Jun 2, 2008

Police Brutality: An Unfortunate Rite of Passage

"'Son, do you know what I stopped you for?' 'Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low/do I look like a mind reader,Sir? I-don't-know. Am I under arrest or should i guess some mo'?'"
99 problems, Jay-z

The upcoming article is a word of wisdom from Dan Tres aka (Brother Omi) But first I want to talk about this topic, and my realization that aside from the actual brutality it is the systemizing of Black and Latin males that is a huge problem. In undergrad, my friends I kept getting into these frustrating incidences with the cops. Either myself, or my people have been pulled over for: driving 5 miles too fast, driving 5 miles too slow, switching lanes without using a turn signal, slowing the car down near an exit, having suspicious packages in the car and all kinds of other foolishness. An excuse of course to get into the vehicle and find something incriminating. Of course being college students every once in awhile someone WAS up to something, and the harassment ended in a life altering event. Now my experiences were nowhere near as jarring as Dan Tres's, but it burned me up nevertheless.

The way the police treated me and other women vs men was scary. The men always understood better than I did the danger that we were in. While we were being harassed the men around me silently tried to wait it out. I was always ready for an argument. When I'm feeling righteous I had no (common) sense of danger whatsover. My friends would pinch me, hold my shoulders, drag the back of my shirt, all the while I was arguing. As time went on I adopted that same tension/fear many of us all have as kids when the cops come around,. You can have nothing more dangerous than a pack of gum in the car, but when the cops pull up to a group of black or latino kids in a vehicle EVERYBODY shuts up, gets real still, stares forward and waits for the light to change. More than getting fined, lockup or embarrassed you can end up in the system.

Starting soph. year in college I started asking the black men in my life if they had ever spent a night in lockup ( I don't remember what started this questioning). Once in awhile, when it occured to me, I would just ask: over card games, at the movies, at a party, over dinner. It took me almost 7 months before I could find an entire room who said "no". These were COLLEGE KIDS! Some got good grades, some did not, some were into girls, some couldn't get any, some men were rich kids, some were broke, some liked to fight, some liked to write–they were all totally different, yet man after man said " Yes" for almost 7 straight months. So all of these 7 months of men have been entered into the system-forever. They have been fingerprinted and booked, lost time away from work and school, and been punished for the things that are part of many normal peoples coming of age ( fighting, experimenting with marijuana, driving recklessly etc, leaving your license at home...). And once you have been entered into the system for whatever, how easy is that for someone to deny you a job?

Well let me get off of my soapbox and put Dan Tres on his...His police encounter occured around-yes you guessed it, his artwork i.e. tagging ( I'm trying to stay blog-topic consistant here). Please read on as my homeboy expresses himself with this touching article.

"My first experience with police brutality occurred when I was just nine years old. As a youngblood living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I used to frequent the Pitt Street Boys Club. Back in the early eighties, the building was surrounded by several abandoned buildings. Some of us would leave the Boys Club early and hang out in those abandoned buildings. We would play tag and have rock fights. Some of us would bring cans of Krylons, to place tags on the hidden walls. Of course, heroin addicts used to frequent those abandoned buildings. At times, they would chase us out. Other times they would be too high to even notice us...."
{Click here to read on}

1 comment:

Brother OMi said...

Thanks for the love.
I will say that the incident still brings tears to my eyes. When I build with other sisters and brothers, it hurts tremendously.

I appreciate you shining the light on the article.