Sunday, February 06, 2005

Probably Not a Coincidence

(The post below was only a small part of a really great trip, so don't get too depressed!)

Ladybug and I drove 280 miles (or so) from Ashland to Portland today. I passed several people along the way (I like to cruise along at a brisk pace). Well, actually, we probably passed well over a hundred cars and trucks. A few cars passed me too. Out of all those cars, two were driven by black people (no, I wasn't doing a racial count, but you don't really need to in Southern Oregon). I passed both of them and left them behind me. We stopped for lunch in Eugene and many of those who passed up continued ahead of us. We caught up to several of them.

We passed a police car north of Eugene, but apparently he hadn't found a good mark yet. That was odd since I approached him at 75 mph (in a 65 mph zone) and so did everyone else. We all slowed down too late. Relieved, we continued on. Near Salem, we passed another cop who had stopped one of the two sets of black people on I-5 during that time of the day. I won't say he wasn't speeding. Everyone was speeding. I just wonder, why him? I passed him at 75 mph earlier, so either he sped up or got nailed at a marginal speed. Either way, it is hard not to conclude that he was cherry-picked from the crowd.

Of course, this isn't the first DWB-type (driving while black) experience I've been part of. The only time I have ever been pulled over without getting a warning (so far, no tickets...knock on ivory), I had a black, male passenger in the car. Considering he is the only black adult male passenger in my car as far back as I can remember, I find it hard to chalk this up to experience either.

There are some whiners in this world who use race as an excuse to cover their own lack of effort or skills. However, imagine being in the position that these people are in where you get nailed to the tune of couple of hundred bucks for doing exactly what everyone else is doing. Since most of us don't run around with a lot of black people here in lily-white Oregon, we figure everyone is just like us, but I don't think it is true. There are some sneaky bastards out there whose hearts are three times too small. Maybe we need to figure out a way to keep them from being cops.


The Moody Minstrel said...

What do you do when you're put in kind of the opposite situation? This has actually happened to me several times here in Japan.

For example, there is the time that police suddenly started harassing and checking the I.D. of Iranians that had been hanging around in a particular park. When I happened by, they waved me through since I wasn't Iranian.
There is also the time that a currency-exchange counter in a bank was treating a bunch of Russian sailors like second class citizens. When I came in, they ignored me completely and wouldn't respond to my (Japanese) requests until I flashed my American passport. Then they fell all over themselves waiting on me, apologizing profusely and saying, "We thought you were one of them."
There was also the time that I got my Japanese driver's license. I had had the info on my Oregon license translated (and signed) by a co-worker, a licensed instructor. That used to be legally acceptable. Apparently the law had just been changed. I was told that I had to get a translation from a certified, professional translator. That would have cost a fortune and taken a lot more time than I had. Noting the pained expression on my face, the official at the desk suddenly said, "But since you're American, we'll let it go this time. This law is mainly directed against Brazilians and Southeast Asians, who, as you know, regularly use fake I.D.."

How is one supposed to react in such a situation?

Of course, I've also been on the other side of the coin, too. I've gone into stores and spoken to them in more or less fluent Japanese only to have them insist that the only member of their staff who could communicate with me was their one designated "English" speaker (who tended to take thirty seconds to form a three-word sentence). I've eaten at restaurants where, even after I've demonstrated my Japanese ability, the waitresses have been very glacial (but polite to everyone else) and stood near my table and made snide comments about me...and then, when I made a (polite) comment about the food in Japanese, they stormed off as if I'd insulted them. Ironically, at Denney's here in Japan I have been forced to sit and wait until all the Japanese customers were seated (even ones that came in half an hour after I did and obviously didn't have reservations) before the hostess would even acknowledge my existence. (After eating, when I paid my bill, I noisily dressed her down in the presence of the manager...who knew me. I never saw her again.)

These sorts of things really suck, but they seem to be a fact of human life.

As for cops, I know several former and current ones including a couple of relatives. I know that every single one of them entered their profession with all sorts of high ideals, but, as time went by, virtually all of them fell into the trap of stereotyping. Why? Because it makes a stressful job that much easier. One relative who is a former cop used to brag about the way he'd harass teenagers he saw on his rounds, even to the point of taking the law into his own hands. When I insisted that the majority of teenagers weren't troublemakers, he responded by saying, "Even if only one in four is a troublemaker, don't you think it's easier and better just to shut the whole lot down?"

Again, these things suck, and they are best dealt with by whatever means are possible, but it all seems to boil down to flawed human nature. Unless people are perfect or very nearly so, it's hard to expect better from them.

Vulgarius said...

I can never forget my return trip from Juarez. There I was at the border post getting asked all sort of hillarious questions about my citizenship and place of birth and residence etc. All while a group illegals were actually climbing over the fence not 50 meters away and in plain view of all. I must admit the guard did a real good job of pretending not to notice. It was hard to quit laughing long enough to answer the stupid questions while watching the parade going over the fence.

Don Snabulus said...

Hopefully they weren't Saudis in Sombreros(TM). That is a subject to take up with the President. I am in favor of defining immigration quotas and standards and not allowing uncontrolled access to the country, but I am not in control of the situation and the current administration doesn't seem to view it any differently than the pre-9/11 presidents.

Better border control could make it easier for hard-working families to immigrate to America (as we all did at some point) and harder for thugs and killers to hide out here. I don't see it happening any time soon.

We got one of those angry-voiced chain e-mails yesterday bristling about those refusing to learn English and how immigrants are going to destroy America. It sounded like Chicken Little revisited with some xenophobia thrown in for good measure. It also doesn't help.

