Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Talk:"Broken Windows" and "41 Shots"

Think we have no more racism in America?

Then put on blackface and walk into an upscale department store and see what happens.  Watch the security guard and store personnel follow you.  Tell me how it feels when they ask if you can afford to shop there. Wear a damn Armani suit and watch them follow you still.

No racism in America, right?

A black friend, William Barksdale (who ironically bore the name of a Confederate general), first told me of this phenomena.  He also told me about The Talk, the talk black parents have with their sons about how to behave in interactions with the police, rules for staying alive.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a version included on his song "American Skin," a tune he's had for a while and finally put on  a recent album, High Hopes, and which sparked police protests when performed at Madison Square Garden.  Bruce imagined the talk thus:
[Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, "On these streets, Charles
You've got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite
And that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"]

This song came as response to the killing of Amadou Diallu, shot at 41 times by 4 by New York Police Department officers in the Bronx, New York city with their semi automatic weapons, 2 officers firing off their whole clip of 16 shots, one officer 5, and the last showing some restraint and only shooting 4 times.

Diallo died at the scene.

The officers worked for the street crimes unit tasked with taking illegal guns off the street.  The used stop and frisk as one of their tactics .  A federal judge found these tactics unconstitutional since blacks endured the most encounters with police.

One might see this as the logical extension of the broken windows policing strategy, the idea that getting things fixed on neighborhoods as well as making arrests for minor offenses like consumption of alcohol.  Police apply this more rigorously in ethnic neighborhoods and mostly to people of color.

For black folks, it comes as no surprise to have an unarmed black man shot by police

So more generations of black men will die; black mothers will keep having The Talk.

No comments: