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The closest I have gotten to being thrown in jail — since my college days anyway — happened in the mid-1990s.

One of my best friends — a young black woman who lived in an 'old money' suburb that was close to her work — went for a simple jog, but in the middle of her run things went awry.

The village idiot had been given a badge by the idiot village and he decided to show her that she was too black to jog through his town without harassment. He pulled up beside her, demanding she stop and produce identification, which, of course, she didn't take for her jog.

So he followed her in his police car, lights on, as she trotted home. It was quite the spectacle for the locals as she was paraded for more than a mile. Once at home, he demanded that she go inside and get her ID.

She called me in tears of humiliation, anger and fear. One of the toughest, yet most serene, women I'd ever known was hardly able to speak. A graduate of an Ivy League school, she was on a path to becoming one of the most respected lawyers in her home state, a summa cum laude graduate of her law school. And on this day, some asshole of a cop decided that she deserved to be mistreated solely based on the color of her skin.

There was nothing that I could tell her that day. How do you comfort the victim of senseless and blatant racism? I think I told her all the traits that I loved and admired in her, but I was in uncharted waters. I was not up for the task. She decided to drive to work and get her mind on something else.

I drove directly to the police station in her town, shaking with anger and prepared for a confrontation. I parked illegally out front and ran up the steps and into the station. The woman at the desk sensed a serious problem and was already in motion when I told her to get the person in charge.

Out came the police chief and I laid into him, explaining the situation and demanding answers. He seemed taken aback, not knowing what to do or say. He called in the offending officer for both backup and to get the story as I silently seethed. When the officer arrived, I yelled, "Do you fucking know what you just did?"

The punk-ass cop glared at me and I wanted to beat the shit out of him. At that moment I was close. I was pumped up, ready to go. I knew I was flirting with disaster, but I also felt that I had no option, that it was out of my control.

As it turned out, the chief was pissed at his officer, banishing him into a room to wait for his fate. And he allowed me to vent. I suspect that he saw in my eyes that I didn't fear a damn thing at that moment. He told me that no one in his town had ever been confronted for jogging before and he would see to it that it would never happen again. I began to chill as he talked me down from the edge.

I went to my car and on the way home I tried to understand my rage. I'd never been the kind to confront the police or look for a fight. My heart was broken for a loved one that night and I didn't need to be black to think, 'Goddam America!"

I knew that I would never be able to understand being black in America. The history that I'd been taught to celebrate isn't the history that many black people have experienced. You can do everything right and it not make a difference because the promise of America doesn't apply to you.

Ignorant assholes like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Joe Scarborough and Rush Limbaugh ought to spend less time talking and more time listening. But they won't. They aren't wise enough for that. Enlightenment just ain't their thang.

But I am apparently naive enough to think that doesn't matter. Being on the side of right will be enough this time.

Originally posted to JackieandFritz on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You aren't naive... (5+ / 0-)

    This is not about racism.  It's about living in a country where Right makes Might, instead of Might making Right.

    As long as there are people like you, we still have a chance.

    Tis not all fishing to fish.

    by Izaak Walton on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:06:56 PM PDT

  •  dude! you're my new HERO! (4+ / 0-)

    plz post a tip jar!

  •  You have a kind heart (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca

    and a righteous soul. Bless you and thank you for standing up human dignity.

  •  Walking down third ave in Manhattan... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, trivium, somtam

    and a car buzzed me as I was crossing the street.  I turn around as three white men got out of the car and I pulled out a bottle I had in my back pocket for protection.

    They stopped and showed their badge and ordered me into their car.  As they drove me around they kept asking whether I had a job and knew how much trouble I was in.  They said how they could have destroyed me with just what they had in the car, an unmarked police car.

    Then they asked if I knew how much it would cost to get a lawyer, and I just kept repeating, "no."  finally after fifteen minutes or so, they just let me out.

    This was close to fifty years ago.  And I realized my vulnerability.  And I'm white.

    So, I understand the diarist's rage, completely.

  •  My black, male roommate was stopped (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, justCal, somtam, mayim

    in our alley while taking out the trash after a party. I was wondering what was taking him so long when there was a knock at the door.
    To see him standing there in slippers and bermuda shorts and carrying an empty trash can while two policement flanked him made me nauseous. He was a marine reservist and as regular a middle-class kid as the rest of us but---wrong color. Worse yet, I'm a white chick so as soon as I opened the door the cops tensed, probably thinking that he was indeed lying and didn't belong in the area. I was outraged and demanded to know why a college kid emptying the trash seemed worthy of investigation. My roommate just kept saying "It's okay, it's okay." As if he could really say what he was thinking. When we talked later he said he was worried about them being more hostile because there was a white girl in the house.
    Every single black man and some black women I know have been stopped by the police. People joke about "driving while black" but it is painfully and embarassingly true. I can't imagine what it was like decades ago if Americans are still being treated like this in the late 20th/early 21st century.
    Bravo to you for standing up for your friend. If the rest of us are silent witnesses, nothing will change.  Hopefully the asshole who harrassed her learned a lesson.

  •  Thanks...made me cry remembering... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trivium, somtam, mayim, JackieandFritz

    I'm new here but I feel safe in this community posting on just one (I've had several) of my personal experiences with this kind of racism.  It is especially difficult when you are black and in a place where many people think you don't belong.

    I am the only daughter of a West Indian immigrant who came to this country because she saw a better tomorrow for herself and her child.  She lived it because she earned her doctorate and as such was able to send me to some of the best and most prestigious schools (read also lily white) in the nation.  I did well at my 200 year old New England boarding school. By my senior year was in the top ten in my class and had been taking 50% college courses for 2 years.  When I was accepted by the Ivy league college of my choice I was elated that my hard work had finally paid off I was literally bouncing off the walls of the mailroom....in that same moment at the highest high of my young life came one of the lowest lows.  A classmate, whose father ran a huge corporation and whose blood bled blue but who had not had the same academic successes that I had look me straight in the eye and said "You do know that they only accepted you because you're black, right?"

    I'll never forget those words and the smug look on her face as she said it.  My shining momnet was ruined.  Year later I can recognize the bitterness that she was facing at the time...she had just found out that the dame institution had rejected her and was probably facing huge pressures from her family....but it still burns...to this day...

  •  Honest To God... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melchuck29, trivium, somtam

    This didn't hit me until I went to bed and fell asleep.

    The moral of this story is power and dignity. The ignorant media types think that they have power and they want to strip Barack of his dignity. They don't just want him to lose, they want to make him jog a mile in front of the police lights.

    I want Barack to run without apology. Winning does not matter. Dignity does. If we our country is too blindly stupid to see the only enlightened path, fuck 'em.

    Let's have faith, let's tell our stories and let's try to ignore the assholes.

    YES. WE. CAN.

  •  I am grateful (0+ / 0-)

    for your anger, that was turned into action, even though you put yourself at risk.  We all need that kind of courage in these times.  

    You were on the side of the angels, definitely, and I am grateful.  I wish you could send this story to lots of newspapers and t.v. stations, by the way.  I too am sick of those who are privileged being outraged at the anger of those who suffer.  At having a response to oppression being interpreted as hate.  

    This needs to turn around, now.

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