The fact is that Hispanics will be the majority in 20 years with or without immigration controls. So we might be doing some Habla Espanol soon whether we like it or not. We should probably get used to it.

The real reason for border control is security. Last I heard, the country was in a state of emergency due to the threat of terror attacks. Hopefully we are acting on that threat at our borders.

DewKid said...

I've been nailed for barely speeding (10 over) in at least three different states, and I'm as white as they come. I have never gotten a warning, and have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law (rarely gotten a break from any judge). If I were black, I could probably make a statement, but since I'm not, I guess I'm just out of luck.

The last ticket I got (the first in many years) was from a CHiPs officer. The cop looked at me and said, "You look familiar". An odd statement since this was my first (and hopefully last) ticket ever in California. I commented that I was surprised I was going over the speed limit (because I WAS surprised), and he about took my head off. I assured him that I wasn't arguing with him, and he calmed down. I'm guessing he was hoping for a better writeup on his ticket...

Regarding illegal immigrants: this is a major problem down here in California. The illegals are pouring over the border, and swamping out our schools and emergency rooms to the point of causing them to shut down. Since many of these illegals pay little or no taxes, the burden falls on the legal citizens (legal immigrants and native-borns alike) to the tune of billions of dollars.

It seems to me that the democrats refuse to do anything because they want to maintain their hispanic constituents, and the republicans refuse to do anything because big corporations want their cheap labor. The state government claims it is the federal government's responsibility, and the federal government says it is the state's responsibility. Seems like its going to be up to the people, though without the support of any government, I'm not sure anything can be done!

My two cents.

Don Snabulus said...

I'm not sure how the subject came around to immigration on a cop pulling over black people thread, but I appreciate the points given so far.

I hope the main point of my post wasn't lost however. And that point was that a black guy who I passed easily earlier was chosen out of a sea of white people for a speeding ticket; indeed out of hundreds of other cars. The only one in 280 miles.

What I didn't mention is the number of asshole things people and do say whenever I am with black people for any length of time. I have black relatives, so I might be given the benefit of experience when interpreting my writing.

I am sorry for anyone who gets tickets. I don't believe speeding tickets save anyone's life on the road and there are better ways to spend police money (like prevention of violence) than to cull money from people driving. However, what I witnessed would be the equivalent of a white person being pulled over while driving through Watts in LA or Albina and Killingsworth while dozens of cars with black people whizzed by. If that didn't happen, then the situation is not really analogous to what we witnessed.

DewKid said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to veer off the subject (pun intended). Vulgaris mentioned people climbing the fence, and I ran with that (pun intended again).

I also didn't mean to imply that profiling doesn't happen: one of the speeding tickets I got was while I was driving in hawaii. I watched native hawaiians haul through the speed trap, while myself, and other white tourists driving rented cars got stopped one-by-one for driving too fast down a short stretch of road that had a posted limit about 10 mph less than the rest of the area. I also experienced being pulled over in West Linn for being one of several teenagers in a car doing nothing particularly wrong (no ticket, but then I wasn't driving...)

Just so you know, my best friends were black when I was growing up. Jeannene and Floyd were kids that lived down my street in SE Portland, and I probably spent more time with them than my parents in my first 10 years of life. Jeannene was the first girl I ever kissed, and I was there when my best friend Floyd got hit by a car and was taken to the hospital (he suffered a large cut to his nose, but was otherwise okay).

It wasn't until I moved to Milwaukie that I learned there was any difference between us at all. A teacher at my Junior High School taught us about racism and black people, and I was clueless. I asked my parents what "black people" were, and they told me that was what Jeannene and Floyd were. I remember being very confused. Imagine being told that I'm supposed to be racist because I am white, and that I'm a bastard for being racist! Sheesh!

Don Snabulus said...

I stand corrected. The Hawaiian situation is analogous. My apologies. Did you know that some native Hawaiians call white people "howlies?"

People are weird and I've decided to destroy everyone just to be fair. ;) (except you, me, and my cat Jeebus...and everyone else)

The Moody Minstrel said...

Someone might put forth the argument that that Hawaiian speed trap was doing "reverse profiling", i.e. they didn't pull over the Hawaiian speeders because they knew they'd be too much trouble, whereas the white tourists would be easy pickin's.

After all, I have a friend who got stopped at a speed trap here in Japan (for driving 15 kph over the limit). A car that had just passed him going a lot faster was also flagged down, but it ignored the police and continued on its way. The officers shrugged their shoulders, laughed, and gave my friend a ticket. I think you'll find that, just about anywhere you go, police have a noted tendency to avoid (or pepper spray) anything that would be too much bother to try to deal with.

West Linn? Gee...THAT sounds familiar!

DewKid said...

I thought you might remember that incident Moody! :-)

The more I think about it, didn't the cop ask us for some smokes...? Something weird like that...

Regarding Hawaii, I think the primary reason they picked on tourists, is that they knew we likely wouldn't show up on the court date, set a month away. Yeah, I'm spending $1000 to come back to Hawaii to fight a $100 speeding ticket.

Here's the strangest thing. The ticket had a self-addressed envelope with a PO Box to which we could send a check (which I did). Interestingly, the ticket never showed up on my official record: when I changed insurance companies, I mentioned the ticket, and they said it just wasn't there. Hmmm, I wonder if those guys were even cops... They did have a radar gun and police cars, but maybe they were off duty...

I'll never know, and I don't really care.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Hmm...maybe Hawaii recruited their cops from Boston.

Either that or Beaverton. (After all, whenever there's a problem with police behavior in Portland, the city government always blames it on Beaverton!)