More “Racism” – I Was Profiled

By | September 3, 2018 | 2 Comments

Hardly a day goes by without someone being arrested, or refused service in a store or restaurant, and then complaining of being racially profiled. Not wanting to be left out of the profiling parade, I now inject myself into this already crowded field by noting that I too have been the victim of profiling.

The disputed dog doo-doo.

My wife and I were walking our dog in Beverly Hills. Through the corner of my eye, I saw the dog squatting over a pile of poop. I thought she was peeing on poop that was already there, but I wasn’t paying close attention. To me, what my wife was saying was more interesting than dog poop. Other husbands may have different priorities.

As we walked, a car slowly followed us. A woman yelled out the car window, “Clean up after your dog!” I explained that I thought it was not our dog’s poop, then turned around, walked back and said, “I’ll clean it up anyhow.” But the woman yelled, “You’d better, or we’ll follow you home!

But who were “we”? And after they follow us home, what then? I react to threats by trying to get my family to safety. My wife reacts more directly. She told the woman in the car, “Anybody who follows us home may not live to see their home again.”

We walked on, and a few blocks later, there was the woman, a man who was apparently her husband who had been called from work – and a police officer. I explained the situation and offered to go back and clean up the poop, even though I thought it was not our dog’s.

The officer took my driver’s license and did something odd – he told me to recite my name and address. That is, he forced me to give our address to the same people who threatened to follow us home. To make it perfectly clear whose side he was on, he told me to walk our dog closer to our home in Los Angeles.

I came close to losing my temper, showing him the scars from my line-of-duty injuries in the Army Reserve, and yelling, “Do these give me the right to walk in Beverly Hills?” But I did not need an arrest on my record, so I shut up, and we went on our way. Thinking about this incident still makes me angry. It was a blatant example of racism.

Oh, I almost forgot – my wife and I, the woman and her husband, and the officer were all white. So it was just a case of a nutty woman with too much spare time, and an officer with too little judgment.

The trigger-happy cop.

The house next door was being remodeled. Trucks frequently blocked our driveway. One day I was picking up nails from my driveway, a frequent occurrence. The contractor was there, so I said, “How would you like it if I put nails in front of your car?”

The contractor replied angrily, “Keep away from my car or I’ll kill you!” On the chance that the contractor was serious or on a controlled substance, I called the police. Eventually a police car arrived, and a female officer got out. I explained the situation as calmly as I could.

Then I did something stupid. I wanted to identify myself as the homeowner, so without warning I reached into my pocket for my wallet. Immediately, the officer took a small step back with her right foot, brought her left hand in front of her, and moved her right hand near her pistol. I knew enough about guns to recognize that she was preparing to assume the Weaver stance and draw her weapon.

Jack Weaver, L.A. Deputy Sheriff, 1959

I apologized for my hasty action. The officer completed her report and drove away. She did not mention what she had prepared to do, much less apologize. Clearly, this was an example of police racism and readiness to use lethal force when it wasn’t necessary.

Oh, I almost forgot − the officer and I were both white. So it was just an example of a potentially threatening move being reacted to by someone who puts her life on the line daily to protect us. It was an example of her situational awareness – and my lack of it.

Driving while white.

My car was in the shop, and I was driving a rental car to work. I was pulled over by a police officer. I politely asked why, and he replied, “Your tags are expired.” I explained it was a rental car, showed him the papers, and laughingly remarked, “Do you suppose Budget Rent-a-Car can’t afford to renew their registrations?” The officer smiled in response, then let me go with a reminder to tell the company. The incident lasted a short time and was pleasant.

On the way home, I was pulled over by another officer. But this time I was tired and annoyed. Before the officer spoke, I said, “I know, the tags are expired, it’s a rental car,” and stuck the papers out the window. The officer responded to my annoyance with his own. He wrote me a ticket requiring me, not the rental company, to renew the registration.

Even more annoyed, I asked how I could register a car I didn’t own. The officer replied with a lengthy lecture on my responsibilities as a car renter − which made no sense, but which did serve to delay me even more. As a result of my impatience and rudeness, the incident lasted a long time and was unpleasant. Later the rental company took care of the ticket, but if they hadn’t, an arrest warrant would have been issued for me. Clearly, this is another example of police harassment of minorities.

