Why My Race Card Stays In My Pocket


photo credit: Franckfbe via photopin cc
photo credit: Franckfbe via photopin cc

Man, it was bullshit.

I was just sitting at the picnic table, and here comes park security, on his stupid little go-kart. I just acted like he wasn’t even there until he stopped the engine.

“Howdy,” he said.

Howdy? Really? Pendejo.

Save the pleasantries. This white guard is targeting me, the Chicano. Right?

“You’re not fixin’ to have a birthday party in this shelter or anything, are you?”

the girlsI’m just a dude in cargo shorts with his family, man.

You see any cake, esse?

“Nah,” I said, looking off into the playground and feeling like a dropout in the movie Stand and Deliver. “Just hanging out with my family, man.”

“Well, OK,” Barney Fife says. “Like the sign says, there’s a festival here in the park. And unless you have reservations, we’re asking that you not have any gatherings here in the shelters.”

Gatherings, huh? Cabron. What am I going to do, bust out a vat of menudo and a piñata? Think a van’s going to pull up? Think four generations of Mexicans are going to pour out and ruin the nice white-people crafts festival? Nah, man. I’m cool.

“This dude’s giving me a hard time,” I said when my sister arrived. I walked with knees bouncing and arms flailing between my legs, like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz as I repeated his request.

photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc
photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc

Police pulled me over five times before I ever received a ticket. White cop. Every time.

“Step out of the car, please?”

“Sure officer, but wasn’t I was going the speed limit, and didn’t I signal all my turns?

“Oh, you did, you did. Step out of the car, please.”

When I was 8, the owner of Frankie’s Toy Store searched all my pockets because I loitered too long in the Star Wars aisle. My blood went cold as he searched.

I was just a poor kid whose parents took too long shopping in Montgomery Ward.

Maybe he was just a shop owner who’d had kids steal stuff.

Maybe that police officer who searched my car had a robbery in his precinct. Maybe that suspect was a Hispanic male, 25-40 years old, 5-6 to 5-8 … that would include many of us, you know.

Maybe that security guard was just making the rounds. Maybe if he’d seen me playing catch with the girls, he’d have just waved.

It’s easy, even in something with such low volatility as a day in the park, to flash the race card.

photo credit: (vhmh) via photopin cc
photo credit: (vhmh) via photopin cc

Police investigated a break-in of an unoccupied house at the end of the street recently. As the officers searched, I walked out, barefoot, with a pizza crust in my hand. Immediately, an officer’s flashlight shone on me. I stopped.

Did he draw his weapon?

Did my pizza crust look like a weapon under the stress of the night?

He turned off his light and approached me. He asked about the house, relayed details to his dispatcher, and thanked me for the help.

I watched the officers approach the house, in growing darkness. I considered all the places a criminal could hide. And what harm one could do from the shadows.

And the quick decisions those officers might have to make.

photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc
photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc

To pursue, or not. To call for backup, or not. To shoot, or not to shoot.

Do they think about their kids, or partners lost in the line of duty? About a time they might have let their guard down?

Such split-second decisions.

The results can be a matter of life or death. That’s much to ask of anyone.

The least I can do is drive the speed limit, or not shoplift, or hit an officer. Pay attention to signs. To know that torching a pizza place is never the answer.

I need to trust that most in law enforcement, from a park ranger to the officer on traffic duty at the girls’ school to highway patrol, are here to serve and protect.

I won’t loot, or loiter. I’ll never make this a matter of brown vs. white, or black vs. brown, or black vs. white.

An officer must play the hand he’s dealt.

The least I could do is keep my race card out of it.

accountability quote

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72 Replies to “Why My Race Card Stays In My Pocket”

  1. Wow, Eli you truly said this so eloquently and perfectly. I admit I am whiter then white and never been through this myself but after reading your words here, I most definitely could put myself in your shoes and as they say ‘walk a mile in your shoes’. Thank you for being courageous enough to indeed share this here with us today.

    1. Thanks Janine. I don’t feel like a victim, and really wanted to convey that the biggest factor we can have an influence on is our own behavior. At some point, we all have to be accountable for what we do.

