Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I haven't had a nightmare in years. How fitting that I would have one right before Halloween. I'm sure somebody out there has read a book on dreams and their meanings. Since I haven't, maybe you can enlighten me.
Last night I had a dream that I was on my way back from visiting my family in North Carolina and was travelling through the back roads of South Carolina in the middle of the night. The back roads of South Carolina are extremely rural. No lights, no gas stations, nothing. You could easily go 10 miles and only pass a couple of pastures, abandoned homes and delapidated barns.
Anyway, I'm driving down this dark road and the next thing I know I'm running on foot from a car swirving and blowing its horn at me. I'm terrified.
The car then pulls in front of me and stops. All I can see are the car's lights. The door opens...
I wake up.
I googled nightmares and running from cars and I found the above clip which is eerily similar to my nightmare.
Somebody help me out here. Help me make sense of this dream and put it in perspective.
Friday, October 26, 2007
After all of the outcry and support from the Black community for the Jena 6 in Louisiana I figured that the guys would come out and become the posterboys for a new Civil Rights Era. I mean I know they're young and still "kids" but if there were ever a time to consider yourself a spokesperson for the Black race in terms of speaking out against inequality and presenting yourself in a dignified manner, this would be it, right? Or am I wrong?
Fast forward to the BET Hip Hop awards. "And now coming to the stage to present the award for best new artists, we have two members of the Jena 6! [standing ovation/applause]."
The next thing I know, I see...is that Jeezy and T.I. coming to the stage? B.G.? No no no... it must be Soulja Boy...Nope. It is in fact the guys from the Jena 6! They looked like they had just came off the video shoot for their new hit single "Fuck Them Haters...Bitch!" To top it off, they said "We'd like to thank all our fans..." Fans?
I shook it off and rolled with it. I just figured they would come out a little more humble and low key. I dunno...maybe a "Free Mychal Bell" T-shirt and a pair of fitting jeans--just something that says "world...take us seriously." But after I thought about it I said to myself..."Self...they're still kids, they love hip-hop as do I, and they ARE at the BET Hip Hop Awards. It shouldn't matter what they're wearing. Stop judging them boys!" I let it go.
But now pictures have surfaced of one of the boys, Robert Bailey, Jr., alledgedly rolling around in donation money that people sent to them for their defense fund.
I know that their cause is bigger than them individually, and that them being charged with attempted murder was still an injustice regardless of their personal lives, but damn! You have to know that the world will be watching your every move now to see just who are these guys that the entire Black world was defending. And rolling around in money that was sent to you to defend yourself in the face of racism is a slap in the face to the people that sent it.
C'mon folk. Let's think smarter.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I ran across this article on another site about movie theaters potentially sabotaging Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married's sales by crediting Perry's sales to other movies, thus attempting to keep the movie off of the top box office sales list. Well as we all know, the movie still debuted at #1 so it must not have been a wide spread problem.
Is this a real concern or are folks overreacting to a legitimate error? Is there really a deep-seeded conspiracy in the movie industry to keep Perry down or are folks being paranoid? I'm not saying either way, but would folks have been upset if it were another movie that the error was made on? Did the theater do it on purpose?
I know that racism is rampant in the U.S. and there are valid issues that come up that need to be addressed, but is this particular instance a cause for concern or are we too paranoid sometimes?
In any event, if anybody is going to see the movie make sure you check your stubs.
What do you think?
Film target of sabotage opening weekend
By Kenya Vaughn Of the St. Louis American
Even before Why Did I Get Married opened, Tyler Perry talked candidly about his struggle to get his film released in a number of theatres comparable to his mainstream counterparts and other apparent attempts to undermine its success on its opening weekend.I went to see the film on Sunday night at my regular theatre (Wehrenberg’s Jamestown 14 Cine) and had an interesting experience.
When my ticket was torn, the man working the door said, “We Own The Night is in auditorium three.” I told him that I didn’t buy a ticket to We Own the Night, but to Why Did I Get Married. He said, “It’s fine, just go on in.”After informing him that I didn’t want another film to get credit for Tyler Perry’s sale, he said, “Fair enough, wait here” and brought back a stub from Why Did I get Married.
