Hate crime?

September 29, 2010

Why do I even have to use that phrase? But that's what it is.

Jenae, a white fiber's major at MICA from rural Pennsylvania. Her car got towed and she and her Nigerian boyfriend, who is studying neuro-science at Hopkins, went to pick it up. The tow company only took cash so they roamed around a not-so-great area in Baltimore on North Avenue (notoriously bad for decades) to look for an ATM. A police officer pulls up to them and says, "We don't hang out here." The couple, confused, said "Okay," and continued walking. Not at a brisk pace, not sloppily, just trying to figure out their next move. Strolling, I guess. The cop turns back around and goes ALL out. Has his sirens on, comes out with his MagLite or baton, about to hit Osefame (o-say-FAH-may), Fame for short. Jenae grabs Fame and says to the cop, "He's my boyfriend."

Still furious for God-knows-why, he yells at Fame to get on the floor. Jenae, crying, is also told to get on the floor. Feet out, legs crossed, "hands where I can see 'em", cellphones away.. everything. He calls for back-up where three more cops show up. All the while, Jenae is confused, Fame is confused. Why are they in this situation?

The cop, who is white, tells Fame to sign some document. Fame, being an extremely intelligent individual asks "What is it?" The cop turns to his other cop friends, two more white officers and one black, and says, "Tell this kid what happens when people don't listen to me. I ARREST THEM," or something of the like. Fame reads it and it's a fine for loitering.

Jenae is then asked to come see the bad-cop at his car where he asks for her story, which she obligingly tells. He gives her a warning to which she replies, "How is that fair?" He goes bizerk. Jenae (or Fame) later asks the other cops what is considered "loitering" and how long an individual needs to be in a given space to be "loitering". The cops tell them that they weren't loitering.

Really? I couldn't help buy cry when Jenae told me this. It just happened a few days ago. I was furious, shocked, not surprised, and totally surprised. In 2010, how can such a blatant act of hate be committed? By a COP? Policemen are being let go left and right because of racism or wrongful accusation thanks to YouTube/cellphone cameras. No wonder he asked them to put their phones away. You're racist, you don't like homosexuals, you beat your wife, you like George Bush.. whatever. That's your prerogative. But you can keep that to yourself and say something ignorant to your friend or under your breath or whatever!

He HATED that Jenae was with Fame. Hated. HATED. Hated. And I'm sure he felt a little dumb when Fame pulled out his Hopkins ID and learned that he was a freakin' genius.

Just last week, my Thesis group read an essay by Adrian Piper about colored women artists (CWA's) in a "Euroethnic" art world, written in 1990. Girls in my class were naively "frustrated" or "confused" as to what Euroethnic meant, calling the text "dated" and "not relevant today". White girls of middle class families, I'm sure. Not understanding what Euroethnic means is like asking what white means. A girl argued that Euroethnic is "too broad" of a term and amazingly, Fabienne, my teacher, asked if African-American is a narrow term. The girl shut up.

I know I talk about race a lot, but it's because I am dumb-founded at how it exists today and how people think it doesn't exist. And it has NOTHING to do with being white or black or yellow or purple, it has to do with the fact that people don't think it still exists or still relevant. It sucks, but it's the truth. I've talked to guys about this and they're not ignorant to this subject. And it's the type of people that say, "They are why it stills exists," is why racism is still around.

Jenae's story made me SO upset. I have no words (well, obviously, I have a lot of words). It's just a few weeks of built up frustration on this subject in my life that I must vent.

I'm sure those girls reading the essay by Piper felt like they were being attacked or something. But it's one thing to read and understand and empathize (is that the right word for this?) with the text and another to just brush it off as, "I didn't like her," and, "It was frustrating," because you are who she is talking about.

To not know that you have a slight advantage if you're white is silly. To not know that you have a slight advantage if you're straight is silly. To not know that you have a slight advantage if you're even good-looking is silly. And if you're all of the above, well, don't be silly.