It’s totally justified if you look at the percentages. There just aren’t any little old ladies hijacking planes. But if this type of prejudice is a rational choice of self defense, (just like Kel Campbell talked about in relation to the possibility of that one normal looking man who beat up a pregnant woman because she didn’t thank him for opening the door), how is this different from black people worrying about their every interaction with the police? If it were just the case of angry looking black men with tats and hoodies being targets, then maybe your argument about clothing and verbal choices holds water. But we’ve seen female college professors get arrested for jaywalking or refusing to put out a cigarette. And old black guys, like the Harvard professor who got arrested outside of his own front door. Or the teenage girls who got tackled because of a noisy pool party or using a cell phone in class.
That’s what I learned from Pax’s comments and the links to Everyday Feminism — that institutional power supporting prejudice is what makes racism inescapable and crushing.
The argument that clothes, attitude and speaking styles may make a difference in how we perceive others has some validity.
But in a society where institutionalize racism continues to exist, how do we explain the tackling and arrest of James Blake, a successful, articulate and respected former professional tennis player? If you read the story, he was greeting the undercover officer as if he was being approached by a friend or maybe a fan. That didn’t stop the officer from using excessive force.
Another amazing story was that of Thabo Sefolosha, a professional basketball player who was injured while trying to help someone at a club. The cops tackled him, arrested him and somehow broke his leg, ending his season.
Personally, I imagine what it must have been like for members of my own family who escaped the pogroms in Russia. (One particularly crazy great uncle had to hide in the marshes so the cossacks wouldn’t kill him. He probably had PTSD his entire life because of this.) Or worse, I imagine what it must have been like for the relatives of personal friends and clients who did not survive the Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany.
In spite of all the wealth and privileges we enjoy here, I feel a psychic weight that will never completely go away, because those fringe groups continue to exist and struggle to take power. I can’t imagine what it must be like for POC to deal with all the manifestations of racism on a daily basis.