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Turning Around 360 Degrees

Updated on December 14, 2012

Racists are Bullies Too

A month ago, I witnessed something quite disturbing. While waiting at the stoplight on the corner of Main and Amherst, I absent-mindedly glanced over to the Amherst Rail Station to notice a Black male standing in a group of mixed-race females quietly waiting for the bus. The Black male was neat, well-dressed and carried a book bag. From nowhere, a police car pulled up and a White male police officer stepped out. He made a bee-line for the Black male. Without a word, the police officer made a circling gesture with his finger indicating to the Black man to turn and face the wall. He began to frisk him. Not finding anything, he then began rifling through the man’s backpack. Still unable to find anything, he handed him back the knapsack. The light changed and I drove on.

Two things disturbed me about this interaction.First, the officer’s disregard of the Black man’s right to privacy.The second was my complacent reaction.As I drove on I thought about how unfair the scene had been, but left it at that.I didn’t speak up in fear.I never waited to offer my condolences.I didn’t even bother to write the Mayor (or anybody else) about my observances.Until today, I shamefully admit that hadn’t given this incident another thought, until I found myself licking my wounds from enduring same offense.

I am a forty-something, Black woman. I do not have a criminal record. In fact, my driving record is without blemish. Two days ago, I was driving home from work through the Lovejoy district at 1:30 am. As I sat at the stoplight at Bailey and Ferry, I noticed no one behind me. When the light changed, there suddenly were two cop cars approaching me with lights flashing . I immediately pulled over. Both White, male officers got out of their cruisers shining the heavy spotlight and flashlights into my car. I watched in terror as one inspected my back seat and the other shone a flashlight in my face.

The one with the flashlight in my face knocked on the window and said, “You were going a little fast back there weren’t you?” I disagreed indicating I was traveling about 32 miles per hour. He asked for my license, insurance and registration. I quickly found the first two, but I was so nervous I couldn’t locate the registration. As I fumbled through my glove box, he hit me with a barrage of questions. “What are you doing out here at this time of night? Where are you coming from? Where are you headed? What’s your address?” I answered them all, although I sure the last was an attempt to trip me up.

A few minutes passed and I still hadn’t found the registration. I felt like giving up, but fortunately by that time the officer had already checked the registration on my windshield. I saw him nod to the other officer while he handed me back my paperwork saying, “Do you know why I stopped you?” I replied, “No”. He then said, “Because, you have a break light out. Did you know that?” He advised me to get it looked at and walked away without giving me a ticket or a single warning.

As I re-entered traffic, I felt distraught. I felt as if I had just been mugged of my dignity. When I arrived home, I checked my break lights in the reflection of another car behind me. They both were working just fine.

It’s not my intent to initiate a racial protest. I feel in these are educated times that those who behave as racists are well informed of the amount of hurt and fear they inflict on others. These people are no different than the bullies who roam school hallways seeking out the meek to torment. This is my stand in opposition of these tactics. I deserve not to be arbitrarily harassed.

How can we expect our children not to bully in school, if bullying is still evident on our jobs, in the street and in our daily interactions? We can never quell the hatred if we continue to behave indifferently towards the perpetrators and their victims. It is my hope to awaken the sense of justice among those of all races who recognize that violating the civil rights of a few can ultimately evolve into the removal of the inherent rights for many. Take a stand by speaking up.

Some people like to think that racism is dead, or at least almost so. They tell themselves that as a society, we have come a long way to improved racial relations leaving very little to work through. They say, “Hey, at least it is better than before the Civil Rights Movement!”

I have never been convinced of this view entirely, but I did feel things were moving in the right direction until a short time ago. In a nut shell, while returning home from work I was pulled over in a traffic stop at 1:30 am in the morning. After a grueling five or six minutes of questioning and an unwarranted search of my car, I was released to go on my way. This was the first time I had ever experienced anything like this. I am ashamed to admit that I cried all the way home. I was shaken to the core. I felt violated and disrespected. For two days I was a nervous wreck until someone suggested I air it out in a letter to the editor of our local newspaper. Located to the right is a copy of that letter.

After I sent the letter via email, I received the automatic confirmation email generated by my email confirming the letter had been received and read. That was weeks ago. There has not been any reply since then, not even a courteous “Don’t Call Us, We Won’t Call You” email response.

Racism is torment, racism is fear, racism is hate, and racism is hurt.


Letter from Editor

Update: Finally, a Response

I thought it only right to provide an update on this situation in fairness to the newspaper. Yesterday I finally received a response after waiting for weeks for an acknowledgment to my letter. The contents were as expected. I redacted the editor's name out of respect for her privacy. (Two wrongs don't make a right.)

Funny thing, how can a local newspaper not be interested in actual news? It isn't a themed magazine and by its very nature should be open to all topics. Also, the criteria for submission said that applicants may write about any topic. Did the rules change since I made my submission? It's nice to know that they left the door open to resubmit, but with the caveat I make the topic about something else. I suppose if I read between the lines the letter is saying, "We don't care about Black people's problems with racist cops." or "This is too much of a bummer for our mostly white clientele."

I also would be remiss if I didn't expose the latest session of "Driving While Black". Last night, again while driving home from work (this time in my own type of neighborhood), I found myself sandwiched between three cars and one behind me. Fortunately, I was caught at the light as the others advanced when two cop cars suddenly pulled out from between two buildings driving erratically. One was actually driving in the on-coming lane, I suppose to view the contents of the three cars ahead. He forced himself in and out of the lane, weaving in and out, in front and behind the cars for two blocks until he was finally satisfied to turn on his lights and pull all three cars over. By the time I reached them, several well-dressed people of African-American decent were handing over IDs and auto records. As I drove very slowly past them, being careful to avoid the police car in the wrong lane, I could see the victims. By their looks they all were in their 50s or 60s with the men in formal hats and the women in fur coats. It was obvious they had either come from church or a holiday event. No one had been driving recklessly (except the police). Why had they been stopped???


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