Thursday, August 18, 2005

REACT:Racial profiling or just good cautious police work?

The story is simple. Illinois State Senator and prominent Black minister James Meeks was stopped for a traffic violation -- his family was in the vehicle. At one point the officer pulled a gun and issued a stern command with the inclusion of a naughty word. No ... it was not a racial word, but the heard-everywhere "f" word. According to Reverend Meeks, he was being profiled and harassed -- and there was hell to be paid (plus no little fire and brimstone, I assume).

According to the officer, there was more to the story. Seems Meeks and his driver were both exiting his vehicle, which police discourage. At the same time (or later, depending on who is telling the story) Meeks body guards pull up behind the reverend and exit their vehicle. Out numbered in either case, the office admits he used the "f" word while ordering everyone to return to their vehicles. Police back up arrives, tickets are issue, end of story. Well, hardly.

This minor incident has been ballooned into a major story on the racial divide -- a "hot potato" blared one headline. The Police Superintendent goes to the minister’s church to apologize. The Mayor is questioned about the incident at a press conference. The Police union yells foul on behalf of the officer -- saying the gun, the command and the "f" word were all appropriate in the situation. The story runs for days, and will continue for more.

Yes, I called it minor incident. One of those mole-hill-to-mountain things.

Least you think I cannot relate to the Honorable Reverend Senator Meeks, let me say "au contraire." I have been confronted with guns on two occasions -- once by a police officer and once by a couple of dudes on the other extreme of the law. In one case I was the recipient ... of a ticket ... and in the other case I was relieved of my money and jewelry.

My experience with the officer was similar to Meeks, I was coming out of my car after being stopped, and my friend on the passenger side was also exiting. The office pulled his gun from its holster but did not aim it at either of us. He yelled for us to return to the car. He did not use the "f" word. However, let me assure you when cop has his gun at the ready and is yelling an order, the inclusion or exclusion of the "f" word changes nothing.

In the other incident, it was just your average run-of-the-mill armed robbers. Now this guy did point the gun at me, and did order me to hand over my "f-word" wallet. Again I was very obedient -- and I did not even advis him that he did not need to use the "f" word since I am conditioned to quickly obey commands from people pointing guns at me.

In both instances, the hand on the gun belonged to an African American. It never occurred to me, however, that either incident was racial. I never even thought of them as some big deal. Just one (or two) of life’s unpleasantries. I think it is too bad that Reverend Meeks did not feel the same, and let it go.

On the other hand, I guess if you are a man of God on "Caesar’s" payroll and find it necessary to have a chauffeur and two body guards to get you to a prayer service and back, you have a different view of yourself then I had when guns were pointed at me.

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