Garbage

[Scissorheads, we have an exciting guest post from the ineffable Katie Schwartz! She’s the boss! — Tengrain]

The other day, I threw out my garbage in the alley, sans phone and braless- it was a quick chore. I saw two police SUVs and a motorcycle police officer. A young African American man was handcuffed, seated on the cement. We saw each other. I inched towards him while two officers hovered to reinforce their dominance over him and his place in their world. The officers’ actions further traumatized and humiliated him for being black. The closer I got, an officer peered at me. I said, “I’m not leaving until I know he’s safe.” The officer shrugged indifferently. If I was African American, I would’ve been forced to the ground and assaulted. With so many white domestic terrorists in this country, I’m not seen as a threat? 

I continued edging towards the young man, forced to be silent, to wait, and hope that he would make it out alive. Watching him, all I could think was, every minute of his life is defined by the color of his skin, regardless of where he is or what he’s doing. I wondered if he ever felt peace or safe. Our eyes met. His were wide and fearful. I told him I was there for him and that I wouldn’t leave. My presence meant nothing, meaning, he didn’t know what I was willing to do, which makes sense. Surely, he’s acclimated to my skin tone briskly rushing past him. If I had walked away, I would’ve been complicit. I asked why he was handcuffed. They ignored me. As I got closer, a female officer took out her phone and told him to smile for the camera. Simultaneously the other officer ripped his mask off his face and removed the handcuffs. I was enraged. Frankly, right out the gate, I should’ve done more, forced my way between the officers to sit beside him. I regret not doing that.

Once he stood up, I made my way to his side. We talked. I asked him if he was okay. He blamed himself for all of it.

C: I bought a new car because it was a responsible decision.

K: You don’t have to explain your choices. You did nothing wrong.

C: I was sitting in my car clipping my nails.

K: Which you had every right to do. You did nothing wrong. This is not your fault

He’d been pulled over and handcuffed countless times. Watching him run down what happened in his head and the choices he could’ve made, as if they were his to make, was infuriating and heartbreaking. He was drenched in systemic racial trauma and abuse. I waited with him and gave him my number. We talked until we were comfortable parting ways.

The minute I walked into my place, I called the police. The dispatcher was as angry as I was and immediately transferred me to the captain.

Please note, I explained what happened during this conversation.

K: I’m not accusing your officers of racism, but the choices they made struck me as racially motivated.

Dick (annoyed): They have to take pictures of people when they suspect a car is stolen.

K: But the car wasn’t stolen. They took the bill of sale from him and left with it. I saw them return it later. That wouldn’t happen to a white person.

The captain refused to listen and hung up on me because he’s a racist cunt with an agenda; defend his fellow Aryans and get that bitch, me, off the phone. So, I emailed the chief of police and the mayor. If I don’t get a response from either of them by next week, I’m contacting city council. If they choose to ignore me, I will keep climbing until I reach the apex.

Growing up, my parents were social justice warriors. They made damn sure that we were exposed to racial injustice, antisemitism, and LGBTQ+ pride parades, for example. Our world wasn’t white-washed. We were the first family to move into a white Christian neighborhood for one year. Did you know that Jews have horns? I still can’t find mine. I was sent to a predominantly African American school for a year. During my tenure there, I felt different and uncomfortable. I am grateful for that experience. Still. It is only a microcosm of what it must be like to be black in America. Black Lives Matter is mandatory. African Americans in this country have never, not for a single day in their lives been treated equally.

I don’t want to be part of the problem or complicit, so when I leave the house, I will always wear a bra and sneakers, and have my phone. When I run into a situation like that again, I will do better.

