When a black person walks through a wealthy, predominately white neighborhood with multimillion dollar homes, it could be for any reason: for a relaxing stroll, or maybe because it's where they live.
Unfortunately for some, darker skin still codes people as potential suspects for violent crime. One man's recent experience in the Foxhall Cresent neighborhood of Washington, D.C., underscores this sad state of affairs.
According to reports, two black officers stopped and questioned an elderly neighborhood handyman after receiving a call about a burglary, forcing him to sit on the street corner. The cops only backed down when a neighborhood resident boasting legal credentials admonished them for harassing Dennis Stucky, a black gentleman who was simply on his way to work.
Although the two officers at the center of this unfortunate encounter were black, they operated as officials within a wealthy, white neighborhood — the very people whose tax dollars' disproportionate influence on elected officials, coupled with white privilege, mean their concerns are taken much more seriously than the average American's. That distinction becomes apparent in this video, when the white resident comes to Stucky's aid:
According to the Washington Post, attorney Jody Westby asked her housekeeper to start filming once she saw Stucky, a man she said the community has known for years, entangled with law enforcement.
"Excuse me, what address did you get a call for?" Westby asks officers on the scene, learning that they aren't even in the correct area: "4602," she says. "You're on the 4500 block. That house isn't even in this neighborhood."
Even with the course correction from Westby, the officers cite the report of an alleged burglary as a justification for their actions. "If by chance she verifies that you work here, I'll have no problem," one police officer says, adding, "We have a burglar alarm. He's coming here with bags and he's loud and boisterous, of course I want to know who he is."
But Westby, who'd already advised Stucky to allow her to handle the situation, retorts, "Because you're accusing him." Soon after, she tells the police that they need to leave and begins escorting Stucky away, to the chagrin of the two officers, one of whom offers his card for any follow-up.
"She doesn't have the authority to stop him, and you need to tell her that," Westby says, apparently using her privilege in the situation to help remedy a perceived injustice. "Because I'm reporting this. I'm an attorney and this is wrong."
If only it were that simple for people of color living in the shadow of American institutions. Bizarre run-ins with law enforcement and the prison-industrial complex only serve to reinforce one sad message: There are some places where you'll never be welcome.
With the situation in Washington, it's not white officials creating trouble for black people, as in Ferguson, Missouri. But while blacks routinely challenge alleged abuses of police power in similar ways, they're laughed off, threatened, arrested, pepper-sprayed, greeted with military-style weaponry as a show of brute force, or beaten. In America, a black man like Stucky can be stopped by the police for virtually no reason, while a white woman like Westby can almost always brazenly resist police power, no matter how justified.
That logic, whether in Washington, Ferguson or across America, operates in similar ways despite the racial or ethnic background of police officers. But no one anywhere should be subject to police harassment for walking down the street and minding their own business.
h/t The Root