Skip to main content

    Before I tell this story I should introduce myself a bit. I'm eowynsdottir and I'm your typical white progressive feminist living in Florida. If you accuse me of being racist I'll bristle and say: "Hey, I'm not racist! I write checks to the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Firm every month! I have black friends! I vote Democratic! I'm totally not racist!"
    In reality though, while I may write checks to the correct organizations I have no real emotional connection to the difficulties that African-Americans experience in Florida. I tsk-tsk at the Zimmerman case but I'm not out in the streets because of it. I sign the online petition to ask Governor Scott to pardon cold-blooded ceiling murderer Marissa Alexander but I'm not handcuffing myself to the State Capital because of her (though somebody should!) I may post my outrage over the fact that it's apparently open season on unarmed black men here in Florida but after I hit "post" I tend to forget about it, thinking I've done my bit to stop the injustice.
      Subconsciously I know that I will never be personally affected by the rampant and dangerous racism here in Florida that is finally being seen by the rest of the country. Nobody ever called the cops because they saw a white woman in their gated community. No cop ever shot an unarmed white woman 15 times because she was standing a little too close to someone's car. I know that, for me, Florida's institutionalized racism will never be personal.
      Until yesterday. Yesterday it got personal.

      More below the crushed "Cheeto."

     I'm a private home health aide who usually visits clients in their homes. My main job is to provide basic health and hygiene care as well as companionship to clients who are housebound. It's a measure to keep the elderly in the community from being prematurely institutionalized.
      Yesterday I went to the house of a man I'll call "Mr. Elizalde." Mr. Elizalde is a paraplegic Vietnam Vet who is disabled and suffers from PTSD. Nevertheless whenever I visit him he is always very cheerful and full of fantastic conversation. When I came yesterday however Mr. Elizalde was a bit more sober.
      "Hey," he said when I came inside, "You missed all the excitement!"
      "I did?" I asked, "What, were you having a party here?"
      "Oh no!" Mr. Elizalde said, "There was, like, nine or ten police cars outside my house! Maybe more.."
      "What??? What was going on? Drug bust next door?"
      "No! They were at MY house! There were, like, twenty-five officers here plus SWAT officers."
      "What?!" I was astonished, "Wait, they were here in this house?"
      "Oh yeah! They were right here in this living room with their guns out!"
      "For God's sake..." I was completely gobsmacked to hear this. "Why were the police here?"
      "Well, have you heard of the pillowcase burglaries around here? The robberies where the guys go into houses during the day when people are at work, grab a couple of pillowcases, fill them with stuff and then take off with the goods?"
      "Well today my physical therapist, 'Jackson,' came here from the VA like he does every Saturday. You know Jackson, right? Young black guy, big muscles, studies nursing at Palm Beach State?"
      "Yeah. Well, my crazy Tea Party neighbor saw him go into my house and the crazy neighbor decided to call the police about it. 'Hey, there are two black guys holding a crippled guy hostage across the street!'"
      "Wait, he said 'two?'"
      "Yeah, I had a hard time figuring that one out. It was only later that I realized my neighbor had thought the guy who brings my Meals-On-Wheels was also in the house."
      "Your Meals-On-Wheels volunteer is also black?"
      "Well, of course! Do you think the jackass would call the police over a white guy? Anyway, two hours ago I was just sitting here and Jackson was holding my left leg and helping me with my plantar flexion or whatever the heck he calls it when I point my toes when I see his eyes just widen. Just widen, like saucers. And you know, I'm halfway deaf so I'm just like 'What?' He doesn't say anything. He's just standing there, frozen. So I turn my head towards where he's staring and I see this cop outside just pointing a gun STRAIGHT at us! And then Bam! Bam! Bam! Three guys in full SWAT gear just burst in through my door and they point their guns straight at us and yell 'Where's the other guy?! Where's the other guy?!' And I'm like 'What?! What?! What other guy?!!!' Jackson and I, we both have our hands in the air and we're like 'What?!What?!What?!' Oh God, we were scared!"
      "Geez..." I really couldn't think of anything else to say. If I had been in that sort of situation I seriously think I would have wet my scrubs.
      "Anyway, by the time I realized what all this was about I was just furious. I was like 'I'm a 100% disabled veteran! I fought for my country precisely so this type of thing WOULDN'T happen!' I'm just yelling at them. 'Jackson's my physical therapist! Call the VA if you don't believe me! There is no other guy! I live alone and Jackson came here alone!'"
      "Holy crap!" I said, "And you have PTSD too! They just burst in with full SWAT regalia without even thinking of that."
      "Yeah, well, I'm strong," Mr. Elizalde said, "But you're right, there are some guys who would not be able to handle that sort of thing. They'd go to pieces."
      "And think of Jackson!" I said, "If that guy didn't have PTSD he sure does now!"
      "Yeah, I sent him home after all that. I was like, 'Take the rest of the day off.'"
      "What did he say?"
      "He said, 'No, it's okay...' He is a tough guy."

