Thursday, June 03, 2010

By request – my thoughts on driving while black in Missouri…

Let’s jump in!

A bitch has received several emails requesting my thoughts on the recent report by Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster on what we like to call driving while black.

Now, I know that more than a few folks respond to people of color taking exception to being pulled over for being black and behind the wheel of a moving vehicle the same way they respond to people of color taking exception to being asked to produce proof of citizenship simply for being brown in a border state – they shoot back some bullshit about how we shouldn’t be upset if we didn’t do anything wrong and gleefully ignore the fact that we didn’t do anything fucking wrong in the first place…unless someone reactivated Jim Crow and my ass missed it.

Christ.

Yeah, I know that’s how some people feel…that it isn’t a big deal and if people of color didn’t commit crimes we wouldn’t be pulled over and blah followed by blah followed by another fucking blah.  This bitch knows that if all straight white men between the ages of 24 and 45 in a community, regardless of whether they have a criminal record or not, were pulled over and/or hauled in for questioning every time a child went missing or a serial killer was wanted those same folks would sing a different tune on profiling.

This shit is easy to dismiss when you’re not the one with a cop at your car window for no damn reason.

Anyhoo, Koster released the 10th annual report on vehicle stops…the report says that “if you are African-American you are 70 percent more likely to be pulled over than if you are Caucasian" and that "In the city of Ladue, you are 1,700 percent more likely to be pulled over than if you were Caucasian."

For non-locals, Ladue is an affluent St. Louis suburb and is known as a place where black folks get pulled over and asked if we are lost…trust a bitch, it’s happened to me more than once.

The Attorney General’s office examined 1.7 million stops by 642 law enforcement agencies in 2009.

Over the past 10 years the rate of black folk getting pulled over has increased in Missouri from 30 percent to 70 percent.

A bitch thought that shit was disturbing all on it’s own…but much of the media attention has focused on the Ladue stats ‘cause Ladue is Ladue.  Seems to me that Ladue is just doing what Missouri does with more dedication and consistency and we’d do well to not give the state a pass simply because one suburb is particularly rancid when it comes to harassing black drivers.

Even if you are comfortable with the idea of black residents in the state of Missouri having to add an extra 30 minutes to our drive time to allow for a potential incident of driving while black…your ass should be pissed.

Every time a Missourian is pulled over for driving while black and there wasn’t a crime or cause or reason…every time a police officer takes the time to run plates, write that shit up, call it in, walk to the car and ask if we are lost and then issue a verbal warning for some shit that never happened…every time that shit happens it wastes time, money and an opportunity to protect and serve.k.

I’m not even going to get into the civil rights violations or the precious privilege demonstrated by the Ladue police department when they defend these stats by saying drivers can always come into the police department offices and file a complaint…but I will point out that the former Ladue Police Chief is suing Ladue for allegedly firing him due to his refusal to racially profile black drivers.

The true tragedy is that there are people out there who have been conditioned by a media that only mentions race when the race isn’t white to think that black people…all of us…are guilty until proven innocent.

Just like there are misguided liberals who think that claiming that we are all a part of the human race is progressive and who feel that thinking of humans in terms of race is the problem.

But a bitch has personally been pulled over and I can tell you black trumps adhering to the laws a lot in Missouri and a hell of a lot in Ladue.

For the record, humans are a species not a lets-all-hold-hands-and-ignore-our-differences-so-I-can-tolerate-you race.

And post-racial is a delusion just like that “I don’t see color” claim someone is typing up right now to post in the comments.

Sigh.

This isn't complicated.

'Tis rather simple.

A bitch is a full-figured chocolate brown woman with an Afro and I sure as shit expect people to see that shit…

…what I don’t want or deserve, even though I've come to expect it, is to be pulled over and harassed for that shit.

Blink.

12 comments:

Courtney said...

When a white person says, "I don't see color," or "I don't see race," I take that to mean "I don't see my own privilege." They are lying to themselves.

