#SOPA/#PIPA blackout post no. 2

In solidarity with the sites (including FTB) that are down for the day, I will not be providing original content today. I encourage you to poke around the archives. There’s nearly 2 years of quality posts to rummage through. Instead of writing myself, I have compiled a few interesting articles that I think you should read. Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Why Is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?

WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”

Read the rest of the article, leave your comments here.

Like this article? Call your senator, call your congressperson, tell them that you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and that ze should too. Not American? Neither am I.



  1. jamessweet says

    I think those people who thought Henry Gates bore some responsibility for his arrest ought to read this article, especially the end part of it. It’s possible Gates was being an asshole, but when you’ve gad to put up with this your whole life, when everyone around you has had to put up with this… well, the author of this article talks about knowing that you shouldn’t talk back, shouldn’t try to defend yourself, because you’ll just get in worse trouble.

    Either Gates was being reasonable, and his arrest was just an example of what the author here is talking about… or he was being unreasonable, but only after an endless barrage of unreasonableness directed and him and others who share his skin color.

  2. says

    It occurs to me that at some point, if she is internally consistent, Mallorie Nasrallah should show up here to call the author irrational and prejudiced against police when he described the conditioned fear response he got when a cop passes by.

    Pardon me if that’s a derail but I’m still pissed off about that.

  3. says


    … or he was being unreasonable, but only after an endless barrage of unreasonableness directed and him and others who share his skin color.

    Exactly. As I read the article, I kept thinking, “How much shit does a person have to take before they stop being passive?” That was my privilege-check. I realized the question was really, “How much shit can authority dish out until they have the excuse for arrest they’re looking for?”


  4. says

    I can understand your anger, and I share it to a degree. That being said, you don’t do what I do for as long as I’ve done it without learning to recognize that some people are just not as far along in the discussion as we are. Despite their allegiance to other things we may agree with, they remain mired in the same cognitive quagmire that we see in theists, racists, misogynists, etc. I am not defending her comments (I found them shocking and repulsive), but I don’t see her as any worse (or me any better) of a person than the scores of others who engage in similar behaviour all the time. I am angry at all of them; they are all wrong. I do my best to resist the urge to make my outrage personal.

    When and if Mallorie shows up in comments, you’re welcome (and even encouraged) to thrash her for the things she says.

  5. Pteryxx says


    I’ve only been stopped and questioned *once* and the cops just walked up to me, politely asked what I was doing, asked for my ID (instead of grabbing for it) and let me go. (I was working security for a convention, wearing camos and a utility belt, and apparently some mundane or other reported me as “carrying a gun” which I wasn’t.) Obviously I assumed that “randomly stopped by police” meant POLITELY randomly stopped by police. Hellll noooo.

    I quit flying because I can’t stand to be frisked by strangers. I would be FUCKED if I wasn’t white enough to avoid random frisking in the streets. Gaah.

  6. says

    I get waved through traffic stops every time I’ve been at one, and the one time I was stopped by the cops was when I was 16, walking home from work with my crappy old faux-leather jacket on, and someone was apparently mugged in the area the night before. When I showed them my nametag he said “have a good night”.

  7. julian says

    One of the perks of enlisting has been a sort of get out police harassment card in the way of my military ID. (odd considering how often Marines are responsible for drunken violence, DUI’s and the like) It’s been if not a life saver than a peace of mind saver.

  8. Pteryxx says

    …I didn’t know who Henry Gates was so I looked.

    July 22, 2009

    In an incident that raised eyebrows from coast to coast, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent scholar and author, was arrested by the Cambridge Police Department after officers responded to reports that black men were breaking into his house. Gates had just arrived home from China and was trying to force open his jammed front door with the help of his hired driver when a neighbor called the police.

    Exactly what happened after that isn’t clear. News reports quoting the police say that Gates, the head of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was uncooperative and “disorderly” while an officer was investigating a possible burglary. That’s nonsense, Gates maintains. The real problem is that his color trumped everything else, including his prominence, his familiarity with the house and his identification showing that he lived there. It demoted him from citizen to suspect.


    …what. WHAT.

    How does this make any damn sense? Are these the same people who will let a non-resident boyfriend INTO a woman’s house or hotel room? Who’ll tell a meeting room full of humanists that they should expect to get threatened for speaking up against Sharia law? WTF *incoherent rage*

  9. oldebabe says

    I’m not even `black’, but I can’t stand to be `frisked’ at airports, and so, like you, no longer fly. Can’t imagine what it must be like to be stopped in the street, etc… but do understand that there would be a time when it woud be no longer tolerable.

