I was out of the country during the shit storm national discussion on race that ensued over the arrest of Harvard University Prof. Henry Louis Gates. The only reason I was aware of it at all is that CNN was the only English channel I could access in most hotels (some had BBC as well), so I caught President Obama’s press conference live. Other bloggers have written eloquently about this issue so I wasn’t planning to say anything more than “amen.” [Just a note — the BBC anchor who reported on the “Beer Summit” could barely contain his laughter — I thought I was watching a British version of “The Daily Show” until I confirmed from other sources that this indeed was a real event).
This article by my colleague, poet Ravi Shankar, brings the issue close to home. Ravi describes being arrested by NYPD officers for driving home from a poetry event in NYC while being non-white (the arresting officer referred to Shankar as a “sand nigger”). Looks like the Cambridge police officers who arrested Gates are not the only ones who acted stupidly are in need of a Beer Summit at the White House.
On a lighter note — I suggest that we all continue this national discussion on race by hosting our own local beer summits. What brew would you choose? Since I just returned from Eastern Europe, I would pick the Special Lager from the Strahov Monastic Brewery in Prague (although I’m not sure I can find it in the states).
Yes, this is America. And while I have a decidedly “olive tone” to my skin, some would say mediterranean, I speak clear english, am educated, and am only 50% latin american heritage. But, still, I was dogged by a female officer and two males as “a liar” when I was involved in a auto accident recently. The “white guy” told his story first, and he completely fabricated his story. So officers threatened me with “video evidence” (which they lied to me that they had) to prove my lie. My only conclusion was that I was treated differently by the white officers because of the color of my skin, and that I was not in a dress shirt and tie that day. I have also been “drug searched” in a stop (when I was in college) for a brake light out. No drugs were found (of course) but the fact that I was paving roads for a living at the time, dirty from head to toe, after a 14 hour day, with a “brown bag” on my car seat (to return my soda can for a nickle), and that darned “olive skin” got me more than a closer look. Yes, this is America.
Thanks for this comment, Otis. Last night, I was driving home to Collinsville from West Hartford on route 44. I saw a group of hispanic young people trying to make their way back to Hartford on foot without getting run over by cars zooming over Avon Mountain. I can’t help but wonder whether they were recipients of the “Barkhamstead express” profile that must still be used by Farmington Valley area police — i.e. bunch of non-white people driving through Farmington Valley=drug dealers=let’s stop them for no reason and seize their car. I hope they made it home safely.