I’ve been trying to write a post about a racial incident between myself and the police last night all morning (well in between paper meetings anyway). The long and short of it, is that the police harassed and threatened me for reporting a young white woman whose behavior was endangering the lives of myself and others. They did nothing to investigate her behavior or follow up on the initial complaint. And they only backed down, when one of my white students drove by, got out and said “Professor Susurro, do you need help?” which instantly sent one of the officers to the car radio to confirm whether or not they’d been shaking down an “acceptable negro.” I was then berated for not identifying myself “better,” never mind that I was threatened by the other end of a gun when I stepped forward to tell the police officers that I was the one who had made the complaint. (Note I did so only after I was unable to mediate the situation myself and became concerned for everyone on the road.) Nor had the officers been interested in anything other than the answers to their ridiculous and insulting questions (which included such ditties as “why were you driving here” and “was this a drinking game” and “did you have a fight with her or otherwise attack her first.”) so there was no opportunity to try an exert privilege that I doubt they would have believed anyway. It took the intervention of a white AND male body to jump them off their racist track.
As I drove home, I had two thoughts in my head:
- I wondered if anyone had gotten hurt, hit, or killed by that driver while the police were worrying about the black woman in their midst
- I also wondered how we can celebrate the justices of the legal system (like the Zapata decision or the 2007 decision to uphold a school’s right to suspend children using anti-gay language even if it is not aimed at gay children) and still remember that true justice has to come from critical paradigm shifts at the social-structural level and systems that actually change our world and prevent criminality not just a reliance on a system that has more often than not upheld oppression and engaged in oppressing
As I’ve said in previous posts on prison-industrial-complex, the ever expanding definition of criminality that targets already marginalized populations has meant increased policing of those communities to the detriment of our entire society. In my own experience, either I or members of my family have had humiliating and frightening encounters with the police no less than 5 times in 3 weeks when none of us was actually engaged in anything more than being black or brown in public. Something has to change.