      At that point Mr. Elizalde and I wanted to do what most white liberals do after hearing about yet another instance of racism: cluck our tongues, say "That's a shame," and then think about something else. But this time however we just couldn't do it. Now that WE had also been at the opposite end of the gun of racism as well as a black man we just couldn't do it. Every time that I've met Mr. Elizalde since that afternoon we've talked about the SWAT team. Every time I meet a black person now I see the way the institutionalized racism of our society has affected his or her manners. The elderly black women at the nursing home where I work call me "Ma'am" even though I'm the one serving them. The black nurse practitioner who visited a client of mine in her home was driven there by her white husband.... not because she couldn't drive but because a black person being accompanied by a white person is that much less likely to be harassed by a police officer than a black person traveling alone. I'm just seeing it literally every day now. Just this morning I had to turn off the radio because NPR was running another story about the Dozier school concentration camp and I just cannot listen to that story without crying for an hour. Think about it. That school was closed down in 2011. 2011! Not 1911. Not 1921. Not "back in those days" but well into the second decade of the new century! Black children were being murdered in this country by the state of Florida while our first black president drank champagne at his inaugural ball. Can you comprehend that?

Well, I still can't.... but at least I'm really seeing it for the first time.

UPDATE: Rec List! Thank you so much guys! And thanks so much for all the kind and thoughtful comments out there :-)

