Friday, September 04, 2009

i need to share this story

it's not mine, but it could be mine. i do believe in racial profiling. well i mean to say, i believe it happens. no, i KNOW it happens. i would like to think and believe it DOES NOT happen in west hartford. it seems i'm wrong though.

i have seen it in hartford and i have seen it in avon (witnessed first hand). i've not witnessed it in west hartford and i hope and pray this was a fluke
the blog the following came from hartford imc is published under a creative commons license. so i'm publishing ms lo bue's post in full. it is from august 26th

A Lesson in Privilege From the WHPD
by Lauren Lo Bue
Following the incident detailed below, I wrote this to share with friends. I realized, though, that other people might want to hear it and that it’s really quite relevant as a testimony to racial profiling in Hartford (and in general). So, here it is, in its unedited glory:

Last night, around 10 pm, Opton and I left Hartford for Queens. We passed a West Hartford PD car parked in the Deangelo’s parking lot on the way to the highway and he turned out on to the street behind us and followed us on to 84. About 15 seconds later, he pulled us over. Obviously Opton was going the speed limit; he’s Mr. Safety First. We both had our seatbelts on. He’d used his signals correctly. I couldn’t think of a legitimate reason for them to pull us over, and as my anxiety was building I looked over and saw a sort of resigned, knew-this-would-happen look on his face. The cop came up to the car and shined a flashlight directly into the car – on Opton’s lap, on his face, on mine, and told him that… you ready? The plastic frame around his license plate was obscuring the “Constitution State” on the bottom.

Yup. That plastic frame that nearly everyone has on their rear license plates. Go look at yours. Is it obscuring a bit of the bottom half of your license plate? Of course it is. It does that on nearly everyone’s vehicles. Other than that, the lights above his license plate were working and properly illuminating it, and the license number was completely visible.

He then collected his information, and asked for my identification.

He then asked Opton to get out of the vehicle.

He took Opton to the back of the car and began grilling him. Another cop car pulled up behind us. He had called for back-up. That officer came over to my side of the car and began grilling me. How do I know this man? Where did we meet? Where do I live? Where does he live? What does he do? What did I study in school? Where are we coming from? Where are we heading to? Remember now — the stated reason for being pulled over was the plastic frame on his license plate.

I find out later that he is being asked the same questions at this time.

Obviously, they were convinced that a white girl was being abducted by a black guy. They were trying to figure out whether he actually knew me or not.

After about a 15 minutes of questions, they had nothing left to ask us and no more reasons to detain us. They told him to “remove the frame around the license.” And they let us go.

I can’t say I’m surprised or shocked. But at the time it was the strangest feeling of reality truly matching my theoretical understanding of racism for the first time in my life. As a white girl, I’d never experienced a situation where racism seriously posed a threat first-hand. Last night I was terrified that my boyfriend was going to jail. And he would have if they’d searched the car — a friend of ours accidentally left his knife in Opton’s back seat. The knife didn’t have a latch — it was illegal, and we’d said that there were no illegal weapons in the car. We didn’t know our friend had left it there until Opton found it this morning. Insanely luckily, they did not search the car, but they could have easily contrived some bullshit pretense to do so. I mean, the reason we got pulled over to begin with is complete and total bullshit. (Side note: We have no rights. The police are the worst gang in town.)

I have been pulled over before — for actually doing something wrong. No one shined a flashlight in my face, and no one asked me to step out of the car. I didn’t even get a ticket.

I’m not telling you all this because it’s news to any of you. It shouldn’t be, and I know for most of you it isn’t. But it helps to have real-life experiences and stories from people you know to fuel the fire when it comes to anti-racist activism, so I decided to share this with you all.


Anonymous said...

After reading your story, I'm not sure the cops thought you'd been abducted by a black guy. They probably thought you were a prostitute and he was a john.

Sad but perhaps true...

a rose is a rose said...

don't know if that comment was to me or not, but this is NOT my story. it belongs to someone else (i linked to the ct blog it came from). if the story is true and i am tending to believe it is, it should be investigated AND someone needs to go through more training (although i'm sure that won't do any good)

Lauren Lo Bue said...

It IS being investigated -- we have formally complained to the police and, if there is no action taken, we have gathered a group of willing individuals to protest.

I do not believe they were under the impression that I was a prostitute. It is highly unlikely.

May I ask why you're surprised that this happened? Why would West Hartford be any different from anywhere else in America?

a rose is a rose said...

because i want the town i live it to BE different

(and i'm sure sorry this happened to you)

Lauren Lo Bue said...

Hey, it's not your fault. I'm sorrier it happened to my boyfriend, who was obviously very hurt by the implied accusation.

I wanted it to be different too, but I think there is more hope for Hartford. West Hartford has (purposefully) alienated itself from Hartford. It's an uppity town and its residents seem to be only concerned with themselves when right next door there are struggling folks in Hartford. So I chose to ally myself with Hartford when I lived there. Ironically I lived right on the line dividing them... Prospect Ave.

But that's just my opinion. Thanks for sharing the story, in any event.

a rose is a rose said...

not all cops are racist, west hartford or otherwise. i know west hartford has a reputation as being uppity but i sure as hell am not.

i know plenty of hartford cops who are the most racist officers i've ever met (of all colors too, not just white). that said, i know many who are good fine honest cops