Thursday, May 22, 2008

black and white

Nine or ten years ago I was working in a project that was at best barely squeaking by. We had no computers, not even a voicemail system and we had to write everything by hand. We had many, many people living under one roof, all in rooms that were too small and with way too many kids running all over the place. It was non-stop chaos, and we had to work our asses off and usually with four or five kids hanging on you at a time and in spite of it all I absolutely loved that place.


One night there were two of us on swing and we were hanging out in the staff office when this guy who'd been a problem for weeks came in. It was obvious he was high and he stormed into the office angry for a reason I can't recall. I remember feeling cornered, I was behind a desk against a wall and he was pacing and yelling in front of the only door. My co-worker stood up and came over next to me and just as he did the guy came around the desk and lunged. His fist came towards my head as my co-worker jumped in front of me. Immediately I was pushed aside and the two of them were on the floor. I called 911 while the the guy was still assaulting my teammate, fists were flying and a couple of other clients got into the mix trying to pull the guy away. This went on for a while and was actually quite scary when the cops came storming in, cops who immediately grabbed my friend and threw him up against the wall leaving the other guy heaving on the floor.


My friend see, he was black and the guy who was trying to kill us was white.


You've got the wrong guy, it's him you want I remember saying and they threw him against the wall too. After a few minutes of me freaking out they eased up on my friend while he, the one who probably saved my life that night was silent, he's facing the wall and he's not saying a damn word. The cops spend a few more minutes sorting it out and talking to witnesses and they let my friend go and arrest the other guy and drag him off.

My friend is bleeding but he's one of those tough guys who won't let you make a fuss. I got some ice for his face and we call our supervisor and report what happened, she tells us to send him home and even though he protests we all know this was too much for one night and he needs some space. So as we wait for another teammate to come in we process what happened, I tell him what he knows, that if he wouldn't have been there that dude could have killed me and then I say it out loud I can't believe those cops, they went for the black guy automatically and he was silent for a minute before saying no matter how much people act like times are changing it's still the same and we sit silent for a minute, lost in a world I could never really understand and he could not escape.


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32 comments:

kristen said...

when i read stories like this one, it makes me scared for obama on so many levels.

and it scares me because as much as i want to believe this world doesn't see color and gender, it still does.

big, heavy sigh. xo

Family Adventure said...

Most of my friends belong to a visible ethnic minority (gotta love these terms...). And I see what you did - discrimination remains alive and well.

Heidi

Little Monkies said...

I remember watching a Michael Moore movie where he talks about how media supports this idea of the violent black man and we buy into it, even unconsciously. After I saw that film I was ashamed of the things I caught myself thinking and of all of the things I learned growing up. We can only hope to change things kid by kid, laying a new foundation brick by brick.

This post made me so sad. But I am so glad you shared it.

Blog Antagonist said...

That's a sad and disheartening story, but it doesn't surprise me in the least. I live in the South, and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that still goes on here, some of the attitudes that still persist.

slouching mom said...

Damn. Stories like this one make me so f*cking angry I can't even see straight.

painted maypole said...

amazing story. and how graceful, your friend who saved you, and then quietly endured the judgement of the cops.

I thought of you last night as I watched The Pursuit of Happyness (which, if you haven't seen it, takes place in SF in the 80s, and the guy is homeless for a while)

wheelsonthebus said...

Oh, yeah. DWB (driving while black) is still a crime in a lot of places, places you wouldn't think. It's pretty awful.

Kyla said...

"lost in a world I could never really understand and he could not escape."

Yeah. You said it well.

thailandchani said...

The Black guy knew what to do to not escalate the situation. It's not uncommon unfortunately and I wish I could say I'm shocked.

Gwen said...

That is sadly the norm, still. And like Sarah, it makes me so angry and even angrier still when people try to say that racism shouldn't be an issue anymore. Urgh!

jen said...

Thanks all. This story of course came back to me after watching the Kentucky exit poll data.

Kelley said...

You know, I think you might be wrong. The fact that you share this story and that it still bothers you is proof that things are changing. Just not as fast as we would like.

Angela said...

I know in Canada that people like to say there is no racism. Sadly that is not true. I am a visible minority and it is still present. I am so sorry your team mate had to endure such rough treatment by the police, so unfair. It helps to educate people by sharing these stories so we don't get complacent or dismissive and when we see racism to do what we can to educate people. Thank you for sharing.

qt said...

I, too, wish I could say I'm shocked, but I'm not. I see it too - in this form, and in more subtle ways.

Amy Y said...

I like to think that things have changed, just because I don't witness this discrimination on a daily basis. I shop at a grocery store where I am the minority. I know how I treat people and how my kids treat people but I don't see what is happening elsewhere in the world.

This was eye opening for me... and I'd like to dismiss it by saying, well, it happen 10 years ago ~ perhaps things are better NOW. I just think there are so many bigger issues that we can be fighting together for... similarities we can celebrate... it doesn't make sense that we are still focusing on the differences.

I just hope with each generation, somehow, it's getting better.

ms chica said...

I regret this isn't shocking.

It is always disappointing.

hele said...

We are having the most awful incidences of xenophobia. People from Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa assaulted by people who were their neighbors for months. It touches me on so many raw spots and it is just not stopping.

I don't understand.

NotSoSage said...

So totally shameful. And yet - even more shamefully - not surprising.

A recent report from a review of a case in the Canadian Correctional System shows that racism was a factor when some prison guards left a prisoner to bleed to death in his cell. It sickens me.

kgirl said...

Jesus. I realized how very little things had changed when my inlaws started telling me about the park they camp their rv in all winter. apparently, there are always vacancies - if you are the 'right' colour.

flutter said...

I hate that this happens.

meno said...

How i wish you had a different story to tell.

Dammit!

Janet said...

One of my best friends (who sometimes reads your blog in silence. Are you here, T?) has a completely awesome husband. She is white, he is black. They tell me that, indeed, racism is still alive and well in our community. And I hate that.

Nicki Mann said...

It is very sad that our society is still like that, although most people wouldn't like to admit it. The cops made a big mistake when they grabbed your friend, almost letting the REAL assailant go free! I hope they apologized profusely to you and your friend afterwards... but I doubt it, huh...

Bon said...

i know this, i know it and i try not to live in denial of it and still my jaw drops when i read it and i feel that bone sorrow and shame of being part of it all, Jen.

Jocelyn said...

I feel like my insides just broke open for that man.

Bungi said...

Looks like the lines of differences are more alive than ever - even if it seems to be vanishing with the shrinking earth...

mamatulip said...

It saddens me, but doesn't surprise me. Which saddens me also.

liv said...

this earth.

who are we?

Defiantmuse said...

I think about this often.

What I've even witnessed first hand, growing up in the South, is appalling.

Racism is alive and well and doesn't look to be dying down anytime soon.

We all kinda like to think we've evolved enough past it. But we haven't.

bgirl said...

wow. this jolted me awake, not the coffee i'm drinking.

makes me mad, really mad and sad. gave me that uncomfortable ache in my stomach. the kind that you need in order to remember that in every moment we need to be awake.

crazymumma said...

sad thing is, I'm not even surprised.

Oh, The Joys said...

Something not quite as dramatic happened to a colleague and I once. I remember saying something along the "I can't believe..." lines. He, unlike me, wasn't the least bit surprised. "This sh*t happens all the time," he said, flatly.