(First written in 2012, while George Zimmernman awaited trial.)
Dr Thomas Sowell used Geraldo Rivera, of all people, to restate a practical, need-to-know law of survival that has nothing to do with any legal right to walk the streets as we please.
You know the old Jim Croce song, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger… and you don’t mess around with Jim ...”
All of these things are legal, still, you just don’t do them. There’s some things you don’t no matter how legal and inviting it is, such as correcting peoples’ grammar in a biker bar. Stuff, like that.
There is a prevailing lie out there being spread among young black people that is racist to the extent that they’re encouraged to believe their status as a minority can suspend these laws. They are told 1) they can wear anything they want anywhere they want, and 2) they can travel any public street, day or night, without fear of being hassled by authorities.
Nothing was ever further from the truth, and has been the case since the beginning of time.
Public streets consists of two very definable territories: 1) the common areas and 2) the neighborhoods. The common areas are downtown and public establishments, such as stores, restaurants, and parks etc. This is where people congregate. This is also where the police can be found, so the set of rules that apply in the common areas do not apply to the neighborhoods, where the police are several minutes away. This is why many neighborhoods have Watch units, since the cops aren’t there, criminals may feel they can do their business in a safer environment.
So the neighborhoods belong to the people who live there, and until only recently most neighborhoods were separated culturally and income class. Except in the inner city they are no longer separated racially.
Gangs patrol some. Neighborhood Watch others.
Just know, no matter where you go in any of those neighborhoods, someone is watching. Someone is peering out the window and asking “Who is that stranger? Whose car is that?”
As Dr Sowell pointed out, it wasn’t his color so much as his preppy Harvard attire that made him unwelcome in the 5-6 blocks he had to walk to the barbershop. So he changed to work clothes, which got him past the gate keepers for three years without incident.
Styling, or strutting your stuff, will get you hassled every time.
Today, black kids are often made to believe this sort of common sense is a concession they shouldn’t have to make, no matter where they choose to walk. And many more than just Trayvon Martin have paid dearly for this mistake, just like many white people have paid dearly for making a wrong turn and ending up in the wrong part of Miami, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, the Bronx, all because they were DWW (driving while white).
In Atlantic City, I once had to pay a cab $20 to drive me three blocks to my hotel, which I could see from where I was standing, because it was 3:30 in the morning, I had $3000 in cash my pockets, and those three blocks consisted of row houses along an unlit street with people still sitting out on the porch, just like it was Sunday afternoon in Biloxi.
Young people resist this idea, as they are schooled to believe that what occurs to them when a police officer pulls them over, in their ’72 Datsun, in an affluent white neighborhood, is racism; DWB (driving while black). Today it’s become WWH (walking while hooded).
But racism per se it isn’t. (It can be.) It’s only racism in the same way asking a voter to show a photo ID is racism.
I lived in Cincinnati for almost 10 years and it was not uncommon for suburban police to pull over young black or Latino males late at night, especially in fairly affluent neighborhoods. I used to counsel blacks kids about this in my college classroom, for most copped this racism attitude.
“The cops can use any pretense to pull you over, whether it’s legal or not, and if you’re driving an old heap, count on it. They don’t mind a judge saying it was illegal two weeks later, because you’ve been in jail a good part of that time.”
“They are sending a message. 1) Hey, kid, you’re in a neighborhood that isn’t yours, and you’d better have a good reason for being here and 2) Hey, kid, now you know we’re watching, so we’d better not find out a house has been broken into.”
“If you want to think you’re being singled out because you are black, you’re wrong. Latinos are treated much worse, in fact, anyone driving an old heap, or wearing a doo-rag will be pulled over. And you can’t believe how the cops treat the hillbillies who hit Covington on Saturday night.”
“But 1 in a 100 kids will get hauled away all because they copped an attitude with the cop, giving back sass instead of straight answers. (TWS, talking while stupid.) This almost always results in a disorderly conduct charge, or resisting arrest, which then entitles the cops to search the entire car…trunk, glove compartment, where often other evidence (usually a joint, hooch, a knife, gun) is found.”
“See how it works?”
Simple rules of the road.
Don’t confuse the political issues (race baiting, trying to get blacks interested in voting for Obama again…many aren’t, you know) with the legal issues (gathering evidence and bringing charges, if warranted) and the common sense practical lessons learned here.
Just as the political theater completely missed the lesson learned in the Sandra Fluke case, namely mommas don’t want their babies to grow up to be slutties, Geraldo and Tom Sowell are right; mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be hoodies.
Trayvon may be alive today had he simply dressed a little more seasonably.