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.