Originally posted to eowynsdottir on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 04:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by Personal Storytellers, Military Community Members of Daily Kos, Support the Dream Defenders, Police Accountability Group, and White Privilege Working Group.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Meteor Blades, Sharoney, RepackRider, Pat K California, claude, Renee, Thumb, Ed in Montana, Sylv, KeithH, northsylvania, LeislerNYC, Chi, oofer, Odysseus, murphy, mwm341, teacherken, Timaeus, AaronInSanDiego, native, asimbagirl, Gooserock, Powered Grace, NYmom, mimi, DebtorsPrison, Emerson, OtherDoug, Shockwave, jazzizbest, LynChi, brendan1963, Stein, mslat27, celdd, eeff, rubyr, Pompatus, mzinformed, route66, devtob, freelunch, awhitestl, WI Deadhead, delver rootnose, gjohnsit, Bob Friend, Matilda, Walt starr, emelyn, MarkInSanFran, expatjourno, Caneel, hnichols, hubcap, Doctor Who, Heart of the Rockies, cinnamon68, raines, Zinman, missLotus, 88kathy, susans, TracieLynn, afox, fugwb, BlackSheep1, Wee Mama, wonkydonkey, boadicea, shanikka, MisterOpus1, farmerhunt, chechecule, oneworld, Dick Woodcock, Fe, Miss Blue, sngmama, poe, jalbert, wonmug, Glinda, nupstateny, Cedwyn, high uintas, sidnora, fluffy, wader, revsue, Texknight, RLF, kharma, edrie, annan, emmasnacker, NYC Sophia, pat bunny, Eyesbright, MA Liberal, Lawrence, Noodles, roseeriter, Damnit Janet, Hawksana, yet another liberal, JimWilson, NYFM, Chirons apprentice, Steven Payne, defluxion10, Catte Nappe, hazzcon, RuralLiberal, liberte, annetteboardman, papercut, lcrp, riverlover, outragedinSF, nswalls, JayBat, AllisonInSeattle, Major Kong, zerelda, ybruti, Sembtex, randallt, NapaJulie, Wife of Bath, ScienceMom, Steven D, jcrit, poemworld, lyvwyr101, sbg, slapshoe, Josiah Bartlett, rmx2630, Armand451, Limelite, Frank Vyan Walton, oortdust, sawgrass727, libnewsie, nailbender, Skennet Boch, davidincleveland, kbman, Bluesee, marina, radarlady, Tinfoil Hat, tle, Independent Musings, Tonedevil, chimene, OpherGopher, offred, keschen, ccasas, basquebob, ChemBob, TigerMom, Tod, Brooke In Seattle, YucatanMan, reflectionsv37, fixxit, eru, bleeding blue, marathon, SaraBeth, Dem Beans, ladybug53, science geek, Kayakbiker, Ice Blue, Little Lulu, most peculiar mama, BayAreaKen, PinHole, spunhard, wigwam, Floja Roja, sodalis, coolbreeze, Eileen B, Cory Bantic, The Fat Lady Sings, peacestpete, Ekaterin, kathny, RainyDay, bently, xaxnar, Jim P, Born in NOLA, Paul Ferguson, Knucklehead, Showman, K S LaVida, redcedar, snazzzybird, BachFan, tommymet, Kingsmeg, 417els, Mr Bojangles, tung sol, emeraldmaiden, BeadLady, Themistoclea, mr crabby, Gorette, bastrop, raptavio, ruleoflaw, deha, Naniboujou, fou, kck, Lefty Coaster, triv33, MJ via Chicago, wild hair, StrayCat, twigg, 4Freedom, jerseyjo, Crashing Vor, SadieSue, JVolvo, NearlyNormal, armadillo, Preston S, tommyfocus2003, myrealname, ER Doc, middleagedhousewife, MBNYC, llbear, onionjim, SingerInTheChoir, thenekkidtruth, IL clb, nother lurker, Unknown Quantity, CA Nana, Persiflage, doingbusinessas, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, blueoregon, 1864 House, shaharazade, NancyWH, Tom Anderson, kurious, Bernie68, bstotts, postmodernista, OHdog, jobird, PatConnors, Aaa T Tudeattack, janetsal, BentLiberal, DBunn, Thinking Fella, tegrat, ammasdarling, ccyd, FoundingFatherDAR, marykk, out of left field, dotsright, Cronesense, nipit, Habitat Vic, weneedahero, Debs2, devis1, ColoTim, Stwriley, yoduuuh do or do not, karmsy, Wino, FishOutofWater, LillithMc, Mary Mike, la urracca, HeartlandLiberal, Matt Z, flumptytail, operculum, Dave in Northridge, swrussel, joedemocrat, davehouck, rantsposition, NoMoJoe, jayden, second gen, martyinsfo, cyncynical, Moderation, Bridge Master, hopi13, CT Hank, cececville, leonard145b, bewild, janatallow, Don midwest, Assaf, South Park Democrat, vet, Counselor730, TomP, Empower Ink, rmonroe, MKinTN, GANJA, JayC, bkamr, Amor Y Risa, jack 1966, VelvetElvis, misterwade, windje, JaxDem, GAS, 