Oh, I almost forgot − both of the officers and I were white. So it was just an example of my disrespect and rudeness being returned.

The shoplifted candy bar.

I was in the supermarket where we shop regularly. I picked up a chocolate bar and nibbled a few squares. A shopper remarked loudly, “You’re not supposed to eat anything without paying for it.” From her stern look, I felt that she was about to report me to the manager. I explained that I intended to pay for it, while ostentatiously placing what was left of the candy bar in the shopping cart. I noted that other shoppers overheard our conversation. Clearly, this was an example of racial profiling and embarrassing me in public.

Oh, I almost forgot – I am white, as was the woman. So this was just an example of an intrusive busybody who enjoyed ordering people around.

Get off the sidewalk.

I was walking in an upscale residential area. Down the sidewalk came a middle-aged woman, “exercise walking” while swinging what looked like a two-foot length of broomstick. Apparently it was some sort of exercise aid. Carrying billy clubs is illegal in California.

The woman showed no sign of altering her gyrations. I thought of asking her to be careful, but I decided that she would either ignore me or call me a vile name. So I just got off the sidewalk, as if I were a black in Mississippi in 1940.

Oh, I almost forgot − I am white, as was the woman. So it was just an example of the self-righteous narcissism of doing something “healthful.”

The rude clerk.

I ordered stationery from an office supply store. When my order was ready, I drove to the store. The cashier directed me to a counter. Behind it was a clerk who was busy with paperwork. He looked up at me, then went back to his papers. I coughed repeatedly, then said, “Excuse me,” with no effect.

I went back to the cashier and said in a loud voice, “If I can’t get the stationery, I want my money back.” She directed me back to the counter, where I began to complain obnoxiously. The clerk looked up with annoyance, asked my name, reached under the counter, handed me my stationery without apology, and turned his back. This was a clear example of racism.

Oh, I almost forgot – I am white, and the clerk was black. So it was just an example of rudeness and bad service. Of course, the clerk probably thought that my anger was an example of my racism.

The wormy food.

My wife and I went to a seafood restaurant. When my wife picked up a lettuce leaf with her fork, a nest of wiggling worms was revealed. We called over the waiter and showed him the worms. I demanded to see the manager. He had not arrived after five minutes, despite my loud complaints, so we left. Clearly, this was a disgusting example of racism.

Oh, I almost forgot − both of us and the waiter were white. Even the worms were off-white.  So it was just bad service and a filthy kitchen. Soon after, the restaurant closed.

Racism everywhere?

There is an abundant supply of real racism in the world. We don’t need to invent more by seeing it in the problems of daily life. If we claim to see racism when it isn’t there, we pour gasoline on the flames of racial hostility. Perhaps even worse, we trivialize and cheapen the word, so that when real racism occurs, people will be less likely to pay attention. It is hard to imagine a more destructive behavior.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.
www.stolinsky.com

2 Comments

  • I gave several examples that might have been misinterpreted as profiling, but which in fact were not. Still, I would not want to leave the impression that I have never been profiled. Years ago, when I was applying to medical school, I had to see two interviewers. The first was friendly and sympathetic. But the second was abrasive and hostile. He asked me whether I had an accent.

    I replied that I was born in North Dakota, and still had a trace of a Northern Midwest accent — for example, saying “r” a bit harrrd. He replied that he thought I was saying “goink” and “comink,” clearly implying that I had a Yiddish accent. I did not react to this. But I was not admitted on the first round, while a classmate with lower grades was admitted. I was admitted on the second round. Tragically, my father died of a heart attack in the interval, so he never knew I got into medical school — at least on this dimension.

    So yes, I do know that profiling really exists. I experienced it. But I still maintain that many instances are just the give-and-take of daily life, misinterpreted in the light of our own suspicions.

  • David Stolinsky says:

    In any encounter with law enforcement, the first test was the attitude test. If you failed the attitude test, everything went downhill from there.
    ‒ Brad Thor, “Spy Master”

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