      1. Keep sharing. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re creating the change you want to see in the world through your actions and rising up and not reacting and becoming a victim, even though you could if you chose to. You’re showing the world your true colors – the love and grace and being respectful. You’re changing the conversation. You’re shining. 😉

      2. That might be the best debut comment ever! Thanks Adriana. I’m just a dad trying to be a good example. If I can avoid the billy club in the process, good on me.

        I just want my girls to know the importance of accountability, and acknowledge the tough job law enforcement faces every day.

      3. I love your perspective and that you’re teaching your kids respect and accountability and to do the right thing. We always tell our children to choose the harder right. Don’t choose what’s easy. Do the work and do the right thing. Hopefully we’re raising great citizens of the world. 😉

      4. I’ve discovered there’s little merit in teaching, but undeniable validity in setting an example. You’re on the right track to teach the worthy road.

  2. It really isn’t a ‘black or white’ issue in terms of being binary … but there is absolutely no doubt that race is a very large issue. “Shoot or not shoot” might be part of the question, but if another part of the question is “is the person black” then the answer is “Shoot” 21X more often than if the person is non-black.

    The overwhelming majority of white people cannot relate to your random pull-over and car search questions … because those are things that happen based on race. 90+% of ‘random stops’ target blacks in spite of them taking up <25% of the population.

    And quoting Reagan? The man who tried to make sure that only the rich had access to higher education? Whose economic policies have created the destruction of the lower class, the destruction of economic mobility and ultimately the destruction of the economy in 2007/8? All of which disproportionately impacted people of color? Um … yeah.

    1. Race will always be an issue – but it doesn’t have to be the only issue. It shouldn’t be, and it’s easy to play the race card. Trust me, I know.

      I also know from your comment that we’re not close on the political spectrum, and that’s fine. My intent isn’t to influence anyone from their current stance.

      It’s simply to give my perspective.

      I can say that I was pulled over all those times because I’m Hispanic. Am I right? I don’t know. I do know that because nothing was found in the search, I was let go.

      The same happened at the airport early in 2014 coming home from Mexico. My duffle bag attracted a drug dog, and I was told to put the bag down and my hands in the air. I did. The only contraban in the bag was three bottles of orange soda. The dog and officer moved on.

      I really don’t know where the stats you cited came from. They seem a bit random and skewed. In any event, I’m not here to start a statistical pissing game.

      As a man of some color who lives in a part of town of significant color, I choose to believe that officers who patrol my neighborhood are there to protect all of us.

      I was a preteen and teenager during the Reagan administration. I feel like as a head of household in 2014, I have a much more difficult time supporting a family as my dad did in the 1980s – and I have more education that he did. That’s my barometer.

      I won’t blame any administration’s policies for my lack of economic mobility, either. I’ll just keep working hard, because that’s what ‘merica’s, all about, right?

      1. I actually voted for Reagan, and Republican is the only party I have ever belonged to … but I don’t let that cloud my misgivings about the outcomes of economic policies I was so certain 30+ years ago would deliver new levels of wealth to lower-income people (hint: it only made the rich, richer).

        And I also agree that it should never be ‘all about race’. That is diminishing to everyone – but it is important for people to remember that race IS an issue. The myth of post-racial America is just that.

        I think in most cases thugs are thugs and the police are out for the best interest of the people and want to solve things peacefully.

  3. Absolutely BRILLIANT, Eli! I wish I could “Like” this a miilion times.

    I was gonna ask where my “White Privilege” was, but I think good ol’ txa1265 up there^^^ found it for me.

    Since it’s your blog, amigo, I’ll be nice and not spoil txa1265’s day with facts and shit like that. Beside’s he’s got a Che Guevarra poster to go kiss. “Tis better to be thought a fool, etc, etc, etc…”

    ***Edit this comment at your discretion***

    1. Thanks Toby. I chose not to edit a bit of your comment because … ‘merica. That’s also why I welcome views from people who don’t see the situation as I do.

      In fact, listening to the views of people who don’t see the situation as I do prompted this post. I was going to write about soccer, again.

      When my kid gets detention for being tardy too many times, I don’t wonder if her teacher has an agenda against mixed-race kids. I wonder what I can do to get the kid to school on time. Accountability.