I've been there. Living as someone who is not (and has no desire to be) actively, hatefully, intentionally racist but who has yet to examine and begin to unpack their white privilege is like being sick and not knowing it. Once you start to get better, you are stunned at how much it was affecting you and how you could have not noticed.

Admitting you have privilege and starting the work to unpack it is uncomfortable at best and usually pretty painful and shame-inducing. But part of that process is realizing that the pain and anger and shame you feel when you are unpacking that privilege is a drop in the bucket compared to what people of color have gone through because they were on the "other" side of a line of privilege drawn by society.

"I don't see color/race" is a way of saying, "Look at me, I'm sooooo progressive! Aren't I wonderful? Where's my gold star?"

ShortWoman said...

I totally agree that every time an officer wastes time on a DWB, he is wasting resources that could be spending -- oh I dunno -- protecting the community.

So what does a white lady who isn't a cop do about that?

Anonymous said...

Odd you posted on this I was just thinking about this last night and my hubby and I were talking about driving while being black or anything other than white. We live in WV near PA and MD and a friend of ours was pulled over when she was coming to visit us. She is a black female, we are a white couple. We live in a nice community and it seemed just cause she was what the officer called "out of place" she deserved to be pulled over. I as a white female have never experienced being pulled over of course solely based on race or anything like that of course but once when pulled over for speeding I was talked down to and it made me think geez I am so glad I am white. Well crap I shouldn't have to say things like that or fear having my friend come to visit me and her being called out of place or something. It's so wrong. And to see things like AZ and the new law is just so scary. It just makes my hubby and I so pissed off. And it was hard to understand what our friend had gone through being white and all but we tried our best. Great post!

Shark-fu said...

Great question, ShortWoman! I can tell you that I plan to follow-up with AG Koster's office and find out what the next steps are. Identifying a problem is one thing, but addressing it is a different thing altogether.

I'll keep y'all posted!

Joe said...

Race isn't, strictly speaking, a 'scientific term', right? I see what you're saying about recognizing and owning-up to white privilege, and not pretending that I, as a white person (if you haven't guessed), have not had advantages just because of my skin color. That would be ridiculous, obviously. I think the problem is that reading about something as a subject and living it produce vastly different types and degrees of experience. This 'misguided liberal' argument you mention is, I think, really wrong because it seeks to be Utopian in a situation where one must be pragmatic.To eject inequality and bias from our society, we have to correct stupid crap like racial profiling, but we can't really do that by emphasizing difference. That's sort of the problem isn't it? Criminologists will often respond with some asinine statistic about how African-Americans are more likely to do such-and-such, just because they are convicted more frequently of doing such-and-such. It seems to not occur to them that people of color are convicted more frequently because of the very biases held within that society. Like Susan Smith. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Smith .This woman's children disappeared, and she said that a 'black man carjacked her with her kids in the car' so the police just sort of believed her because they had a prejudiced opinion about black people and certain crimes. If it had occurred to them to follow 'procedure' and investigate the closest relatives first, they would've found that she murdered her children much quicker, I would imagine.

Anonymous said...

pulling innocent people over is bad. However living in mudhuts, raping, robbing and killing for a living is worse. And that is black "civilization".

NancyP said...

This reminds me of the Frontenac (next to and similar to Ladue) incident involving the famous Prof. Gerald Early, a man who gets his letters and op-eds published by the NY Times and who is sought after by publishers. This is a man who can afford to shop in expensive shops, not any ordinary debt-ridden humanities professor. He went into an "oriental rug" store to buy a rug, and the salesperson went amok and kicked him out under threat of police. (I don't remember if police actually showed up.) This happened across the street from the tony shopping center that also has a small art-house movie theater complex. The St. Louis region has only two art-house theaters and one college art-house movie series. One would think that the residents and police of Ladue, Frontenac, and Town and Country would get used to having non-white people traveling to and from the local attraction.

