racist police

On Dealing With Racist Law Enforcement Officials When You’re a Person of Color

racist police

I originally wrote this post a year ago when it was featured at Fox News Latino. I think it’s still relevant to the furor surrounding the Mike Brown case, as it was the Trayvon Martin case. I’ve edited a few minor sections for clarity.

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There’s been a lot of angry rhetoric about whether race enters into the raising of children, and specifically, how African-Americans should tell their children to act around white people and law enforcement officials. Since so many of these are anecdotal, I thought to add my experience to the cacophony.

My family lived in a working class poor neighborhood in southern California. It was also very Hispanic, and as far as we knew, mostly Mexican. One of my best friends was Arabic but he looked Hispanic, and we didn’t really know what being Arabic meant, so it didn’t matter to anyone except our parents couldn’t talk to his in Spanish (and therefore, not at all).

I often heard stories about racist cops and racist white people doing racist things to my Mexican relatives and friends. Even at that early age, I was somewhat skeptical — it seemed to me that in many of these anecdotes, I could see how some instigated and escalated any conflict with authorities and whites. I rarely voiced my skepticism, but when I did, it wasn’t appreciated.

Finally one day when I was about 15 a relative had it out with me. Angrily, he yelled at me at how it was easy for me to deny racism since I didn’t drive yet, but once I did, he said, “you’ll know how racist these f***ng cops are!”

He had me there. I didn’t have that experience. So I said, “Maybe you’re right, maybe once I drive on my own I’ll find out.”

In my long life as a White Hispanic (or “Whisp” as I like to call us now), I have driven many a mile and been pulled over by many a policeman, mostly for speeding. As far as I recall, each law enforcement official has been terribly professional, and some have been downright friendly.

I might posit that if I were more white than Hispanic, I’d have less speeding tickets, but aside from that, I have no experience whatsoever with racist bigoted law enforcement officials.

What’s the difference between my relative’s experience and mine?

When I address a policeman/woman/other, especially after being pulled over, it’s “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” I don’t think I heard this relative ever talk about police without a curse word or an epithet, especially those having to do with pork products. This is the same for others who were raised in the same socioeconomic environment I was raised in.

This absolute chasm of experience between the “ghetto” mindset and others explains the completely different reactions to the Zimmerman trial. While most Caucasians don’t understand the sting of a parent having to tell a child to act a certain way because of perceived racial bigotry, it’s also the case that most kids that need this instruction aren’t getting it at all.

I can understand how well-to-do African-Americans and others might be offended and angry that they need to teach their kids to be respectful to authorities, but they act as if Caucasians don’t have the same responsibility. It is a duty of all parents, regardless of skin color, to teach their children to be respectful to everyone, including law enforcement officers.

The deeper issue at work here is the plague of fatherless homes – kids raised without a father are simply less likely to be respectful of anyone, and minority communities have especially high single-parent family rates. Does that mean no child with a single parent can be raised to be respectful? Of course not.

There are single-parent families who are fortunate enough to be able to raise children as respectful members of society. But it is destructive of their communities if these families are offended more by critics pointing out the preponderance of disrespect, than by those who are disrespectful.

It’s akin to saying that because you happen not to be overweight, it’s offensive that anyone points out the high obesity rate in your community and tries to rectify it.

In no way does that ignore that real police bigotry exists, or that racism really happens in our otherwise great country. When these acts occur, it is right for us to condemn them and seek to punish those who commit such acts when they’re illegal.

However, it does no community any good to ignore the real problem of fatherless homes that result in embittered, angry youth. Focusing anger on media critics and politicians who point it out is much less constructive than trying to change this for the better.

Welcome to Ferguson, Missouri!! Get Yer Postcards Here
  • I would posit that most Caucasians do “understand the sting of a parent having to tell a child to act a certain way because of perceived racial bigotry”, simply because political correctness and the stigma of “white guilt” has been taught for at least two generations.

    Excellent post, Soop!!

  • gastorgrab

    “In no way does that ignore that real police bigotry exists..”

    At least some of what is perceived as ‘racist’ is just a jerk mentality that some cops have. They don’t like to be wrong. And when you show them that they’re wrong, they get angry at you.

    Some time in 1986-87, on the way to the auto parts store (I was working as a mechanic), one of Dearborn’s finest took exception to the vehicle I was driving. After parking the company truck I headed to the front door of the parts store, but I was cut off by a police car.

    The cop: “Why are you waking away from me?”

    Me: “Excuse me?”