  4. Love the snowflakes on your page!

    PS: What if that park ranger is a blog reader of yours? Then he knew that half of your family recently celebrated their birthdays?
    I admit, it sucks. It’s called prejudice, and it happens every day.

    1. Sometimes, those snowflakes are the closest we get to a blizzard here in Carolina, Tamara.

      Honestly, that park ranger didn’t exhibit any signs of prejudice. He was making the rounds. I saw it through pigmented glasses at first. *I* turned it into a race issue, in my mind.

      I hope he’s prejudice – against those who litter and loiter and break other rules in the park. He helps keep the order so that I can go play catch with my girls there.

      So, park ranger – thanks. And we’ll keep the birthday parties separate from the crafts fair. No problem.

      1. I wasn’t sure where you were going with the post when I started reading it, and, being a white man in law enforcement, you drew me in fast. And I genuinely do mean ‘thank you’ for writing it. Even in my small town, people are quick to say “protect and serve” sarcastically, even when race has nothing at all to do with something. You have bad cops. You have corrupt officials. But “the police” as an entity DO exist to serve, and loathe the ones who exhibit intolerance, stereotyping behaviors, and attitudes ill-fitting to the values that the job should stand for just as much, if not more than you might…since it makes the jobs of the rest of us that much harder.

      2. Thank you for sticking with me to the end. I know the top seemed kind of harsh, but I wanted to make the point that I know how it feels to feel targeted.

        I know now that I likely wasn’t. I have to look at what I can control most, and that’s my conduct and accountability.

        I have all the respect in the world for you. I think law enforcement has some parallels to parenting. Am I right? Sometimes, you have to make decisions for the best interest and safety of the very people you’re charged with protecting, and you’re still misunderstood.

        Each of our professions has good and bad intentions, but I have trust that law enforcement where we live are doing their best to serve and protect.

        Again, thanks for sticking with me until the end.

      3. Im glad as hell you DID start it off that way. The whole post was perfectly executed. And the parallels between the law enforcement world and parenting are enough to fill a post of their own!

  5. This is incredible. I like how you relayed your own experiences and put them into perspective I could relate. I always feel weird commenting on a situation like this as I don’t have the race card to pull. I do not know how it feels for something to be seen through that lens. What I do know is that the more balanced, the more patience shown and the more willingness to discuss it the more progress can be made.

    1. Thanks Kerri. I wanted to show how I can see both sides to some extent. The race card IS in your deck, it’s in everyone’s, because this issue affects us all.

      You might not have had these specific experiences, but you might have had some similar, or been part of one.

      Discussion is key, and also courage – we have to feel confident we can truly speak our mind without being labeled racist or unsympathetic.

      Our voices need to be heard, too.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They are so valuable. I’m sure a person can’t help but to get a chip on his shoulder based on past experiences and treatment. I guess not so much a chip, but a defense mechanism and a way of reacting and thinking. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel like you are being constantly feared and blamed and targeted. But yes, a thousand times yes to that Ronald Reagan quote. No matter how unfair we think something is, we still have the responsibility to be good citizens. Rules suck, and sometimes the way people enforce them sucks, too. However, it’s how we handle our discontent that matters. As a mom and a teacher, I feel like it’s a Catch 22. Are we educating society to be responsible and to invoke change? Or are we bringing attention on the emotional and extreme reactions? Sadly, I think there is no answer, and that change will continue to take three steps forward and two steps back.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and for sharing this on Twitter, Kathy. This post has brewed since the event, and really picked up steam after the verdict.

      It is a defense mechanism we develop, and it’s no different than when we automatically side with our kids in school disputes. So much of what I thought was targeting?

      I’m not so sure anymore, in my old age. Because now that I’m silvery-haired-ish and mature, I don’t encounter that much. Also, the life of the dad isn’t the life of the young man who finds himself in different situations.

      Can we responsibly evoke change? Can we, like the young lady I heard speak on an NPR story this morning, start a respectful discussion on the broader issues?

      Or will we lash out and break windows and burn squad cars? Will sports stars take a stand and not just strike a pose? What will we tell our kids about all of this?

      I stand by the Reagan quote. I read dozens and wanted to find the one that fit best. I bypassed quotes from many wise people, but I thought he summed it up best.

