Sunday, April 15, 2007

HELP! I'M WHITE AND I CAN'T GET DOWN


This will be brief. But it needs to be said. And it’s kind of substantive, which makes this post a rarity on BCPHTP.com.

Representative Diane White Delisi had a criminal justice-related bill on the floor this week that failed. A bunch of racial minority members got up and explained, best I can tell, that the 5th Ward in Houston is not exactly like Belton when it comes to law enforcement practices.

Now most of you who know Billy Clyde personally also know that he is white. And most of you also know he is a self-loathing white dude. Not that I have anything against white people; many, if not most, are very good people. I just prefer hanging out with black folks, all things considered.

I’d never really met a Hispanic person until 1984, but they seem cool, too. An Iranian guy moved to Walker County in 1979 when his family fled Persia after the overthrow of the Shah, and I not only welcomed him into our community and school, I personally arranged for him to learn English and become Freshman Class President. One of my ocassional good deeds geared toward trying to get me to Heaven.

Reverse racism is a term BC has never liked. For one, if a honkie or two gets discriminated against, big whooping deal. We’re a long way from being London or Paris, two cities that, in a goofy act of political correctness, have handed over their metropolises to outsiders. That ain’t happening here.

But when African-American and Hispanic lawmakers went to the back mic to describe racial injustices that had personally faced in dealing with uniformed police officers, I started thinking about how that is a two-way street. Please allow me to explain.

Representative Harold V. Dutton, Jr., was one of the guys who fought the bill and tried to shed light on the practical dangers of unchecked police power. Interestedly enough, Billy Clyde’s first experience with racial profiling came when he drove to Houston to attend Representative Dutton’s dad’s funeral.

Dutton is not only Black, he’s Catholic. Apparently there are a lot of Black Catholics in Houston, because the church (maybe it’s called Temple or something in Catholic parlance) was giant. But not big enough for BC to readily find it.

Now I was born in Houston. Go there all the time and think I know my way around. But damn, there’s a whole section of the city I didn’t know existed. And that section included Harold’s church, where I was trying to get to.

So one of Houston’s finest pulled me over in a residential area and asked for license and insurance. Okay. Then he asked me to get out of the truck. Okay. Then he asked me a series of random questions that seemed totally unrelated to any traffic violation. In a very respectful, polite voice, I asked something along the lines of “what’s going on here.”

This made the police officer very, very angry. He threatened to take me to jail. Yet he hadn’t even suggested I had committed a traffic infraction, much less a jailable offense.

We visited for a few more minutes, and he got to the bottom line: What are you doing in this neighborhood, and who is your crack dealer? Believe it or not, I have never done crack. And I was in the neighborhood because I was going to a church for a funeral.

Imagine waking up in the morning to go pay respects to one of your best friend’s dad – a well-respected letter carrier and civic figure – and almost getting thrown in the pokie because some half-wit cracker cop thinks you must be a criminal if you’re driving around in a certain area of town. Damn BTW, I didn’t get a ticket or warning and, it turns out, had not violated any motoring statute. It was just HPD policy.

That shit ain’t right.

Now let’s go down to South Texas, where there are not real Interstates or Highways or Freeways and the speed limit changes every 50 yards. Some dimwit police officer in, if I recall correctly, San Diego (a little town in either Jim Wells or Duval counties) pulled me over and gave me a pretty rough going-over for something like doing 47 mph in a 45 mph zone. He came up with some cockamanie deal about my Vehicle Identification Number not matching the number on my insurance card and slapped the cuffs on me.

Then he made a huge-ass mistake. He said I could give him $75 or could go to jail. The passenger in my truck – my girlfriend at the time – was a no-nonsense prosecutor who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. While I was being manhandled, she was on the phone to her boss, who immediately called the local D.A., who called the cop shop, which patched through a call to the officer who was harassing me, and was told to stop acting the fool. So I was free to go.

But in both those cases, Billy Clyde could have, at least temporarily, lost his freedom because some power-hungry local yokel didn’t like the way I looked. Which is white.

