Friday, March 20, 2009

Driving While Black

One of the things that I have said during my Racism classes and various dialogue circles is that there is a reason why I try to be very careful when I drive around the city of Syracuse or any of its many neighboring towns. As person who is as brown as myself, I understand that I can be pulled over for any reason at all. It has been my experience that we tend to fit many different profiles and can be easily mistaken for anyone. Perhaps, I even look like the type of person who can look suspicious while I am driving.

It is not to say that racial profiling is just a problem within Central New York. I feel the same way driving everywhere I go. Truth be told, I have never been stopped when I am driving. So I can never been guilty of a DWB. However, I have been in a vehicle when a friend has been stopped. As, a matter of fact, I have several friends who have committed several DWBs.

To understand what it is like to be stopped here in CNY, you first need to understand that I live in a very lily white city when it come to the infrastructure and the law enforcement. I am generally surprised if I see a Black Police Officer. So, when someone like me gets pulled over, which is commonplace here, there is often a need for two police cars. Which, is a surprise to me. Growing up in NYC, when someone is pulled over, it is normally one car. Two cars generally mean that NYPD has been looking for you

So, getting back to being in the car when a friend commits the crime of driving while black, I am sure one can imagine how it may feel when you come home from picking up food and pulling into the driveway of the house you live...and seeing 2 police cars in the rear view mirror. While that happened more than 13 years ago, it still happened in Syracuse and still remember it vividly. Which has given me the reason to think twice before I go out and drive with my brown skin on.

I have been followed. I have been followed on campus by Public Safety. I didn't have on my official business attire on that day. But, I was in the car with a co-worker driving to one of our student centers. When my co-worker got out of the car (I was dropping him off), the officers must have recognized who he was and then proceed to move on with their day. So, when I tell people that racism still exists, I am not making this up.

Which brings me to the point of this who post today. My good friend Eddie that I went on that shopping trip with, committed his very first DWB last night. We went to Chili's last night and hung out for awhile. He lives in the village of Liverpool which is very upscale and white. So, on this way home he gets the CNY police treatment. He gets 2 cars...and he gets 7 tickets. Don't adjust your screen saver...7 tickets! One for having his high beams on (it is mad dark..but ok), One for the SU parking decal hanging from the mirror, One for having his headphones on...(he as an iPhone), One for a small crack on his windshield, and I am not sure about the other 3 but I can guess (too black, too tall, and too southern).

Personally, I think that breaks a record of how many tickets you can get in one sitting. But, since I know the Liverpool Projects are really hopping on a Thursday Night, they have to make sure they keep the Negros in check.


Georgia Peach said...

It's funny you mention this topic LN - one of my friends and I discussed this issue last weekend. He mentioned that he was recently stopped in his town in NJ and much like your friend - he lives in an affluent, mainly white area of town. It's such a shame that this is a part of reality and when he asked why this happens (he's originally from Angola), I told him that sadly even though we have a black president now, racism is even more prevalent than ever.

I'm just glad to hear that your friend went unharmed (aside from his rights and ego) in this incident. There are so many instances where DWB can get you killed. :(

Anthony Otero said...

One of the things I asked him was did he give attitude the officier and he told me that he didnt.

His father had always told him that a black person should never be give the Police a hard time becuase you never know how itchy there finger will be.

Which is something that is just sad to instill in a black man, but it is very true.

Brooke said...

This story makes me sad, but I agree with Glee...thank God all he got was a bruised ego and seven tickets...which is pure FUCKERY to me.

Racism will never go away, we just have to learn not to validate whatever negative perceptions they have of us.

Jeri said...

I was watching the show "What Would You Do" on ABC last night and they touched on a similar subject. They performed a racism experiment in a clothing store in soho. They hired actors to portray a black shopper, a white salesperson and a white security guard and created a scenario to see if people would say something when a black woman was openly harassed because "we dont like your kind here"- In this scenario, the guard frisked the woman because she was black. They did the experiment multiple times. Out of over a hundred people total only 28 actually said something. I was beyond shocked at how many people actually just watched/ignored it. I got pissed off, and i was sitting on my couch!

They did other kinds of experiments as well- interestingly enough, the scenario with a gay couple and a homophobe in a sports bar had the reverse effect. Almost everyone quickly came to the rescue of the gay couple being harassed- something no one expected.

When are people going to realize skin color is like hair color- just pigments.... seriously, people.... seriously....


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