  7. Regardless of where our political preference may lie, I’m with you on the Reagan quote – whether it’s a question of racial profiling and law enforcement or teacher’s out to get me in the classroom, there is a sad undercurrent out there that somehow society conspires against the individual (OK, wait, come to think of Emerson DID say that…but on a different issue,,.I digress). We – as a society, as a collective – are so quick to blame the outside forces or the other individuals involved before taking a good hard look in the mirror. It’s like you said above: if the kid is late for school, is it really that the teacher is targeting? No. More likely Mom or Dad or kid need to move a little faster in the morning. Accountability is not something people look at first in far too many situations. it makes me sad. But if everyone would just make the smallest effort to look at themselves HONESTLY and say what is my role here? what is my responsibility?…well I’d like to spend some time in that world. Self-examination is hard but so important. When I hear students or my own kid say things like “it wasn’t my fault” or some other such sentiment, my first question is “are you sure?” Take a look at yourself and decide. Easy as a teacher, for example, to say “well, if the kids flunk the test it isn’t my fault they didn’t prepare.” My first question in cases like that was “what is my role here? Did I do my part? What might have been a problem. I’m far from perfect – and yes, so metimes it is simply that someone didn’t study and there isn’t much you can do to control that. But my parents and grandparents taught me always to look at myself first and not lay blame elsewhere before doing so.
    Perception is reality – a statement made so often that it really becomes quite trite but it really is true, isn’t it? How we perceive – or how we permit ourselves to perceive – the world around us is how we create our reality. And so when issues like these come into play it is important to question whether what’s happening is really how it looks on the surface. Maybe it is. And maybe it’s not. It’s our responsibility to examine, not jump to conclusions. Difficult to do. It is so easy isn’t it? I catch myself doing it all the time. Kidzilla has an issue in school and I jump to her defense. Admittedly, there is some residual issue from previous bad experiences, but look what it does – it puts us on the defensive right away.
    At any rate, where law enforcement is concerned I would never in a million years want the responsibility those men and women have to make the decisions they have to – those split-second decisions like you mentioned above – that will have ripples far and wide no matter how they choose. I pray for them. I really do. I pray that they have the wisdom to choose as well as they can and the strength to handle the aftermath.

    1. It’s easy to claim to be a victim. I felt in all those instances as if I’d been targeted. Know what? I probably wasn’t. Probably, there was other reasons all of it happened.

      That’s where the self-examination comes in. We have to stop blaming others for our plight, and take at least some (yes, most) of the responsibility.

      I just hate that law enforcement is categorized so broadly as racist and quick-triggered based on race. It undermines so many who lay their life on the line every day for people of all colors, many of whom they’ll never meet. How fair is it for all of them to come under fire?

      1. Right, that’s a big part of the issue. Maybe one person IS racist and maybe he or she was targeting in a particular instance. But it doesn’t mean we should cut such a broad swath and categorize everyone that way – because isn’t that doing exactly the same thing that people accuse them of doing? We can’t deny that it does happen, but I know a couple of police officers and customs officers personally and I can tell you that not all of them fit the category of racially biased. It’s unfortunate that those who are make it difficult for everyone – on both sides of the issue, I suppose.

  8. Eli – I read this very early this morning. Very well done. I am going to share it with some of my local officers, with whom I work as a volunteer. My father was an officer. What is crystal clear to me is that when fear meets fear, there is rarely a good outcome. You are of good mind, heart and spirit and it is so very apparent in this story. Taking the high road isn’t always easy when the “fear voice” is screaming loudly in the ears of our minds. You are a great example of what is good…and I result believe this will all get better. Thank you for writing this fabulous piece.

    1. Thanks Carrie. Great to see you here. I’d be honored if you shared it with officers. So glad also that you volunteer. As the daughter of an officer, you have a different perspective too, don’t you?

      The fear voice has had its say, and then some, on this topic. I can only hope time will give us the balance we need to really address what’s going on. Right now, the noise is still too high.

      1. On balance, I see all side fairly objectively. Given the relative nature of truth, the Ferguson situation and many like it have multiple angles, truths and embedded biases. The humans involved are that – human; each of us is loaded with a lifetime of experiences that we bring to…everything. When we become conscious self observers, we begin to interpret our experiences in a less emotional way. Thank you again for this well-written truth telling post. I would love to see the Huffington Post pick this up. Nicely done.

