I have white friends, or know of white commenters on web sites, who insist there’s no institutional racism remaining in America despite tons and tons of evidence to the contrary.
Take the case of a young black man, Jordan Miles, in Pittsburgh who was walking home one winter evening when three undercover cops accosted him and beat the crap out of him, alleging he showed signs of having a weapon. Of course he was charged with resisting arrest, though he disputed whether they had identified themselves as cops.
Many Pittsburgh Post-Gazette readers express the view that he should simply have yielded to the cops and further trouble would have been avoided.
But what of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both young black men shot and killed in Florida, Martin by a self-appointed neighborhood watch zealot suspicious of Trayvon cutting through yards in the housing development where his father lived, even after his call to 911 produced a response that he should cease his pursuit, real cops were on their way. Jordan Davis had the temerity of playing music in his car that was exceedingly loud, or was deemed so by a white man parked near him at a convenience store.
There are far more incidences of young black men being shot while not discernibly breaking the law and the hell of it is that if the shooters are faced with prosecution at all, they are almost inevitably found to be not guilty.
These cases most often have as victims young black men acting like a young men of any color who suddenly find that their insouciance has betrayed them. Being abruptly confronted by accusations or suspicions of wrongdoing by someone who has pegged them as “trouble” and who has aggressively approached them, their instinct in reaction to the interruption of their innocent reverie is to act offended.
No one has made a simple request or treated them like the young adults they are. Rather they are faced with presumptions and assumptions that result in no future consumption of anything….all because of the color of their skin.
Today the story emerged of former major league baseball player Doug Glanville whose right to be where he was while shoveling snow in the driveway of his own home in Hartford, Connecticut this past February was disputed by a police officer out of his own jurisdiction.
Although I knew of Glanville when he played, I’v become somewhat more familiar with him the past few years due to his column on ESPN.com. His writing is intelligent and polished and thoughtful as befits a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who holds an engineering degree. His words are not the usual rah rah one might expect from an ex-jock or biting barbs directed at any and all athletes whom he is now entitled to harshly judge as a sports commentator.
His story appears in the new edition of The Atlantic and I’ll let him describe the essence of what happened.
A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”
He had the presence of mind to not let his resentment and offense at this line of questioning cause him to do anything in the least that might prompt the officer to place him in handcuffs or worse.
The officer left but this incident ended up in opening dialogue between Glanville, his wife who is an Ivy League educated lawyer, his next door neighbor, also a lawyer, and various officials of both Hartford and West Hartford. Instead of pursuing recriminations against the particular officer who insulted him, he expressed hope that with age and experience the officer would grow and develop better understanding.
However, it would not be surprising for you or me to make a federal case of this. Of course I am white and probably most of my readers are white so we could get away with a little defiance. Just look at the idiot rancher in Nevada, illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for TWENTY YEARS, who pitched a hissy fit and generated enough publicity to persuade a bunch of fellow gun nuts to join him in his resistance to obeying the law The federal government backed down, not wanting any unnecessary blood to be shed. And shed blood is what these illegal protestors were willing to do and have done to them in defending a plain violation of law. Oh, yeah, they are white.
But let them darken their skin and stroll through a neighbor’s yard after sundown and their ass would be grass, and not the type cattle graze on.
If a black, educated, unemotional man such as Glanville is accosted like this on his own property what chance does a younger immature black man have?