullshit and forced to confront it.

At least that's my two cents.

Raving Black Lunatic