“When ordinary people wake up, elites begin to tremble in their boots. They can’t get away with their abuse. They can’t get away with subjection. They can’t get away with subjugation. They can’t get away with exploitation. They can’t get away with domination. It takes courage for folk to stand up.” ― Dr. Cornel West

 

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8 Responses to Garbage

  1. antiscience says:

    Thank you for this. It’s an important reminder of the stakes, and of what our behaviour should be, when we’re confronted by this.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. laura says:

    Massive over policing a young black man for having the temerity to purchase a car. Your actions likely had an effect on the outcome, on reassuring a victim of systemic racism and helping to process the trauma. You helped him with DARVO and put the tird back in the police’s pocket. You followed through. You done good, I’ll do my best to do the same when/if….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your comment. I looked up DARVO and it is the perfect description of how white police officers treat African Americans.

      No matter what I do, I know it isn’t enough as part of the collective, to create real change. With all of the insane right wing terrorists in office, my fear is that things will get worse.

      I’m not an optimist.

      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jimmy T says:

    We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now—MLK. I’ve been relatively lucky in life. Growing up in a mixed race family made it easier for me to accept differences in race, color, creed, and sexual orientation. My conflict with the parental unit wasn’t about acceptance, but was about their conservative and fundamentalist beliefs which I found strenge. It took many years for me to evolve beyond their expectations, and yes there were a number of family dinners that came to ruin because of it. But I managed to become a better person, then a liberal, and now a progressive…

    It was very brave of you to interject yourself into a police incident. Having white skin may offer a measure of protection, but I’ve witnessed violence against women being perpetrated by the “boys in blue,” as evidenced by the BLM protests post George Floyd. If there exists a pathway forward for reasonable law enforcement it begins with education. Too many police departments basically hire recruits off the street. Policing skills need to be taught in a formalized setting such as a community college or even a four year university. Police training should emphasize de-escalation over violent confrontation. Having police officers live within the communities they patrol should be encouraged. And lastly, police departments must be subjected to oversight, both within the chain of command, and by a citizen’s review board (one with teeth)…

    Thank you for getting involved…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jimmy, Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, and more about yourself with me.

      How the hell did you extricate yourself from a fundamentalist / conservative family? I ask because I have a few friends who were mired in that same structure for years. The only path they saw was to runaway and never look back. That alone took a toll. We’re conditioned to believe that our families are all we have. I applaud your courage to find your way through and into your true self.

      I love what you said here and I agree, “If there exists a pathway forward for reasonable law enforcement it begins with education. Too many police departments basically hire recruits off the street. Policing skills need to be taught in a formalized setting such as a community college or even a four year university. Police training should emphasize de-escalation over violent confrontation. Having police officers live within the communities they patrol should be encouraged. And lastly, police departments must be subjected to oversight, both within the chain of command, and by a citizen’s review board (one with teeth)….”

      How can the collective make this really happen? from what I’ve read, policing began in the 1700s as slave patrols. In the 1900s, they continued that wretched theme, only hiring white men. Good officers are rare, just like good doctors are. I feel like the police are a human rights violation.

      Have a wonderful day. Thanks again for your time.
      Katie

      Liked by 1 person

  4. spotthedog says:

    Great post and comments here. I don’t think there’s any question the policing profession unfortunately attracts aggressive authoritarian types, and I don’t have a solution to offer any better than anybody else’s but there are good ideas out there.

    I like to think many of us are endowed with such qualities as tolerance, empathy to other persons, and open-mindedness; striving to maintain that perspective has always been my personal ‘religion’ (otherwise I ascribe to none) and I think it naturally leads one to have a progressive/liberal outlook and political viewpoint.

    I can recall four specific instances over the years that while driving my car I experienced a breakdown, malfunction, or obvious trouble that resulted in someone stopping to give me aid; in three of those four instances the person who came to my aid was black, I am white.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bruce388 says:

      I stupidly ran out of gas once. A Black guy got me going again.

      A significant other (RIP) had been married to a guy who wound up in a wheelchair. She noticed the people who went out of their way to help him were Black.

      It seems to be a pattern. Maybe people who’ve been defecated on repeatedly relate to other people who are having a tough time.

      Liked by 1 person

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