    But what about SOPA and PIPA would change that?

  10. Pteryxx says

    @oldebabe: SOPA and PIPA would make it trivially easy for any random complainer to have all of FTB pulled off the Internet, by accusing Crommunist of copyright violations for linking to the NYT article above. For example, if someone wanted to stifle any discussion of racial profiling by law enforcement. (Or of atheist students getting harassed, etc.)

    So yeah, if I want to live in a more tolerant world where I can walk safely on the streets, it’s important to protect discussion of unpopular viewpoints on the Internet.

  11. jamessweet says

    So, I’m white, but I used to have long hair and looked like a total pothead. (Yeah, uh, “looked like”…) During that period of my life, I did get checked out by the cops a few times for complete BS, where it was clear they were mostly just fishing.

    But here’s a few differences: For one, I never had them approach me aggressively, i.e. no guns drawn, no “down on the ground now!”, no immediately put hands against the wall. For another, since I had not gotten conditioned to be downtrodden, I did talk back to them a fair bit and assert myself. After all, this was somethign temporary about my appearance, that I could chance if I wanted.

    Also, one thing that struck me in this piece is the way that in only one of the incidents did the cops even give a nominal reason for the stop. I always was at least given a nominal reason, and usually the reason was at least semi-valid.

    Not sure what all I’m getting at with this… Just more anecdotal data, I guess. Being white doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune from unfounded police suspicion… but even then, even when I dressed and presented myself in a way that apparently set off cops’ radars, it seems there’s still a real difference in how I was treated.

  12. dianne says

    A random thought that occurs to me after reading this article: If you can’t trust the cops, what do you do if you are the victim of a crime? Are you going to call the same people who threw you on the ground and handcuffed you yesterday to report that someone broke into your house today? You’d be left essentially without legal protection. Conversely, this sort of behavior by the police must make it much harder for any police officers trying to behave decently to get cooperation from minorities: they’re used to dealing with the asshats and aren’t going to be open and ready to talk to the police, however honest.

    In short, police harassment encourages crime and discourages victims of crime and witnesses from cooperating with the police, making it harder to actually catch the perpetrators.

    Second thought: Why do I bring this up? I’m not sure if this is my privilege or lack of privilege, but on some level I despair of being able to argue the case for not harassing random young minority men on the basis of humanitarian grounds or justice and am looking for some argument that might influence authority figures to behave better. My experience being that pointing out an injustice rarely changes behavior but that pointing out that the injustice makes life awkward for the perpetrator–that can sometimes change behavior.

  13. says

    I wrote a whole post about that, albeit not specifically about minority groups. The principle still holds though: your most effective tool as a law enforcement officer is the co-operation of the citizens you are supposed to be serving. Lose that, and you have to resort to strong-arm tactics and dicketry that just makes things worse.

  14. Broggly says

    I do like how police say they keep going after black and latino men because they’re “furtive”, ie they seem scared of police for some strange reason.

  15. Dianne says

    Once distrust of the police gets going, it can play out in some unexpected ways…A few years ago, I was walking up the subway stairs as a young man was walking down them. As we passed each other, he reached out and grabbed my breast. I knocked his hand away and kept going. The young man in question was black.

    Once out of the subway and feeling like I was safe again, I contemplated calling the police. I didn’t because I could only imagine the scenario playing out one of two ways:

    1. Most likely, the police would essentially blow off the complaint. I wasn’t actually hurt, what’s my problem?

    2. Even worse, they might actually take it seriously and start looking for “suspicious characters” in the neighborhood. I had absolutely no chance of ever being able to identify this kid again-I only saw him for a few seconds and I’m kind of aspie so quickly forget details about how people look in the best of times, which these weren’t. So, the probability that they would find the guilty person was virtually nil and the chance that they’d harass some innocent guys quite high (if they did anything.)

    I decided to forget the whole thing. All very well, I suppose, but that means that the sexual assault crimes of NYC are falsely low and the assailant learns that he can get away with it. And so it continues. Not a big deal in itself but who knows how many people have had similar experiences? No one: we’re afraid to tell so there are no reliable stats.

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