Friday, July 24, 2009

The Man in Blue (or one of them)

As I sat and reflected this afternoon on Dr. Gates, my brother, my next door neighbor, Rodney King, my father, my friends and my own experiences with the police, I remembered one of my encounters with an arrogant, nasty, male, power-abusing member of the Oakland Police Department (OPD).

15-20 years ago, a squad car pulled up beside me as I sat in my parked car in front of the house next door to mine. The male police officer in the car asked me why I was parked in the wrong direction. It was common for cars to park in any direction on our block and it had been so for many years. I’d never received a ticket for doing so and I never saw any of my neighbors with tickets on their cars for ‘wrong direction parking’. The abusive male police officer sat in a squad car with his younger, blonde, female partner at the wheel. After I explained that I was waiting for another driver to vacate the parking space in front of my house, this truly nasty man decided that he needed to respond to my explanation by telling me that I needed to thank him and call him “sir.” As a matter of fact, he told me that I needed to say, “yes sir” to him in response to his query. It was as if I had no right to answer his question with an intelligent explanation. I believe that it was the intelligence that set him off. This intelligence sets many men and privileged people of various backgrounds off because “no one likes a smart nigger.” That’s an old saying, and one that bears weight and has done so for far too long. Basically, I break stereotypes in many ways, one of those ways being my high level of and depth of intelligence. Once I open my mouth, it’s all over for those who are threatened by intelligence. Of course, this is their problem, but it can become my problem in some instances. In this instance it had the potential to become a very big problem in that I could come to physical harm. My parents who both grew up in Jim Crow south had prepared me well for situations like this, as had my life in America of 40 years.

This tells the story of just how racist America is. Yes, I live, and many of us live in a police state and yes, those people in uniforms who carry guns on their persons far too often push the limits of power and in doing so, abuse us. I’m still angry that I couldn’t do anything about my situation of 15 or 20 years ago since none of my neighbors were outside. I looked. Not one person was out on his steps, in her driveway or standing in front of her house. It would have been much easier to avoid this outrageous encounter if someone else had been present to witness it. In addition, the young woman officer who was driving the squad car looked away when I looked over at her after her partner told me to revise my answer and “sir” him. Since I had no backup, I said “Yes sir” and he replied with something nasty like “That’s more like it.” Then he and the silent young blonde woman police officer drove off in their Oakland Police Department registered vehicle. However, I couldn’t see a car number and I had no name to use in filing a complaint. So, basically a ‘wanna be slave master’ lived his dream on my block on 62nd Street in North Oakland.

So, when I read about the events of Dr. Gates’ arrest and I read the stupid, droning opinion pieces and supposed news reports of this situation, I get angry all over again because I don’t think I’ve heard one intelligent thing said about it, except for the attempts at reporting the events as they unfolded. The rest of the noise has been just that, noise, and I’m not just referring to the media in terms of conservative, liberal, democratic or republican. There’s been far too much noise on all sides and far too little thoughtfulness. That’s what’s been missing, thoughtfulness. I can no longer give my attention to the rest.
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