    The cop: “I just pulled you over.”

    Me: “No, you didn’t. This is where I was going.”

    The cop: “Your tabs are expired.”

    Me: (looking down at the license plate tabs) “It looks I got six months before they expire. So what’s the problem?”

    The cop: (long pause) “Just don’t do it again.”

    Me: “DON’T DO WHAT AGAIN?” (I made sure everyone heard me)

    At this point the (very young) cop pointed his finger at me and started to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. He just rolled up the window and drove away.

  • Completely agree. When bad stuff happens to white people they shrug and say bad stuff happens. When bad things happen to some victim mentality minorities they scream racism. I try not to. As much.

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  • bruce lorraine

    In my 66 years in the SF Bay Area I’ve met plenty of cops withbad attitudes, mostly younger ones with something to prove. Was their attiude movtivated by race? Who knows, but every cop I’ve met i’d give them the respect I thnk.they deserve and try to put them at ease. Attitude goes both ways.

  • SpeakOut

    Wow, you’re really white identified. I assume by calling yourself a “white Mexican” you mean that you have European features? If you honestly believe that you are racially pure European I think you’re in for a disappointment. I’m a light skinned Mexican American and I’ve been horribly abused by the police, and corrupt court system, and all the other corrupt institutions in our society. My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents living in the U.S. before the civil rights movement experienced the horrible abuses that were standard for people of color before the Civil Rights movement and I grew up with my grandparents reminding me of that and that it was only when the Black people fought back that things improved for them. I choose to speak the truth instead of spreading the racist lies that white people want to hear even thought they’ll reward people of color for doing so.

  • Wow dumbass I said “white Hispanic” which is a JOkE based on what they were calling George Zimmerman! Lol! Great job basing your entire argument on a joke pendejo 🙂

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  • alittleunwell

    You’re really a ‘kiss thier ass’ kind of Mexican a Tio Tomas, if you will. Respect goes a long way or feigning respect…. let me stop there. Actually, I’m just going to say this, you blabber like a White Nationalist, not just here but on twitter too. It’s contrived and old.
    You’re always talking about tacos and stupid crap, why? Because you think it’s endearing? You think Mexicans go around talking about tacos? Do you think if we mock our heritage the Whites will find us less of a threat?
    What’s all this about single parent homes with hostile kids? Do you think all minorities live in single family homes in the middle of poor, Southern California? Wrong.
    Some of us grew up with the best of the best, our families have been here over 400 years. They were governors, mayors. military officers, Conquistadors. There are hundreds of history books written about my Spanish Colonial ancestors that settle New Mexico. My kids are college educated professionals who know how to conduct themselves. They have a ‘White’ father and a ‘White’ name but I will never allow them to forget that their Spanish ancestors were here before the pilgrims or that they descend from the very first Europeans to settle in the US. They have pride in their ancestors and know thier history. They also know damn well that a cop couldn’t care less if they are Spanish, Mexican or Indian.
    One of my sons had his car illegally searched and his guns taken without a warrant. The whole time the police are ripping up his car I’m telling him on the phone to be calm and don’t piss off the cops. We had to get a lawyer to get his guns back. Why? Do you think they would have pulled over a kid they perceived as White and ripped apart his car and taken his guns? Hell no. With in 24 hours we had a lawyer and the guns but it should never have happened.
    What about kids that don’t have the mean my kids have? Their parents can’t call a lawyer or pick up the phone and ask to speak the police chief because your kids go to school together? They better damn well say yes sir and no sir, their life depends on it.
    I don’t get this bull crap persona you put on. SooperMexican? Why? Why not just American? What are you trying to gain by using your heritage as a though it was a comedy gimmick? Or worse, as a was to condemn others who have had different experiences? Respect can take you a long way until it doesn’t.
    It’s late, I’m not checking this for mistakes. If I wait until the morning I probably won’t send it so I’m sending the way it is because you need to get a clue.

  • None of your experience goes against anything I wrote in the article. You’re arguing against some phantom guy who made generalizations that I didn’t. I’m sorry your son had to go through that, but it doesn’t discredit my experience or anything I wrote… thanks for your comment nonetheless.

  • alittleunwell

    I’m not arguing so much as venting. You’re a smart, articulate man that happens to be 1st generation American. I’d love to see you step out using your own persona, an American of Mexican descent, instead of this Nacho Libre character you hide yourself behind. You can stand on your own and be a force to reckon with.
    Thank you for your nice response.