  9. I love the way you brought this around. I hate that you have ever been the victim of any type of racism.
    Years ago when I was a first year teacher, I was the minority. One of the boys in my class was a mess – he didn’t even make an effort to learn and he was obnoxious. One day he said, “You just don’t like me because I’m black.” My response (this was 6th grade so I could be sarcastic), “Nope. I don’t like you because you are disruptive brat.”
    I wish that color/race wasn’t an issue or even something people considered – I don’t think it has anything to do with the person!!!

    1. Thanks Kim. That’s the thing: The perceived racism, maybe none of it had any validity. It starts in our minds, and sometimes, that’s the only fuel it needs.

      I can’t say for sure I wasn’t targeted; but nothing bad happened to me. I deserved both tickets I’ve ever gotten.

      I love your response! I think the race card can be a crutch. I’m allowed to say that. Color is sometimes a factor; in some situations, though, some people can’t seem to move past it to see the bigger issue.

  10. When I read the title of your post, I thought, “Eli is going to talk about the racing car driver’s card he doesn’t really have” (you are a sports minded Dad after all). It turned out to be something quite different. I’ve not personally come across racism — ageism, sizism, and socio-ecconomicism yes, but not racism. I know it exists because I know people who have experienced it. When I was in junior high school my best friend was part Australian Aboriginal and I didn’t even know it. I just thought she had a great suntan. I loved your post, Eli. It’s a steady, calm voice of wisdom in an ocean of vitriol and conclusion jumping.

    1. I wish it was easy as car racing, Lyn! It’s an issue that’s been in the news for a while, and I knew I had a response … I just had to formulate it.

      I think the solution isn’t to be color-blind, but to treat everyone with some dignity, no matter how you feel their ‘kind’ has treated your ‘kind.’ It should be individualized.

      There’s been plenty of vitriol and conclusion jumping, Thanks for your kind words about this post!

  11. We just had a discussion about Ferguson and larger race issues at the dinner table tonight. It’s not an easy discussion to have with teenagers, and I know we need to keep coming back to it. It’s not a black and white issue (no pun intended), and kids tend to see things that way. As usual, you responded to a hot topic with a thoughtful and thought provoking response. Thanks, Eli.

      1. They didn’t really say much – I think they were trying to process it all. It scares them, this violence and anger simmering to the boiling point.

  12. It’s the creepiest feeling ever when you realize you’re being watched in a store. I grew up in a town so small everyone knew me and knew I would never commit a crime. Buy it’s not the same when you grow up and move away an nobody knows your name, so to speak.
    Recently, I was shopping in a small western store trying to pick out a piece of jewelry as a gift for a friend. The sales person followed me around the 6 ft table and I was completely aware that she was indeed watching hands to make sure I wasn’t going to slip something in my purse. The feeling I got from that was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I did have my daughter with me though so I would think that a mom and young daughter shopping would be a shoplifter’s profile oxymoron.
    I could have freaked out. (inside I was). But instead, I talked to the salesperson. I told her about ME as we talked. I attempted to destroy her perception of who she thought I was and give her an understanding of who I am.
    Maybe that will help the next person? Maybe not?
    Maybe that conversation will help me the next time I go in that store. I didn’t buy anything that day though. I couldn’t concentrate on the items. And I left there feeling like I needed a shower.

    1. Oh and I love your quote. I don’t know how many times I heard it from my father!!!
      Thanks for sharing your experience Eli!!

      1. Thanks for reading it – and I think that’s what we all want, isn’t it? The chance to work hard and be accountable. I think it makes our fate more satisfying, too.

    2. I love the way you reacted to this – and how you acknowledge it made you feel creepy. Because it does, and you wonder why it’s happening in the moment.

      But I think whenever we can humanize the situation, it’s the right step. The rivalry with another school for a soccer team I once coached almost reached a boiling point.

      I told the girls their desire to beat a rival is good and healthy. For them to hate the other team as individuals was not. I challenged them that day.

      I told them to see the girl you’re matching up with as someone like you. Someone you might be friends with if she went to our school. Some even said hello to them.

