In the days, weeks, and months following the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown, Jr at the hands of ex-police officer Darren Wilson, one of the common refrains I’ve heard from people (predominately white people) is that if African-Americans would listen to the police, bad things wouldn’t happen to them.
Great advice, that. I’m sure no Black parent in the history of Black parenting has ever told their child to listen to the police to avoid horrible things happening to them. Nope, we needed a white savior to swoop in and give us this piece of advice from the ‘How to survive as a Black person in the US’ handbook. Thanks ever so much.
Now, what’s your advice on how to survive as a Black person in the US when you haven’t done a damn thing wrong? What do you say to the Black people walking around outside, in the cold weather, with their hands in the pockets?
Video of the incident, which has been making the rounds across social media, shows the cop, who also recorded the incident, explaining to the man that his walking around was “making people nervous. They said you had your hands in your pockets.”
“Wow, walking by having your hands in your pockets makes people nervous [enough] to call the police, when it’s snowing outside?” the unidentified man says. “There’s 10,000 people in Pontiac right now with their hands in their pockets.”
The Pontiac police officer acknowledges that the man is right but notes that “we do have a lot of robberies, so just checking on you. You’re fine, you’re good?” he asks.
No, the man wasn’t arrested. Nor was he shot. He was, in my opinion, profiled, and racial profiling is a bad thing that happens to Black people. All. The. Damn. Time. Racial profiling is based on the idea that a particular race has a propensity for criminality. In the United States, that means African-Americans (and Latinos and American Indians) are often treated by law enforcement (and civilians) as if they’re criminals. In this case, a man was treated as a potential criminal for the crime of walking around in the cold weather with his hands in his pockets. As he said, there are thousands of people in Pontiac that likely had their hands in their pockets. Was the officer going to stop all of them on suspicion of being robbers? Or was he only going after this one Black man? If so, why? And is this advice given to white people as well? What’s the advice from white people on this one? “Don’t walk around in the cold weather with your hands in your pockets”? I guess it’s a good thing there were no cops around to watch me walk to the store yesterday–with my hands in my pockets because it was cold. I might have been racially profiled and stopped by police. Or worse, like the next example, where a man got tasered and arrested by the police while walking down the street:
An innocent 34-year-old autistic man was tasered and arrested by police on Christmas eve because he was walking down the street at night.
Greenville City Police were in the area responding to reports of gunshots when they came across Tario Anderson and shined a spotlight in the innocent man’s face. Anderson reacted by walking away from this stressful sensory overload.
“When they put their spotlight on him, he immediately put his head down, put his hands in his pockets and began to walk away from him,” Officer Johnathan Bragg with Greenville Police said. “They then got out of the vehicle and approached him and ordered him to stop at which point he did flee from the officers and they pursued him.”
Anderson had committed no crime but since he did not immediately bow down to the police, he was tasered and cops piled on top of him.
His mother, Carolyn Anderson, said he has severe autism, does not understand much and did not need to be arrested or shocked with a Taser.
“Tario can say yes or no, he might ask for a thing or two, but just verbal, no,” Carolyn Anderson said.
According to WYFF, Carolyn Anderson said the family has lived on Sullivan St. her entire life and he often walks most nights to other relatives’ homes on the street. When neighbors saw Tario shocked with the Taser, Carolyn Anderson said they called her to come outside, but officers would not let her near her son.
“If you had seen my baby was out there, laying on that sidewalk and every time he reached for me, I reached for him- [they’d say] ‘Get back, we gonna Tase you,’” Carolyn Anderson said. “I was trying to make them take me to jail. I curse everything, ‘Take me! I’m the one causing trouble! Take me. He’s not doing nothing.’ No matter what I said, it didn’t make no difference to them.”
Bragg callously stated that Tario Anderson deserved the force he received from officers. He said the officers were not aware that Anderson has a mental handicap, and because he broke the law by running and resisting arrest, they arrested him.
I wasn’t aware that it’s against the law to run from the police when you haven’t done a fucking thing wrong! In this case, the advice from white people would probably sound like “Don’t walk down the street and for heaven’s sake, don’t run from the cops. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Even if they scare you because you have a mental disability.” But what about when you’re walking down the street, doing nothing but talking on your cell phone, and you’re sprayed with pepper spray?
Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian will file a tort claim this afternoon against the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department, according to his lawyer, former Seattle NAACP President James Bible, over the way he was pepper sprayed during demonstrations on Martin Luther King Day this year.
As you can see in the video, Hagopian is merely walking and talking on his cellphone when the female police officer douses him with pepper spray. Why? It’s not evident. It’s not like he was violent. It’s not like he was a danger to the police or anyone else. So what’s the white savior advice for this situation? Don’t have the audacity to engage in those mundane activities that white people do every day and expect to get away with it? That’s pretty much the advice being offered in all the above examples, and many, many more. It’s not useful advice either, bc Blacks are only trying to live their lives on their own terms. That means doing mundane things like warming your cold hands in your pockets, walking down the street, and talking on a cell phone. If we can’t even perform such mundane tasks without the threat of police harassment and brutality, what recourse is there? Stop existing?