When I arrived in the theatre, a woman who asked not to be identified said, “Girl, make sure that your ticket says ‘Tyler Perry’ because mine said We Own Night. My friend said that it happened to her yesterday. They been tryin’ to be shady all weekend.” I was not the only one. Neither was she. There was a bit of commotion as people looked at their tickets and, sure enough, their tickets didn’t say what they thought it said. The concerned patron who attempted to school me on the error went to the manager and he said that it was a mistake. “Well, I ain’t never seen them make this kind of mistake before,” the woman said. In the 20 years I had been patronizing the Jamestown 14 Cine, neither had I. A bold, matter-of-fact woman, she went to the manager and insisted that he make an announcement in the theater. His message regarding the cause of the “mix-up” was unclear, but he told the audience that they were welcome to come to the box office and get their ticket changed. But when the film was over, the box office was closed.By the time the office opened Monday, someone had already called the American to voice concerns regarding a similar incident at the same theatre.Quinton Pittman, an attendant of The Wehrenberg theatre in St. Charles, conveyed his disdain via e-mail.
“I took my lady to see Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married yesterday in St. Charles at the Wehrenberg Theatre on 1st Capitol. I glanced at my ticket stubs. Why was I sold tickets to Resident Evil”? Pittman wrote. He said that he talked with the usher and management and decided to contact Werhrenberg Offices.“To add further insult to this injury, when I called the home office of Wehrenberg Theatres to complain, I was directed to Linda Curbell (Guest Services) who told me, ‘The only way you're going to get ticket stubs to that movie is to get them out of the trash,’” Pittman said. He said that Curbell refused to take his complaint formally and brushed him off with a nasty attitude.“Had it been Harry Potter, Spiderman or Barney Goes to Jail, they would have fixed it right then and there,” Pittman said. “My conscience is burning because they were being racist - period. They are stealing money from Tyler Perry’s movie.”“It was a mistake, and we’re looking into it,” Kelly Hoskins said in an abrasive and condescending tone when I called Wehrenberg’s corporate offices and asked about the incidents. She also said that the theatres installed new ticketing systems that might have contributed to the error.Shawn Ellens went to St. Louis Mills (which is not a Wehrenberg theatre) to see the movie. According to her, she waited for more than 20 minutes from the original 6:45 p.m. start time to see Why Did I get Married.She said the film then was screened out of focus and with the actors’ heads cut off. They stopped the film to resolve the issue and left guests waiting.“When it finally got up, the film had already started and we had missed part of it,” Ellens said.After people started complaining, they offered passes to see another film.“I had never experienced that type of problem before,” Ellens said. “While I can only speculate (regarding motive), 99.9 percent of the people in there were black.”Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married opened at the top of the box office with $21.5 million.Ellens says that she rarely goes to see a movie on the first weekend, but as a fan of Perry, she wanted to make sure he had a strong finish.“Even with all of that trifling behavior, he still came out number one,” Ellen said.“I’m tickled pink, and I wish we could get word to him what happened here in St. Louis.”
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Mos Def and Cornell West both sat on a panel to discuss politics on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher last month. For part of the show Mos struggled to effectively articulate his points on some political issues, but did a great job (in the second clip) in addressing how our justice system is helping in conditioning minority youth in poor neighborhoods to become criminals.
Check it out.
Friday, October 19, 2007
It was announced this week that Nas will release an album in December entitled Nigger. Not surprisingly, the album title has gotten a reaction from the NAACP, Jesse Jackson, and Fox News--all calling the album title dispicable and "in poor taste."
I'm sure that this will be a concept album that will have a socially responsible message and theme, in the same vein as the Dick Gregory biography of the same name. But my question is does this album title reflect a provocative artist who is looking to make a statement to better the world, or does it reflect an artist who is losing relevance in music and is attempting to gain attention through controversial album titles and themes?
I'm personally a fan of Nas. I must admit that I'm not as much of a fan now as I was during his Illmatic/It Was Written days, but I honestly think that he is one of the best lyricists that ever did it.
However, his body of work has been dissappointing over the last seven or eight years. Even his highly controversial Hip Hop Is Dead album from last year sucked musically (in my opinion), but had the world buzzing off of the title alone.
Now we go from declaring to the hip-hop community that the music that they are making is, in fact, NOT hip-hop, to ruffling the feathers of the world by selling a product that carries the name of a word that represents lynchings, discrimination, racism, slavery, death, ignorance, frustration and, today, acceptance. Is this brilliance or irresponsibility? Is Nas, who went from a ghetto prophet, to a murder rapper, to a coke-dealing mafioso, to a confused rapper, to a struggling artist, to a socially conscious rapper, the person that should take on this word on behalf of an entire race? Because believe me, when it drops, the current beating that hip-hop is taking after the Don Imus fiasco will turn into fire and brimstone when the media catches wind of it. I mean can you imagine the word Nigger being on the Billboard charts? Or white kids going to Best Buy or Wal-Mart and having a black lady ringing up their Nigger CD?