So remember, this is a two-way street. Sylvester Turner may have a run-in with the law when he jogs through River Oaks. But BC can have the same sorta run-in when he’s two miles to the east.

Texas will be a majority-minority state within a decade. Us honkies ought to start thinking about basic civil rights.

UPDATE 1: Miss M delivered a powerful story in the comments section. I have obtained a copy of her traffic stop photo. And yes, powerful Capitol lobbyist Miss M and Hollywood starlet Anne Archer are the same person.


6 comments:

Miss M said...

Try being a woman... You might think that's a great thing when you're pulled over by a cop (and I must admit it has helped me on more than one occasion to be charming), but hear this story:

When I was much younger and the kids were little, I was pulled over by a state trooper in San Antonio for having an expired inspection sticker. I had the kids in their little car seats with me.

The trooper asks me to get out of the car and stands very close to me, almost whispering, that he is going to have to "take me in" because he can't verify that my insurance card is accurate.

He tells me to get back into the car and wait while he talks to his supervisor. I start crying and this makes the kids start crying. When the cop comes back to the window, my 4 year-old wails, "My mommy doesn't wanna go to jail!"

The cop takes pity and asks me for my business card so he can call me to make sure I have taken care of the inspection. Three days later, he shows up at my office; he's in the neighborhood and wanted to say hi...and also check on my inspection sticker. And then he kept hanging around until I finally told him I was going to get in trouble if I had visitors (I was a receptionist for a lawfirm).

Ick. Yuck.

texxasredd said...

Long, long ago (mid 70's), I was pulled over by one of Pasadena's finest. (You may be too young to remember back then, when Stinkadena was home to the Klan HQ) Most of what he said can't be repeated (the "n word" & sex-worker commentary) - gist being "What is a white woman doing in a black man's house?" I don't need to relate further on his repeated fondling of his holster and nether regions during his "questioning". After showing him my badge and ID - (professional courtesy and all that) his response was "We don't like your kind here". Wasn't real sure what "kind" he meant, but I had no desire to find out. Pig.

Anonymous said...

South Oakcliff, Dallas: My white boyfriend and I (cracker) were stopped at a gas station, both out of the car, when out of nowhere, a black cop grabs my boyfriend from behind, slams him against the wall and detains him. Meanwhile, the other (white) cop handcuffs me, with a little more finesse, but nonetheless, without reason. I was a student at a private university, 32 miles west of Dallas. The cops admitted that the TCU sticker on the back of my car gave them ample reason to believe I was trying to work some drug deal, as if Fort Worth can't maintain it's own drug market without the help of Dallas. I'm not sure which was more offensive: being accused of looking for crack or the belief that Ft.Worth kids have to go all the way to Dallas to find it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thank you, BC - that's exactly right. It's not just black folks who have civil rights, or minorities, we all do. And the sooner everyone understands we have many of the same basic interests at stake on this stuff, race be damned, the better off we'll be.

On Miss M's comment, I've heard a couple of other similar stories recently of cops looking for dates out of traffic stops - that's certainly an odd development. I'm sure it's true that "mommy doesn't wanna go to jail," but that shouldn't obligate her to date the guy! This is what Sandra Day O'Connor feared when she dissented in the Atwater v. Lago Vista case approving Texas' law that cops can arrest for C misdemeanors - Perry vetoed bills in 2001 and 2003, btw, to restrict or even define the authority to arrest beyond any infraction as small as failure to signal a lane change. So if an attractive gal doesn't want to be arrested, she may get a friendly post-stop visit at her job? Yuck is right!

lush said...

Reverse racism and reverse descrimination are terms that never made a damn bit of sense to me. I always considered descrimination based on race to be plain ol' racism regardless of whether those being descriminated against were black, white, brown, etc.... Reverse racism would be the opposite of racism to my mind.

Winston Smith said...

Sorry Lush, but that would be unracism, or possibly doubleplusunracism. I hope this helps.