      They found that the girls they fought so hard against felt pride for their school too, and were a lot like them. “They’re just wearing the wrong shirts,” one girl said.

      Anyway, your story is awesome, and just think of the example you set for your daughter that day. it’s easy to try and slice with the race card.

      Our challenge is to rise above that.

  13. Ditto what everyone else has already said Eli. As a matter of fact I’m fairly certain that I *discovered* you around 2 years back due to a perfectly executed post you wrote on another controversial topic (Sandy Hook) . It’s no surprise to me that you’ve done it again. How you manage to give us a glimpse into your world, without asking for pity, while at the same time, expressing empathy for those who may only have noticed you for your race, this is heart meets writing talent at its finest. Bravo.

    1. Thanks Ilene. Like with Sandy Hook, I felt like this stirred emotions right away, but I wanted to give it a couple of days to develop into what I really wanted to say.

      Thanks for the kind words. When I was a teenager, I’d clash with my dad on things kids normally clash with parents about. I got the best results when I would write him a letter. I think the written word just feels best to me.

  14. Wonderfully said, Eli, and I really enjoyed how you interspersed your many personal experiences from early on through the present and ended with a decision that could easily have been negatively swayed based on those collective experiences. It’s hard to act against one’s nature when that nature has been so heavily influenced by adverse experiences.
    It’s a worthy essay, Eli. I hope it receives the attention it deserves.
    Cheers

    1. Thank you Shelley – I just hope that we can stop when emotions are high and look at ourselves before we turn on others. Even our adverse experiences should be examined.

      How many are self-made, or at least self-propagated?

      Thanks again for the kind words!

  15. I kinda.. can’t even breathe when I think about the last few weeks. Cassidy says that racism is so far up the bloodstreams, and for years, upon hundreds of years, that our society (or lack of one, as Jon Stewart said) is getting sicker. Just so sick.
    I have visions of moving to the Swiss Alps but I couldn’t even tell you it’s better there.
    I probably told you about the time I drove with my good friend Ricky from San Diego to Arizona. I’m.. well.. you know. Ricky is Puerto Rican. When I drove through the border points, we got waved through. When Ricky drove through the border points, we got stopped FIVE times. Five freakin times. There were javelinas in Sedona that I wanted to see. An omelet with my name on it. Mountains to climb.
    And this.
    Sigh.

    1. I think that sometimes it isn’t racism, but other factors at play, but we see colors first. I think sometimes its ignorance or malice but sometimes just circumstance.

      Thing is, if Ricky drove in Butte, Montana or Des Moines, Iowa, he probably doesn’t have to stop. Again, circumstance. For instance, when I go to Mexico in a month, I will not go anywhere without my passport. Because I really don’t want to be kept there when everyone else goes home.

      Circumstance.

  16. very well said. My hubby doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. But he does profile — he has to an extent; otherwise, he’d be caught off guard. People have to understand there is no malice or hatred in it: you simply need to asses a situation based on the information you have, and your previous experience. When he approaches a car he’s pulled over in the middle of night, he doesn’t know if it is just a janitor returning from his night shift; or, full of gang bangers who would kill their own mother to serve their purpose, let alone some “pig” cop. Most often he is greeted with annoyance and outright disdain. But, he’s still more likely to take a bullet for you — then put one in someone. Over 11 years on the force and he’s never fired his weapon once. Not. Once.

    Civilians need to quit with armchair quarterbacking. The simple truth is they have no idea what an average cop encounters on an average shift. That’s the blue line — separating and protecting us from the harm we don’t know almost came our way: save for them putting themselves in it’s path. An unarmed suspect can absolutely be dangerous. Deadly.

    Also, it would be really lovely if those people making the “Kill the Cops” signs would Just Not. Since my children CAN read and all.

    1. I knew you’d have something to say, and I love that we can get the perspective from someone so close to someone in law enforcement. I have nothing at all to add.

      Thank you for giving us this, Rore.

  17. Wow, Eli. This is so wonderfully written and a very diplomatic way to look at such a “hot topic.” I have white skin, and I wonder if that makes things easier for me sometimes. I, too have been pulled over for not doing anything wrong, and twice I’ve been asked to step outside of my car, once because he said I “looked suspicious.” A 5′ 3″ 115 lb. blonde girl in a Tshirt and shorts. So maybe, just maybe, they really are just doing their jobs. I had not thought about that incident in years. Thank you for an eye opening post. Very very well written.