This could go either way. Either he will be looked at as a hero--a champion of the people that took on one of the most vile words to ever exist. A word that still stings when used in a derogatory context--or he will be looked at as a washed-up opportunist that realizes that his creative well has run dry musically and must resort to controversial album titles to remain relevant and sell records.
Which is it?
Monday, October 15, 2007
...someone please murder this song. I need you to pull out your .44 caliber Smith & Wesson and end this madness.
I'm at the drive-thru today getting a #4. As I'm relaying my order to the lady taking orders, I hear a car pull up behind me and the faint sound of a "Wa' Me Cra' an' Wa' me Ro'" I think to myself..."These damn kids HAVE to be skipping school" because it's 1:13 in the afternoon. Surely they need to be in class.
As I lower my rearview mirror to get a good look at the youngster, I find myself staring into the retina of a 50+ -year-old conservative-looking White woman in a Buick Skylark.
Let me try this again...
I'm at the drive-thru today getting a #4. As I'm relaying my order to the lady taking orders, I hear a car pull up behind me and the faint sound of a "Wa' Me Cra' an' Wa' me Ro'" I think to myself...
You get the point!
Why is this happening? Why do we celebrate perceived ignorance? Am I being hard on this dude? I think not! Last Friday I heard a Soulja Boy interview on satellite radio and he sounded NOTHING like he sounds on record. And by that I mean that he actually finished the last sounds of the words he used (i.e. "Watch" vs. "Wa'").
I know that when I was growing up we had dance crazes hit the scene. We had the "Kid 'N Play Tap," the "Electric Slide" etc. Even in recent years we had the "Macarena" hit and the "Cha Cha Slide" (I know the Ghetto Hokie Pokie when I see it!), but something about this Soulja Boy stuff doesn't sit right with me. I know that it's for the kids, but is this what we want kids mimicking? Sure, it's catchy. Sometimes I catch myself reciting the ridiculously incoherent lyrics, but it just seems wrong.
A few post ago I wrote about Lupe Fiasco's "Dumb It Down" song. Is this not the very definition of "dumbing it down"? We're all entitled to mindless, disposable music every once in a while, but why are we constantly spoonfed unintelligent and ignorant lyrics from artists who are capable of speaking intelligently and producing music with substance... or at least coherent music.
This song is #1 on the charts. This is a problem. Just as Italian-Americans are tired of being portrayed as New Jersey mobsters in entertainment, I'm tired of seeing us portrayed as backyard bucks that love to have sex, Superman hoes, and dance. That's OK in moderation for the sake of entertainment, but there needs to be a balance. The scale is heavily unbalanced right now.
Look at the audience, as seen in the above video. Then look at the guy on the stage performing for the audience. All we're missing is the black cork, red lipstick, top hat and white gloves.
...that [Soulja] 'Boy sure does keep us entertained!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
You probably heard that Jones gave back the five medals she won at the Sydney Olympics Monday after admitting that she used illegal drugs - including two she won in relay events.
The United States Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth says Jones' relay teammates should also give back their medals. There have been incidents where the entire team was not punished although one athlete tested positive for illegal drugs, but Uerberroth said this case is "tainted." Not quite sure how this one is different, but ....
"It's our opinion that when any sporting event is won unfairly, it's completely tarnished and should be returned. The relay events were won unfairly," Ueberroth told the Associated Press. "We don't have the jurisdiction on that matter. If we did, we would be on the side of returning the medals."
The USOC has not talked to the other athletes yet about giving up their medals.
Two athletes - Chryste Gaines and Torri Edwards - on the 400-meter relay team with Jones have served doping bans since the 2000 Olympics.
What do you think they should do?
Gene is a journalist in Phoenix. YBPguide.com
Monday, October 8, 2007
Stand out lines:
"Always accusing me of some ol' bullshit when I'm just tryin' to have a good time."
"Hol, hold up! Didn't I just give you money to go get your hair, toes, and nails done the other day? Hmm? Yeah yo ass was smilin' then."
"Uh! Gave who some damn money??? I ain't gave nobody no damn money, girl!"
