Friday, July 24, 2009

Over Here

Ta-Nehisi Coates meditates on the Police -- specifically, the woman who called the police when she saw what she believed was two men breaking into Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s house.

He notes he would not have called the police under those circumstances, and goes on to muse on the circumstances under which he might call the police -- very few; over on Unfogged, they have a similar thread.

See, because for many of us in America, the police are not protectors, they are oppressors. It's what I was saying in the previous thread: they do not, in fact, protect "us."  They protect them, those rich (white) folk up on the hill. (Yeah, I'm white, and I'm at least tentatively middle-class, but I'm on the edge of poverty, and I drive a crappy car and come from the trailer class, and frequently get pulled over for Driving While Poor.) You don't call for the police, in this class, and you aren't pleased to see them when they show up.

This became clear to me a year or so ago, when TOLP, who comes from a very different class, had her wallet stolen.  When my wallet was stolen, about nine years ago, I shrugged it off -- well, okay, I cursed and muttered, and said bad words.  But that's all I did.  Then I went and got a new driver's license and shit.  When the folks at the state asked why I said I had lost my wallet.

TOLP called the police.  Then she pressed for an investigation.  Then she followed up on the fucker, dogging the police and shit, going down to the cop shop of her own free will, and -- shit, she made me go to the cop shop, one of the scarier moments of our relationship.  Who goes to visit the police when they ain't have to?  Bint's obviously crazy.*

I cannot think of a single circumstance under which  I would call the police -- well, maybe if I guy was breaking into my house with a chainsaw.  Maybe.  Probably even then I would just run out the front door.

What about you?

*Kidding, TOLP!


zelda1 said...

The levels of police reaction depend upon the situation. Police helptitude is directly proportionate to the color one skin, the sex of the person, the age of the person, and the social status of the person. Also, the police reactions are relative to the time of day, the mood of the cop, and the amount of affection he or she may be getting from their off duty significant other. Helptitude comes with a price. For instance, you may remember the poor woman who went to the hospital after having been raped and they arrested her for an outstanding warrant. There you go. Helptitude relative to the law enforcer's belief in the victims' law abidance. Oh, and let's not forget the arrest of the victim when the victim is accusing one of them, the law enforcers. Or when they are potentially not really legal card carrying Americans. While I appreciate that the police have always been good to me, I know that they aren't always good to others. That pisses me off. Did TOLP get her wallet back?

Vance Maverick said...

How about after you've discovered your home was broken into? I've called the cops a few times in this situation -- certainly not in the expectation that the cops would catch the bad guy and bring my stuff back. Burglars do return to neighborhoods where they've been successful, and if the report makes the cops more vigilant, maybe the streak is likelier to come to an end soon.

CB said...

Only for a car accident.

Any other time or situation, I'm sure I would flee or fight, but it wouldn't involve the cops.

Bardiac said...

I've called the police when a woman in my apartment building was screaming. She spoke only Farsi, and her husband tended to beat her up when he got drinking, so I thought the police were better equipped to help than I was.

I don't think it helped, except to end the beating for that episode.

Julianna said...

If I thought a neighbor's house was being broken into, I would call the police. If it turned out I was mistaken and the neighbor had the extremely bad judgment to turn into a lunatic and get his ungrateful ass arrested, then I would never bother myself looking out for his interests again. If I were the sort of person who broke into houses, I would think Mr. Gate's home could be a good choice right now.

Vance Maverick said...

That's, uh, pretty breathtaking, Lori.