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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What If?

What If?

The other night, returning home from a dinner party, we got pulled over by a cop.  It was about 10:00, Mrs. Cranky was driving and we had no idea why the cop pulled us over.  Mrs. C is a good driver, we were on local roads and not speeding, and Mrs. C did not have anything to drink…she almost never does.
We pulled over as far as possible on a narrow road, and were quite frankly a bit of a traffic hazard.  Mrs. C had her license, registration and proof of insurance ready to hand over to the officer as soon as he approached the car.
“The reason I stopped you, is you failed to signal a left turn back there.”
“Oh…OK.”
The officer took the documents and went back to his car.
I didn’t even know what turn he was talking about.
“When did you make a left?”
“Back at the corner by the drug store.”
“Oh…Wait, back at the stop light in a left turn only lane, and the light has a left turn arrow before any other traffic can move.”
“Yup.”
“Why do you need to signal?  It would be illegal to not turn! Plus that light was over a quarter of a mile back.”
“I don’t know, he was following us for a while, but I’m not going to argue.”
The officer returned and handed Mrs. C a warning.
“I’m just going to issue you a warning, be more careful in the future.”
That was it, no biggie.  I suspect the officer was really just making random stops for minor infractions to see if anyone was driving impaired or without a license, insurance or registration.
But the stop did make me think, “What if we were black?”  I’m pretty sure we would assume the stop was race related.  If it were not the first time, one of us may have taken an attitude.  At that point, a simple stop could escalate into a scene where the officer got nasty and perhaps we took even more of an attitude.  Bing bang boom, simple stop becomes a major incident.
The police often make nuisance stops.  I believe they probably make profile stops on blacks disproportionate to stops on white people.  The profiling might be on cars.  Perhaps blacks tend to drive cars that police associate with crime.  We drive a big dark SUV, perhaps a preferred getaway car…or not.
Point is, on Saturday we were stopped for a silly violation and were just given a warning.  Being white we had no reason to suspect we were being unfairly targeted, if we were black I’m pretty sure we would have thought differently.  It is a problem.  It is a real problem of racial profiling; it is also a problem of perception. 
I do wonder if we would have been given a ticket and not a warning if we were not white.  I can hear my African-American readers very clearly, “Oh Hell yeah!” I think they might be right. 
This is an issue that perhaps is not worth disrespecting the flag, but it does need to be talked about and remedied.

BTW: The New Jersey traffic regulations say, No person shall so turn any vehicle without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided in the event any other traffic may be affected by such movement.”
As there was only one car at the intersection and we were in a left turn only lane and turned when the traffic arrow allowed, I do not see how our turn affected any other traffic.  The only other car was across from us and still had a red signal when we got the green arrow to turn. 
I Think if we were given a summons, we would have disputed it and we would have won.

P.S. To the asshole that rolled down his window and laughed at us while we were stopped, “FUCK YOU, we just got a warning…DICKWAD!!”

20 comments:

  1. Interesting post Joe. What if, is right. I suppose if we all stopped to ask ourselves this more often than we do we just might get baby steps closer to a more compassionate world.

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  2. I'm not black but I'm going to say, "Oh HELL yeah."

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  3. "I Think if we were given a summons, we would have disputed it and we would have won." <--- Probably right. And that pretty much nutshells the difference.

    I would be far more inclined to disrespect a flag than a human being.

    Thought-provoking as always, Joe.

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  4. If the police here gave tickets for failure to signal turns they''d be doing nothing else. I'm actually surprised when I see a turn signal from a vehicle.
    As to the rest, dunno. I think Hilary above is pretty much correct.

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  5. What if......for one day every single person treated every person they came across with exactly the same level of respect. What if....

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  6. Oh my, I didn't see that ATTITUDE coming (the P.S. above). I'm white, I have 2 adopted grandkids that are black (one has albinism which means her skin is white, the grandson is dark complected) and one great grand who's father was black but she has pale skin. I've already seen the stares, etc. from whites and blacks. HOWEVER, overall, black people have been less judgmental than whites, particularly white children. Now why would a white CHILD already be prejudiced against a black child, a child that looks different from them, a disabled child? I fear for what my grands and great grand are going to experience the older they become. What's going to happen when the white kids grow up and one of my grands makes a mistake...my heart is already breaking.