"You called my momma's house and what??? Girl my momma ain't gotta screen no calls for me!"
This cat is a genius? Niggatry in its purist form. The fact that he probably takes this song seriously makes it all the more hilarious.
Friday, October 5, 2007
I was on my LB's blog and ran across this new video from Lupe Fiasco called "Dumb It Down." In the clip, Lupe hits you with a barrage of metaphors and wordplay that could leave you dizzy, which plays right into the title of the song by having you wonder what the hell he is talking about.
When I googled the song folks on messge boards give Lupe props for the song and his ill wordplay (even though they don't know what he's talking about), others call it wack because they think he's not really saying anything, and others knock it because the video isn't directed by Hype Williams and is too plain (lacks color, materialism, and girls)...
Before reading my commentary on the lyrics, watch the clip and see if you can decipher what he is saying. Afterwards, check out my interpretation below and see if we are on the same page.
I listened to the song a couple times and this is how I interpreted each of his verses:
In the first verse Lupe starts by explaining that he (the listener) is blind and deaf through lines like "my iris resides where my ears is." After a couple lines of reiterating his senses deficiencies he allows someone else to take the wheel and steer him in the right direction because he lacks the capacity to do so. While driving the person steering the wheel (negative rapper) drives wrecklessly and leaves the "windshield menstual" (bloody) and "in the grill is road kill" which I interpret as his way of saying that the rapper is feeding him blood, "gun talk," and violence which is what the majority of rappers who dumb down their lyrics talk about.
In the middle of the first verse, he references The Matrix and talks about how the listener takes both pills (knows right from wrong initially) but gravitates towards the negativity, which Lupe follows with a barrage of sci-fi violent imagery (lies) that is more appealing than the truth.
At the end of the verse he talks about ghosts penning lyrics and giving flowers to the mothers of the deceased. To me, he's talking about how rappers in the industry 1) have ghost writers pen their negative lyrics (even though they themselves don't live that lifestyle) and 2) the effects of their lyrics that perpetuate violent behavior in the community and how rappers deflect responsibility once they are confronted.
He reiterates that he is blind and deaf but can only hear the message of the person steering the plane once he realizes that the stewardess of the plane being driven by the negative rapper is a hot woman (video girl). Peep how he talks about how the message is as "high as an earring to the ground is." A woman's height is not very high. He then says the "Pimp C (see) the wings of the Underground Kings, who's also Clingon, to infinity and beyond" which I interpret as how the pilot (The Underground King/Clingon) degrades women and will both use them to spread his message (to the Pimp (listener)) and simultaneously steer them in the wrong direction. He goes on to talk about how he is flying on a pegasus (Winged Horse from Greek Mythology to convey his truthful content) while the listener is "flying on a pheasant" (common bird) while snorting the white horse etc. The "pheasant" is another way to portray the rapper's message as a negative one.
Dumbed Down Interpretation of 2nd Verse:
Rappers use video girls as a formula to get people to listen to their negative message. Once she has your attention, he can proceed to tell you about how killing and doing/selling drugs is cool. Then the white guy (the industry) on the hook is trying to make him "dumb it down" so that the women who are being exploited will not realize that they are being taken advantage of.
Talks about being brain dead and "head-less...like foreplay-less sex is" ....(damn that's a hot line/metaphor...did you get that???)... to the point where whatever the pilot says goes. This verse is more about how rappers use "street cred" to convey their authenticity. Peep how how says "they need proof like a vestless chest" and then think about how rappers that get shot are the ones that the masses want to listen to. Similarly, he points to street cred by saying "necklace theft" to reference how rappers validate their credibility by claiming to steal the chain of another rapper. After you believe that they have "street cred" the pilot will then drown you with materialism and other negative things until you are "neck-less." The water starts to drown the listener, but ...
LUPE TO THE RESCUE! He comes in and pulls the plug to drain the water so that you don't drown...that is "until the water rises again" (or until his next album comes out). He's pretty much calling himself a breath of fresh air.
That's hip hop people.
Lupe is one of my favorite rappers and this song exemplifies why. This is what is missing from hip hop music. I remember the days where you could listen to a hip hop song years later and pick up something that you missed before. Those were the days.
Peep the clip and see if I'm overthinking his lyrics.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Gene from YBPguide.com sent me this NY Times article about growing gang activity in North Carolina. In it, a black reporter travels to Salisbury, NC to talk to gang members and gets more than he bargained for when he runs into the police. Very interesting read.
