Black-and-whites. Blacks versus Whites.


A few months ago, I was pulled over by Montclair’s finest. At the time, I thought the unmarked car with its flashing lights was trying to get by me, in pursuit of a real criminal.

Don't you hate when you pull over, and it's you they're pulling over?

So I, like the other cars behind me, moved to the right to allow him to pass.

Unfortunately, he didn’t continue on his way, but stopped directly behind me. Great.

“License, registration and insurance.” I comply.

He walks away and sits in his car for ten minutes. Ten minutes? Really dude?

Returns with my credentials and some parting gifts in hand.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” Driving while Black?

“You were talking on your cell phone.” Actually, I was listening to a message.

“You’ve got to be to court on the 19th.” I’ve ‘got to be to court’ huh?

“Please drive carefully sir.” But occifer if I did, you couldn’t continue to profile me and issue frivolous tickets.

Anyway, I recount that story because yesterday my neighbor and I talked about how he was stopped the day before, also by Montclair’s finest, allegedly for talking on the phone.

In addition, he was alleged to have made a wide left turn, and followed too closely behind a fire truck.

I thought we were about to commiserate about how the MPD fills the municipality’s coffers by issuing frivolous tickets to it’s residents, instead of dealing with the real crime in this high priced town.

Instead, he told me how he proceeded to ARGUE with the officer challenging the basis for being pulled over.

And don’t you know that at the end of this tirade, the officer let him go, with no ticket.

No ticket? WTF?!

Now you must know, I am Black, my neighbor is white.

I’d seen crazy white folks do this on COPS, but I didn’t think that regular white folks did too!

The fact of the matter is that there is a blatant double standard that exists when it comes to the way officers treat Black and White citizens in Montclair (and the rest of the world).

How you're treated depends on how you look.

I told him if I had engaged in the same behavior, and tried to argue that I wasn’t talking at the time, or that I had used my phone only while stopped at the light or offered any kind of pushback, I probably would have been pulled out of my Jeep, tazed, handcuffed and promptly placed under arrest. He laughed. I didn’t.

He acknowledge, however, that, unfortunately, we do not live in a color-blind society, and behavior that members of the ‘majority’ engage in, would result in dramatically different treatment for members of the ‘minority’ engaging in similar behavior.

I didn’t feel like getting into a deep discussion about racial inequity (I left my soap box upstairs), but I let him know that he couldn’t fathom what it was like being Black, and he should count himself fortunate he wasn’t Black when he mouthed off to the officer because it could have ended up waaaayyyy different than it did.

He agreed, and we parted, soberly, each a little more enlightened by how the other half lives.

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6 Comments

Filed under Smack talking

6 responses to “Black-and-whites. Blacks versus Whites.

  1. @4V Terror, I do agree with you that I possess considerable oratory (and written) skills. Having lived in Montclair for almost 15 years, I’m pretty familiar with the terrain, which is what gives me pause to use those skills with cops who possess far less intellect than I, but a gun and badge and attitude to boot.

    As far as Denene’s comments go, I don’t think that we (Black men) lack the capacity to stand up for ourselves. What we lack is the actual power behind that self defense. We have been systematically marginalized and demonized, such that whenever we take a stand, we literally take our lives into our hands. And are we prepared to put our lives on the line for a traffic ticket?

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  2. Lord, 4V Terror, I wish it were that easy—but it’s not.

    I don’t think Stephen’s point was that his white neighbor talked his way out of the ticket; it was to show that the white neighbor felt ENTITLED to talk his way out of the ticket, and the white officer LET HIM FEEL EMPOWERED ENOUGH to do so, whereas no black man in his right mind would dare think he was entitled or empowered enough to give any kind of talk back to a white officer (or any officer for that matter) without facing some serious consequences—the least of them being issued a ticket despite his argument.

    I feel you, Stephen, and I hope your white neighbor understood the point you were making. Sadly, though, I doubt that he did.

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    • @Denene, you’re absolutely right. The issue was that my neighbor felt no compunction whatsoever about screaming on the officer. I’m nervous whenever cops pull up behind me because I know that without provocation, I could be Rodney Kinged and hemmed up.

      My neighbor wrote me a 2 page letter after the incident, acknowledging the fact that he, as a white man, is the oppressor, and despite the fact that he doesn’t live like one, his white skin makes him a member of the preferred nation, and enables him to mouth off without having to think about the consequences (and inherently knowing the consequences would NEVER be as grave as if he were a Black man).

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  3. 4V Terror

    So effectively you broke the law and got caught. You neighbor did the same and then talked his way out of the ticket. Sounds like you should have talked in the same way you typed. They are cracking down on cell phones, not blacks and whites.

    I have a great atty in Newark who is a wiz at making tickets disappear.

    80 in a 65mph zone = Dismissed
    Street Racing = Dismissed
    50 in a 35 = Dismissed

    Obviously I like speed and break that law daily 🙂

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    • @4V Terror. The issue isn’t whether or not I (or my neighbor) broke the law. It’s also not whether I had the requisite skills to talk my way out of a ticket. The point is the disparate way in which people, similarly situated, are treated by the police in society.

      If you read my post about Henry Louis Gates Jr. (which you can get here http://tinyurl.com/n3xuz3) you would realize that my stance is that as a Black man, there are thing you can and cannot do as it relates to confronting authority. White people do not have the same prohibitions regarding their conduct.

      FYI. I went to court already. Have a law degree. But thanks for the heads up.

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      • 4V Terror

        What I was trying to say was that if you could have articulated that verbally as well as you typed it you may have walked. I wont disagree that from our stance as Black men we must thread carefully into confrontations with authority. Its all to easy to be the irate Black man in the officers eyes.

        I disagree with Denene however, as I feel empowered to present my facts and speak with the officer unless he/she is unwilling to be flexible. I have had white officers let me walk and black officers write me multiple tickets. I dont think its as simple as black or white for the most part. I will acknowledge that some areas are far worse than others.

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