Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Angry Brain spew- Angry Seattle Black Lady edition

Despite the fact that I don't feel at all well this week (oh yay digestive issues how are you?), I think I need some catharsis.

Okay I'm warning you right now that if you are feeling tender today you might want to go look at puppies.

So in the news is the young lady punched in the face by a Seattle police officer. I'm not linking because I don't want to look at that shit again nor do I want to rehash what others have said.

A punch in the face was not appropriate. The young ladies were behaving inappropriately.

I will say that of all of the police interactions I've seen, I assume that the academy teaches eleventy-seven other ways to deal with a situation and subdue a suspect without punching them in the face. And the police area dealing with it.

What pisses me off are the constant calls of RACE CARD RACE CARD.

Being a Black person in Seattle, I can see possibilities as to what made these young women act up.

My own years of police interactions have more than tinted my opinion of local police and has absolutely shaped how I deal with them.

In almost eveyr instance here, I have had people (both POC and others) say oh that's not race related before I can even get to why I may think something is race related.

That (as I've said over and over again) is a huge part of the reason why America is not "post racial" nor do I see that coming at any point in the near future.

Any time a person of color brings a concern that X happened because of the color of their skin, it is not an indictment of every white person in the fucking universe. It is most likely not about you in particular if you didn't say something. It's even less about how you feel about that persons situation or reaction.

For instance.

A moment from my actual life.

To set the scene, imagine I am about six years younger, dressed business casual and waiting for a bus. I do this same thing, at the same stop, at the same time five nights a week.

Now further imagine that I am wearing headphones and am standing under the brighter area of light with, oh shit a book in hand.

For weeks, I was watched and spotlighted by the same cop. This cop car would sit in a parking lot down the street from where I work, I would walk by and I would see it come around going the opposite direction then see it turn around and roll slowly past me and often stop about fifteen feet behind me.

The first few times I figured meh, whatever.

For a little more background I work in a very white neighborhood. The area is not known for street drug traffic, prostitution or other illegal activities on the street. 99% of the time I am alone at that bus stop.

Now this went on for weeks. Almost every night. I ignored it until he spot lighted me. For those who don't know this is when a police officer shines a very bright light in your face so you can't see them but they can see you.

The lights on the police car are easily moved and controlled, and I am certain he shone it in my face on purpose.

Still, he didn't say anything to me.

Now, if this police officer had stopped and said something like. "It's late and I see you're alone is everything ok?" I would have been fine. I would have been delighted because you know:

Prevent Crime, Enforce the Law & Support Quality Public Safety by Delivering Respectful, Professional, & Dependable Police Services.

(The above was taken directly from their posted mission statement.

Instead, I was distinctly creeped out and finally walked over to the passenger side of the car and asked what the problem was.

I was told to back away from the car and that he'd had reports of "suspicious" activity.

When I asked politely what that activity was the officer not so subtly asked if I was "soliciting" which is code for prostitution.

Now, yes some areas of Seattle do have an issue with street prostitution.

However, most prostitutes don't stand at bus stops reading books and not interacting with traffic. Nor do any of the street prostitutes I have ever known been partial to business casual dress, carrying (at the time I carried one) soft shelled briefcase type things.

I have witnessed (even then, perhaps more so then) White people doing all sorts of "suspicious" activity in that immediate area. From public peeing, drunken behaviour etc and yet, I get watched while doing what?

Now for weeks after that because of how I as a woman of color am conditioned, I tried very hard to look at what I had done to have this problem.

I talked it over with a few people and a few of them said, "well maybe you were suspicious" etc.

Why was I suspicious?

It took quite awhile after that for me to untangle my feelings about it. I was suspicious for being Black in that area.

Now logic tells me that a.) if this cop did think I was doing something suspicious the repetition of my routine would have clued him in that I was in fact waiting for a bus. B.)That as a street cop in the area, logic would tell him that if I was prostituting I would have been seen flagging cars, getting into and out of cars at that same location. Doing things that you know street prositutes do. C.)Logic tells me that he could have cleared up the whole thing by doing one simple thing.

He could have simply said hello.

I have often felt disrepected, not taken seriously, bothered and felt unsafe around police in Seattle for a long long time.

I will say flat out right now that I do not trust my life or safety to the SPD.

Not because they are on the whole bad, but because there are enough not so good and rotten apples in the bunch, and because my interactions with them rarely leave me feeling protected or respected.

I don't like being questioned in a way that implies because I'm a nearby Black person I've done something wrong.

I don't like having strangers (police or not) follow me in ways that make me uncomfortable. Particularly if they are in a position of authority or power over me.

I don't fucking like it when as I'm trying very hard to be calm when I feel marginalized, that so many people will automatically take anything I say or any impression I have and say, "oh well it couldn't have been a race thing."