    1. Hey Mandi. Thank you. I have to believe that the police are just looking out for us all, you know? I don’t even speed now. So, I haven’t been pulled over in years.

      I’m still brown.

  18. Eli, this is so nice of you to share. I’ve always looked at it this way because I personally have never been able to actually call one’s behavior toward me out as blatant racism and I’ve never thought to. But as I’ve gotten older and I’ve met more people that have really experienced blatant racism and I don’t mean the kind where you have to guess if you are pulling out the race card or not irrationally. Unfortunately right now the media is portraying what seems like more real bad guys not following the rules getting into these situations so the police officers’ motives can be seen in a positive light. This in my view is still hiding the real racism that is happening still.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Brittnei. Racism won’t ever go away for good. It’s a bias. We all have them. For instance, I have an aversion to fans of teams I hate. It’s not rational, but it’s there. The worst I’ll do is talk junk. No more.

      You said it best with this:
      “Unfortunately right now the media is portraying what seems like more real bad guys not following the rules getting into these situations so the police officers’ motives can be seen in a positive light.”

  19. I just erased a long comment because it didn’t make any sense, so this is my second try at figuring out what I’m trying to say.

    I’m a cop.

    Do I think about my kids while I’m at work? Yes. Every day. I think about them when I see kids who’ve been abused. I’ve thought about them while I’ve searched for missing or runaway kids. I’ve thought about them when I’ve seen dead kids in way to many different scenarios that I’ll never forget. I also think about the over 10 officers who’ve been killed on my department alone in the 15 plus years I’ve been a cop, yes. Some were friends, so it’s hard not to.

    The funny thing is that we go from call to call and we’re supposed to not let one affect the next, but they do.

    Anyway, to keep this semi-short, I’ll just address the race card idea. When the race card is played, all it does is makes the officer angry or defensive is maybe the better word. Even so, it’s incumbent on the officer to explain to the person just why they’re being stopped. A little respect and explanation goes a long way, I’ve found. I work in predominately black neighborhhoods, so most of my profiling is done on whites, honestly. Even then, it’s about context. Do I stop whites for simply being white on the insterstate? No way. Same goes for being on major streets. It’s when they’re on streets that I know are drug infested and I see that they’re registrations say they live in the suburbs that I get suspicious.

    I don’t see the racism in my everday work that I hear about all over the place, but I’m sure it exists. We’re lucky to have a lot of black officers, and it does make sense to have a police department that sort of mirrors the demographics of the area they serve.

    At the end of the day, I sleep well at night knowing that I’ve done the best that I can nearly every shift. I no more consider the race of a person I’m going to write a ticket to or arrest than I do when deciding that I’ll run into a burning house or towards a burning car. I don’t ask the dispatcher to tell me the race of the woman who’s calling to report she’s being beaten by her boyfriend or what color skin a person who’s just been shot has in deciding how fast I’ll respond to help. Everybody gets treated the same.

    Of course there are still issues, but I don’t think the police are the main concern for minoritiess in the US. We’re just a convenient target because we’re there on the streets every day.

    I’ve rambled, but I enjoyed your post. Your experiences are noteworthy and it’s important that we as officers understand what effect we have on people we deal with like this.

    1. Your comment is so valuable here. This is what I always want to consider. That you are doing a job we ought to be more grateful for. I know you’re not asking for that.

      But, you’re like me. You have a family. You have friends among your co-workers. My co-workers, though, aren’t asked to put their lives on the line when the punch in.

      Is it right to judge harshly and label wrongly those who would not think twice – let alone consider race – in putting their lives on the line to protect us?

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Please know this: My race is hard for me to ignore, because I wear it. But when I really examine what happened to me … I can’t say at all that it happened because of my color.

      It happened because a man was doing his job.

    1. Happy to have you here, Samara – usually, subject matter gravitates toward things like pizza, Kesha and my kids.

      Sometimes, though, it’s time for a little grown-up time.

      Hope to see you again soon.

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