I understand that police officers are "just doing [their] job" but after being in the job for so long, it is obvious that they develop an us vs. them mentality and can easily create (or reinforce) biases toward an entire race due to the nature of the job and the neighborhoods they patrol.
So if me or you were walking in one of those patrolled neighborhoods, any considerations of us being decent human beings goes out the window in their eyes. We'd be guilty of something by simply being there.
Can I blame them? Not really. They find criminal activity in these neighborhoods all the time so they have a reason to be skeptical of the people in them. But that's just it--if you're only looking for crime in a black neighborhood, you're GOING to find crime in that neighborhood, regardless of whether or not other crimes are happening elsewhere.
At some point, their jobs are less about protecting and serving and more about busting some Yo's heads. The behavior of police officers on the show The Wire mirrors real life behavior, where officers get a rush from harassing "perps." To them it's a never-ending game.
At some point, we have to find the root of the problems causing folks to want to join gangs and do crime in the first place. Street sweeping is counterproductive and does little to actually stop crime. I'm sure if some of the "gang members" had access to better education, role models and economic opportunities at least some of them wouldn't turn to gangs for validation.
But at the end of the day police officers and the world at large look at this one example of black life, as diverse as black life is, and transfer it to us all--at least initially. Then the Fear of the Powerless manifests itself.
Reporting While Black
Chris Keane for The New York Times
By SOLOMON MOORE
Published: September 30, 2007
THE police officer had not asked my name or my business before grabbing my wrists, jerking my hands high behind my back and slamming my head into the hood of his cruiser.
NIGHT SHIFT Outside a known gang house in Charlotte, Officer Castano checked an ID.
“You have no right to put your hands on me!” I shouted lamely.
“This is a high-crime area,” said the officer as he expertly handcuffed me. “You were loitering. We have ordinances against loitering.”
Last month, while talking to a group of young black men standing on a sidewalk in Salisbury, N.C., about harsh antigang law enforcement tactics some states are using, I had discovered the main challenge to such measures: the police have great difficulty determining who is, and who is not, a gangster.
My reporting, however, was going well. I had gone to Salisbury to find someone who had firsthand experience with North Carolina’s tough antigang stance, and I had found that someone: me.
Except that I didn’t quite fit the type of person I was seeking. I am African-American, like the subjects of my reporting, but I’m not really cut out for the thug life. At 37 years old, I’m beyond the street-tough years. I suppose I could be taken for an “O.G.,” or “original gangster,” except that I don’t roll like that — I drive a Volvo station wagon and have two young homeys enrolled in youth soccer leagues.
As Patrick L. McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte and an advocate of tougher antigang measures in the state, told me a couple of days before my Salisbury encounter: “This ganglike culture is tough to separate out. Whether that’s fair or not, that’s the truth.”
Tough indeed. Street gangs rarely keep banker’s hours, rent office space or have exclusive dress codes. A gang member might hang out on a particular corner, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, but one is just as likely to be standing on that corner because he lives nearby and his shirt might be blue, not because he’s a member of the Crips, but because he’s a Dodgers fan.
The problem is that when the police focus on gangs rather than the crimes they commit, they are apt to sweep up innocent bystanders, who may dress like a gang member, talk like a gang member and even live in a gang neighborhood, but are not gang members.
In Charlotte’s Hidden Valley neighborhood, a predominately African-American community that is home to some of the state’s most notorious gangs, Jamal Reid, 20, conceded that he associates with gangsters. Mr. Reid, who has tattoos and wears dreadlocks and the obligatory sports shirts and baggy jeans, said gangsters are, after all, his neighbors, and it’s better to be their friend than their enemy.
Sheriff’s records for Charlotte-Mecklenburg County show that Mr. Reid has been arrested several times since 2004 for misdemeanors including driving without a license, trespassing and marijuana possession. Despite his run-ins with the law, Mr. Reid said he had never been in a gang and complained that the police had sometimes harassed him without a good reason.
“A police officer stopped in front of my house and told me to come to his car,” he told me. “I said, no. They got out and ran me down. They did the usual face-in-the-dirt thing.”
Maj. Eddie Levins of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said that officers are allocated to different areas based on the number of service calls they receive, so high-crime areas are likely to get more police attention.