It fucking hurts and it pisses me off.

It makes me insanely angry because how the fuck are these things supposed to be solved if the people who experience it are silenced or brushed off?

How is it supposed to get any fucking better when the point is made that if X happened to a pretty White girl, people would be up in arms?

How the fuck am I supposed to remain calm or constructive when, the default reaction to a person of color is "oh you deserved X"?

I don't fucking like it when I am to all appearances a law abiding citizen who is shunted into the position of a "possible suspect" because I'm the only Black person in the vicinity.

These are not things I hate because I don't like the idea. These are things I hate because I've experienced them over and over again.

I'm spent.

I haven't been sleeping well and I have some other issues that are not helping my cause here. This simmering anger is one of them so now that I've gotten it out I'm letting it go for now.

I learned when I was about 22 that I am not capable, rather it's not healthy for me to be that pissed off all the time.

I know I say this every time I blog about race but please, PLEASE for the love of fluffy bunnies remember, if you're not going to listen don't bother talking.

In other words, Shut Up and listen.

Don't presume experience to be a monolithic thing and don't presume that because something hasn't happened to you directly than it doesn't happen. Or that it's not a big deal because when shit happens to us (I mean the BIG us as in humanity) individually whatever X event is can be a big fucking deal.

Have some empathy.

Grow some gonads of whatever sort and be brave enough to realize that sometimes your opinion isn't the most important one in the discussion.

It takes bravery and fortitude to deal seriously with racial issues and not become the person in the conversation fucking things up.

It's hard.

But, I do have faith that there are enough people who can shut their mouths long enough to really hear what other people have to say that someday we can start settling these things or at least discussing them in open honest ways.

Now, if y'all will excuse me I am so tired my right eyeball is vibrating and my face muscles are twitching.

Um, one last thing I think I'm going to move my free fiction downloads to scribd for easier handling.

So watch for that.

Now, I love you my homies and haters.

Thank you for listening.

Homo Out.


Elizabeth said...

Seattle is a funny town when it comes to race. Oh, not that the whole country/world isn't messed up, but Seattle is particularly bad about the whole Stephen Colbert "I don't see race" thing.

I grew up here, and have since moved all around the country before coming back(California, the South, New England--I guess I missed the mid-west) and I think talking about race is more uncomfortable here, at least so far as I have seen, than anywhere else I've been. So many people loudly proclaiming--and believing--they are NOT RACIST, while at the same time really seeming racist in that progressive, liberal, "some of my best friends are black" kind of way.

For instance nowhere else have I lived do conversations go something like this:

"Oh, do you work with Joe?"
"Which one? Do you mean the--" quick shoulder check and lowered voice, "black guy?"

And this from someone who likes Joe and thinks he or she is DEFINITELY NOT a racist.

Yeah. I don't know where I'm going with this. I haven't let myself watch that video. I just don't think I can take it.

witchyvixen said...

It's exactly this kind of shit that has me occasionally announcing in a loud and rather world weary voice, "oh my GOD I hate white people." My friends of color will often nod in amused agreement. Most of my white friends (and the random white people who happen to be around me) get a bewildered look on their faces. That, in turn, makes me want to point to their expression and say, "THAT!! That right there babe. That's the reason." Don't get me wrong, there are white people and then there are white people. Taken on an individual basis many of them are perfectly decent. But...

There are white people who will say (privately to other white folks they assume feel the same way) that of course the police officer singled a black person out and it's the black people's fault that s/he feels that way.

There are the openly racist bigots who will shout it to the world, but at least they aren't secretive about it so you know who they are and can avoid them.

There are the white people who will say out loud, "isn't that awful!" While secretly keeping an eye on the person of color standing next to them in line.

There are the white folks who feel guilty and embarrassed about racism and are so desperate for it to be over that they deny that it's happening all around them.

There are blind whites who bop along not noticing, deliberately or not. "Whaaaa??? Really? You think that was racist? Nahhhh."

Then there's white me. I want to talk about it. I feel that we're never going to get past this silly bullshit if we don't talk about it. I want to be called on it if I mess up. I want to learn better without whining about how I didn't mean to. At the same time I am horribly afraid that I will hurt or offend someone by trying to be better. Mainly I just want to drag this ugly thing out into the light of day and have a good look at it so we can better understand how to stop it.

acceptancewoman said...

I'm from L.A. and I think Washington State is messed up when it comes to police and black people.
To re-iterate, I'm from friggin' LA and I think it's messed up.
I'm sorry that cop harassed you.
I think I've trained myself NOT to say "I'm sure it wasn't because your race." Because I'm pretty sure it almost always is.

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