The Ladue police must have had a conniption over commuter traffic through Ladue during the I-170 to I-270 closure portion of the I-40/I-64 renovations. East-west commuters used I-70, I-44, and about 5 major streets to get between the circle freeway I-270 and the city portion of the main east-west commuter highway I-40/I-64. That may account for the recent DWB-stop increase from disgraceful to appalling.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Clayton (which neighbors Ladue) for 8 months. In that time, every time I saw a car pulled over, the car was old and the driver and any passengers were black. Every freaking time. Given the high proportion of bimmers and master of the world lawyers in Clayton, it was well-nigh unbelievable. Even my privileged/center-conservative/raised in Creve Coeur girlfriend was commenting on it.

Anonymous said...

I was pulled over for driving while black once in high school. I was in my mom car, driving through St. John or Belnor or one of the many 3 block cities by the airport. He said I was tailgating, once I showed him my ID and I had insurance to drive the car, he let me go. My question is why didn’t I get a ticket if I was tailgating? I’m sure I was only pulled over because I am black.

Jane Laplain said...

we have to correct stupid crap like racial profiling, but we can't really do that by emphasizing difference. That's sort of the problem isn't it?

Joe the problem is White Supremacy, and the institutionalization of white privilege that actively punishes all bodies that are not white for existing in the first place.

Acknowledging difference and emphasizing difference would not result in discrimination if there wasn't a culturally approved hierarchy of human differences in the first place.

The very hard work that white people have to do if they are indeed serious about "correcting" this BS is to call it out for what it is and stop giving themselves excuses to look the other way. It will take White people agreeing to stop playing headgames with themselves, "well we can't exactly be SURE this was racism, cuz maybe it was just random, maybe that cop was just having a bad day...besides, where's the PROOF? Is it fair to accuse people of something so awful just becuz it SEEMS like that's what they meant to do??" .. yeah THAT game. You know the one. The get out of dealing with reality happening right in front of their faces game.

So, there it is Joe. If you really want to be progressive you will commit to making real progress in your own life, your own community, your own family, what have you.. And you can't progress if you refuse to identify the problem. CALL THIS OUT FOR WHAT IT IS: White Supremacy In Action, plain and simple.

It's not a pleasant thing to see or to say, but if you don't like hearing about it happening, imagine how the REST of us who it's happening to must feel!

Shark-fu said...

Dear Anonymous racist fool who thinks I live in a "mud hut"...

I usually don't post comments like yours, but every now and then I do just to remind my readers that evil is out there and what it believes.

Gotta go rob someone now 'cause the rent on this hut is outrageous!

'nuff already said...

The slight was subtle yet the intent crystal clear: child abductors and serial killers (especially the raping, mutilating, dismembering kind (wait, is there any other kind?) are the province of AWMs -- that's Angry White Males -- between the ages of 24 - 45. (I suppose a bitch does have to get her digs in where she can!)

And so it was, way back in the summer of '02, when as a nation (and a color-blind one to boot!), our collective angst was still in high jitters mode thanks to creative new uses for jumbo jets (i.e., IEDs), snail mail as potential WMDs, etc., that the two black members of my work group shared knowing glances when discussion turned round (as it often did) to the sniper terrorizing shoppers and motorists in suburban D.C. The glances where easy to read. Smug, contrite looks that seemed to be saying, "Y'all wasting time looking for some middle eastern terrorist ... everyone know it white folks, specifically socially maladjusted white males who still live with their mamas, that go 'round shooting up innocent shoppers."

Well, well, well...t'ain't nothin' like watching smugness deflate...(especially when it’s a close family member!)

Turns out our miscreant was not a middle-aged white male after all, but rather a middle-aged black male ... along with his under-age black accomplice. While the latter was probably a victim of the former, the point of this story is that profiling goes both ways and is not strictly the province of any single race.

I suppose with profiling as in stereotyping there is some truth.

Take people from New Jersey, the stereotype is absolutely 100% true. Problem is, just as with any stereotype, it's just not representative of the whole truth.

After all, we all know white men can't jump and that they sure as hell can't dance...