6412093, OleHippieChick, Youffraita, Aureas2, Involuntary Exile, CDH in Brooklyn, Buckeye Nut Schell, Its any one guess, mikeconwell, monkeybrainpolitics, here4tehbeer, Lujane, boatjones, Cassandra Waites, hwmnbn, dewley notid, smartdemmg, left my heart, bluesheep, triplepoint, envwq, mofembot, Drewid, exdiplopat, glendaw271, petulans, 3rdOption, sewaneepat, nokkonwud, msdobie, Morgan Sheridan, lenzy1000, Al Fondy, allie123, HarpboyAK, Mayfly, billybam, WearyIdealist, watercarrier4diogenes, GrannyOPhilly, Diogenes2008, shortgirl, jlms qkw, oldliberal, Marnie1, LaFeminista, 207wickedgood, maggiejean, prettygirlxoxoxo, artmartin, J M F, Throw The Bums Out, Fogiv, spacecadet1, ceebee7, greengemini, divineorder, nchristine, LinSea, RenMin, bobatkinson, welso, LeftOfYou, Nebraskablue, WakeUpNeo, earicicle, shopkeeper, mkor7, CamillesDad1, EquationDoc, DefendOurConstitution, petral, RageKage, asym, COwoman, Denise Oliver Velez, IreGyre, moviemeister76, sfarkash, Vetwife, Tortmaster, jfromga, mahakali overdrive, Dragon5616, astral66, Edge PA, jpmassar, Leftcandid, collardgreens, Lefty Ladig, Its the Supreme Court Stupid, commonmass, smileycreek, YellerDog, mamamorgaine, awcomeon, flitedocnm, The Jester, NJpeach, serendipityisabitch, politik, leftywright, The Free Agent, piers, michelewln, SmartAleq, CcVenussPromise, biggiefries, Crabby Abbey, LOrion, mookins, Lost and Found, alguien, freeport beach PA, hepshiba, JoanMar, cordgrass, I Lurked For Years, pixxer, Kristina40, DerAmi, DiegoUK, LBS, Funkygal, addisnana, DrTerwilliker, Otteray Scribe, science nerd, Oh Mary Oh, Actbriniel, slice, theKgirls, no way lack of brain, Onomastic, praying manatheist, misshelly, yellow cosmic seed, spooks51, Tommye, slowbutsure, afisher, implicate order, jardin32, vahana, cv lurking gf, HiKa, FarWestGirl, OhioNatureMom, Hatrax, Alice Olson, smiley7, cama2008, trumpeter, marleycat, Lusty, Lorikeet, AgavePup, IllanoyGal, thomask, Claudius Bombarnac, smoothnmellow, SueM1121, merrily1000, tardis10, LSmith, Grandma Susie, MRA NY, IB JOHN, worldlotus, MuskokaGord, antooo, CorinaR, chira2, whaddaya, punkRockLiberal, sound of progress, poliwrangler, VTCC73, diffrntdrummr, stevie avebury, Marihilda, Vatexia, cactusgal, SoCalSal, SteelerGrrl, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, weisja4, stlsophos, imlpdx, Regina in a Sears Kit House, Mentatmark, caryltoo, Lucy2009, Laurel in CA, Mathazar, DawnN, BlueDragon, YaNevaNo, SuWho, AnnetteK, auroreden, Pinto Pony, GenXangster, stormicats, RockyJ, anodnhajo, sow hat, Flying Goat, greenbastard, Siri, lurkyloo, Jakkalbessie, ahumbleopinion, nellgwen, msrevis, Mostel26, pitbullgirl65, joanil, tb92, midgebaker, AnnieR, Joieau, a2nite, swampyankee, 2thanks, FloridaSNMOM, exatc, congenitalefty, Horace Boothroyd III, Darryl House, This old man, chicagobleu, jan4insight, hotheadCA, belinda ridgewood, BusyinCA, pdxteacher, BRog, pittie70, Margd, wxorknot, 43north, oldpotsmuggler, avsp, Victim of Circumstance, Glen The Plumber, dotdash2u, 4mygirls, George3, Ramoth, AZ Sphinx Moth, this just in, Windowpane, Robynhood too, barleystraw, nthelurch, Most Awesome Nana, The Geogre, Ray Pensador, Lily O Lady, MishaBrewer, Panacea Paola, simple serf, TheMeansAreTheEnd, countwebb, The grouch, newinfluence, argomd, jbob, dennis1958, gypsytoo, aresea, SheilaKinBrooklyn, Yo Bubba, Noctem Aeternus, kmfmstar, Alhambra, Aunt Pat, ggfkate, Jollie Ollie Orange, howabout, JosephK74, Icicle68, GreenMother, Smoh, just66horns, IndyinDelaware, starfu, furrfu, solarbay, ET3117, blue91, marcr22, Patango, chicklet, Ishmaelbychoice, pragmaticidealist, LilithGardener, Jim Domenico, ChristineM, Politikator09, NonEuclidian, oslyn7, WFBMM, starduster, TheDuckManCometh, palmer18, htowngenie, The Marti, Annie B, nancyjones, socindemsclothing, richardvjohnson, blukat, OldSoldier99, Elizaveta, DKBurton, dream weaver, KansasLib, old mule, mystique mist, Darwinian Detritus, trkingmomoe, b33mm3up, micsimov, Petered

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site