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  7. I think it's called revenue-ing. But, he only gave you a warning.

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  8. I know a lot of people who think they know why they're treated worse than everybody else.

    Which I guess means everybody is treated worse than everybody else.

    My dad believes he's disrespected for being bald.

    I just try to do my thing. People pretty much leave me alone, since I'm not out there causing havoc by failing to signal in a "must turn" lane.

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  9. Honestly, dumb stops like this is just one of the many reasons cops have lost a lot of respect. And yes, I'd have the same 'I wonder if I as black' thoughts as you.

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  10. You're probably right. But I've also gone on "ride-along's" with cops just to see what they do, and they DO make stops hoping to find a whiff of a funny smell *wink*, or booze breath, or some sort of visible, suspicious looking stuff (stolen?) in the seat. My guess is they're looking to make a name for themselves by being super observant. This is going to be a tough problem to put to bed. Sadly.

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  11. They have a tough job that i know i could not do, so i hate to try to second-guess them. Yes, i also think, if you'd been black, you would have had a harder time of it and been given a ticket, and that's sad.

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  12. I was once pulled over for not yielding the oncoming traffic when no traffic was oncoming, or even on the road.

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  13. i like the levity at the end. the rest is just too heavy and too difficult to figure out these days... i hate it all.

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  14. Thank goodness Mrs. C wasn't in the middle of calling you "JERK!" That might have been misconstrued.

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  15. I was pulled over some years ago between Fort Walton and Crestview Fl. He said I was going to slow I was going sixty in a sixty five mile zone. I just got a warning but he didn't stop the ones going Seventy five and eighty. I think it was because I was from Covington County in Alabama :)

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  16. I drive a white 15 passenger Chevy van, with the pain chipping off the back end, dents in the side doors, and blacked out back windows (so the sun doesn't get to my kids) -- and I have been informed by my kids many times that our van is a "creeper van". What is that, I asked. They said it's a van that looks like it kidnaps children. I said, what? Me? Shoot...I have too many of my own kids to want to kidnap other children. But still, my kids insist that our van is a scary vehicle when I drive slowly into neighborhood. And you know, they are right. When I drive into a neighborhood full of playing children (and their parents in the driveways) everyone stops and moves just a bit closer to the house. And not too long ago, a police car passed me (going the opposite way) and then did a quick Uturn and got right behind me and pulled me over. What? I thought. I wasn't doing anything wrong. So when I stopped the car, there were two police officers in the police car and one on each side, they peered into my van to check each row of seats. I had at least seven of my kids with me, so the kids were wondering what the heck?? Anyway, they never gave me a reason as to why they pulled me over. I think they muttered something about my window tint, but they let me go off without even a warning fix-it ticket for the tint, so I really don't think that was it. I believe they pulled me over simply because they profile white creeper vans. Total vehicle discrimination.

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  17. I feel sad reading this and especially the comment by Theanne Crossett. I am almost glad that I won't be in this crazy world much longer. Situations like this must occur in the UK so I'm fortunate that I live in a quiet area where not much happens.

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  18. It does amaze me that there are people who react so badly to Back Lives Matter. I am sure that everyone can give an example of having been judged on the basis of a physical characteristic, but imagine if such a thing defined one's whole experience.

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  19. Point well made Cranky. How sad we live in a world with different standards for the same offense determined by race.

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  20. I think Mrs. Cranky was wise just to cooperate and not argue. Better to take up the matter in a court of law. Hubby did that with a ticket he didn't think he should have gotten; showed up at court and then the police officer didn't, ticket dropped.

    I think I mentioned it before but son (white) got profiled out in his youth by the car he drove (older Cadillac). He got stopped a lot for this or for that. Most were "bogus" stops, they really didn't have anything to pull him over for but they wanted to check his car to see if he had anything in it (and he never did; he was too smart). I was a passenger in the car with him one night and the police shined their lights into it while he was driving. Minute they saw me in the front seat, they just continued driving. I can guarantee you if anyone else had been in the front seat, he more than likely would have been pulled over. I can't imagine what it might have been like if he was a person of color.

    betty

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