Monday, October 25, 2010

Too Old for This

Ya know, I'm a reasonable guy--fairly good-natured--quick to annoyance, but slow to anger. When I signed up for this whole African-American thing, I expected some prejudice, a bit of racism, stereotyping, good music, and even a bit of exoticism. I, even at the tender age of a zygote, foresaw more than a few occasions of racial profiling.

So, in my youth, I took it all in stride. Didn't get too angry. Never (completely) lost my mind. I'd been stopped by the police for driving while black, walking while black, looking at them the wrong way while black, looking at them period while black, for being black, looking black, and, for all I know, smelling black (but never sounding black--how odd). As far as I'm concerned, I've done my time (one night for drunken disorderly at Cook County's Finest).

But, as I said, I'm a fairly reasonable man. So, when one of Bethesda's finest profiled me almost two years ago, I took it all in stride. Hell, I even made light of it. After all, I was 38. It had been a long time since I'd had any kind of interaction with po-po. It reminded me of my youth.

However, people, play time is over! I'm 40. I don't have time for and I am too old for this shit. This has just got to stop. Do you hear me, Bethesda P.D.? Hunh?!

I mean, you assholes don't even try to act clever. The last time, without the benefit of a radar, you somehow "clocked" me going 35 in a 30 mph zone. And, of course, because it was nothing but bullshit, your fine, upstanding officer didn't bother to give me a ticket. Just pleaded with me to "Please be careful, Mr. Campbell."

Last night was even more pathetic.

Last night, coming home from work around midnight, I got the flashing lights and siren again. I pulled over of course. This time, the copper informed me, "You blew a red light back there."

"What are you talking about? I turned right on a green arrow."

Moment of confusion. Stammers, "No, no. Back on Woodmont. You went straight through the red light."

Here's the great thing about this accusation: It's absolute bullshit! Every day coming home from work, I take a right onto said Woodmont, go exactly one block, and make a right turn at the light onto another street. I mean, damnit, if you're gonna racially profile me, stop me late at night, act like you're gonna give me a ticket, plant drugs, whatever he was planning to do, at least, at least, make the effort to lie convincingly. Say I was going 36 in a 30mph zone, that I've got a busted taillight, that the dead hooker fell out of my trunk, something. But do not, not make shit up out of whole cloth.

"Yeah. Sure," I huffed.

"License and registration, please."

"Here's my license." I handed it to him. "I don't know where my registration is."

Long pause.

Pause gets a little longer.

"You're not even gonna make the effort to find your registration," Johnny says, sarcastically.

I huffed again, turned on the light, opened the glove compartment, put my hand in, withdrew it, looked at the glove box, then at the cop. "You know what, I just got off of work."

Long, uppity negro pause.

Pause gets a little uppity-er.

"Fine then," BPD huffed himself. "You keep looking for your registration."

He leaves. I seethe. He comes back in less than a minute, gives me my license back, and says ... you guessed it ... "Please be careful, Mr. Campbell."

I wanted to say, "Yeah right, Officer. I'll do my best to ... not blow stop lights?"

Seriously people, I supposedly ran through a red light, refused to give up my registration, for all he knew wasn't even driving with one, gave him more than a little attitude, and yet he did not give me a ticket?! Didn't even bother to write me up a warning?! Nothing?!

Yeah, some of you are probably thinking that I was actually lucky not to get a ticket, get arrested, get a little Rodney King kiss in the night. And really, racially profiled once every two years. So many others have it worse. Yeah, I get that. Hell, I've had it worse. But Jesus! I'm a 40-year-old man in a 16-year-old Honda Civic with a gotdamned baby seat in the back coming home from work recording audio books for the blind for the Library of Friggin' Congress! Even with the black skin and dreadlocks, I deserve a bit of consideration here!



  1. However, I have it on good authority that in heaven, white people get profiled by black cops. So you have that to look forward to.

    Wasn't it in an Ani DiFranco song? "White people are so scared of black people..."

  2. Hm ... asking a middle-aged black man the lyrics of an Ani DiFranco song? Nobody would ever accuse you of racial profiling.


  3. Bill, the second-to-last paragraph of this post is perfect.

    What a balls-up, huh? In this day and age.

  4. Great post! But you forgot shopping while Black. That's always fun! :-)

  5. I'm sorry Bill. That disgusts me.
    Whenever I talk about my history of drinking and using drugs to any other person I ALWAYS tell them how I was never arrested or detained because I always had a decent job, car, clothes and always encounter similarly white male cops. I also specifically point out to them that had I been a black man I'd have spent many long days and nights in jail. But no matter what I did, no matter how ridiculous I acted, I always heard, "please be more careful Mr. Hillbilly." It really pisses me off that that had to be a privilege and not something afforded to everyone which is why I take every opportunity to point it out to others.
    That some dumb redneck cop would stop YOU just for. . . . fuck!
    Wasn't there a Steelers player who was stopped and beaten in a white neighborhood over around Whitehall a decade or so ago?

  6. @GenX--Oh, I didn't forget. I was too poor to shop!

    @SagHill--Actually, I have had a bit of an "advantage" as well--in that I "talk white." I have often wondered what might've happened during my many run-ins with Johnny Law if I talked more "Negroid" (is that the proper term?). The way I speak, to them, connotes some sort of privilege and has always given the cops pause. The only time I was arrested (for that drunken disorderly, where I basically willed the cops to arrest me) I was speaking the way I do and wearing my alma mater's sweatshirt. As a result, I got my own private cell in downtown Chicago. So, there are many layers to privilege--as you well know.

    As far as your question goes, I don't quite remember where it was, but that was Johnny Gammage. His cousin was Steelers' D-lineman Ray Seals. He was driving Seals' luxury car. The cops stopped him and choked him to death. Of course, they were found not guilty because it is totally possible that a handcuffed man can asphyxiate himself by collapsing his own throat and chest. We black folks are truly amazing.