“Where there are more police, expect more police action,” Major Levins said. “Some people think ‘I can just hang out with this gang member as long as I don’t do any crime.’ Well, expect to be talked to. We can’t ignore them. In fact, we kind of want to figure out the relationship between all these gang members and their associates.”
Major Levins said that his fellow officers aren’t perfect and that he was aware of occasional complaints of harassment, but he said that most residents would like to see more police officers on the streets, not fewer.
Even Cairo Guest, a 26-year-old who complained he was handcuffed in his backyard, acknowledged that gang members in his neighborhood were “out of control.”
“There are a lot of guys out here doing stuff they shouldn’t have been doing,” Mr. Guest said.
Still, some civil rights advocates complain that the definition of a gang member is vague. Gang researchers find that most active members usually cycle out of their gangs within about a year. Even active participants might only be marginal members, drifting in and out of gangs, said Kevin Pranis, a co-author of “Gang Wars,” a recent report on antigang tactics written by the Justice Police Institute, a nonprofit research group.
Harsh penalties could actually reinforce gang membership by locking peripheral gangsters in jail with more hardened criminals, he said.
Suburban Salisbury, population 30,000, is about as far from the traditional ganglands of Los Angeles, Chicago or even Durham as you can get. But it has had an outsize voice in pushing for tougher antigang measures since a 13-year-old black girl was inadvertently killed there in a gang shootout after a dance party in March.
I arrived in Salisbury at midnight, figuring that gang members would be more visible after dark, and found a local hangout with the help of a cabdriver.
Striking up a conversation with young gang members in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar town is always a tricky proposition, but the one advantage I figured I had was that I am African-American. Brown skin can be a kind of camouflage in my profession, especially if you do a lot of reporting in minority neighborhoods, as I do. Blending in visually sometimes helps me observe without being observed.
But even when my appearance has been helpful, the benefits rarely survive the first words out of my mouth, which usually signal — by accent or content — that I’m not from around wherever I am.
“What’s The New York Times doing down here?” asked an incredulous black man. He and about a dozen other men were standing in front of a clapboard house in Salisbury. I observed several drug sales there within minutes of arriving.
“Man, you a cop,” said another. “Hey, this guy’s a cop!”
“You’ve got me wrong,” I said trying to sound casual as the men looked at me warily. I started to pull my press identification out of my wallet. “I’m a reporter. I’m just trying to talk to you about your neighborhood.”
In the distance I heard neighborhood lookouts calling: “Five-O! Five-O!” — a universal code in American ghettos for the approaching police. I thought they were talking about me, but thought again as three police cars skidded to a stop in front of us.
A tall white police officer got out of his car and ordered me toward him. Two other police officers, a white woman and a black man, stood outside of their cars nearby. I complied. Without so much as a question, the officer shoved my face down on the sheet metal and cuffed me so tightly that my fingertips tingled.
“They’re on too tight!” I protested.
“They’re not meant for comfort,” he replied.
While it is true that I, like many of today’s gang members, shave my head bald, in my case it’s less about urban style and more about letting nature take its course. Apart from my complexion, the only thing I had in common with the young men watching me smooch the hood of the black-and-white was that they too had been in that position — some of them, they would tell me later, with just as little provocation.
But here again I failed to live up to the “street cred” these forceful police officers had granted me. As the female officer delved into my back pocket for my wallet she found no cash from illicit corner sales, in fact no cash at all, though she did find evidence of my New York crew — my corporate identification card.
After a quick check for outstanding warrants, the handcuffs were unlocked and my wallet returned without apology or explanation beyond their implication that my approaching young black men on a public sidewalk was somehow flouting the law.
“This is a dangerous area,” the officer told me. “You can’t just stand out here. We have ordinances.”
“This is America,” I said angrily, in that moment supremely unconcerned about whether this was standard police procedure or a useful law enforcement tool or whatever anybody else wanted to call it. “I have a right to talk to anyone I like, wherever I like.”
The female officer trumped my naïve soliloquy, though: “Sir, this is the South. We have different laws down here.”
I tried to appeal to the African-American officer out of some sense of solidarity.
“This is bad area,” he told me. “We have to protect ourselves out here.”
As the police drove away, I turned again to my would-be interview subjects. Surely now they believed I was a reporter.
I found their skepticism had only deepened.
“Man, you know what would have happened to one of us if we talked to them that way?” said one disbelieving man as he walked away from me and my blank notebook. “We’d be in jail right now.”