Monday, September 03, 2007

Boyz in the Hood

So I was watching some of the endless news coverage about the whole Senator Craig scandal. I'm not here to talk about Craig playing footsie in the bathroom, or his "wide stance" that he uses for keeping his slacks up--this is a blog related to race relations, so I'm gonna comment on something I heard on the interrogation tape...

There's a part when Officer K. is using one of his police interrogation tactics to get the Senator to confess just what he was up to in the bathroom before he flew to Washington. Maybe it should be called the Scarlet Letter strategy, because he was attempting to shame Craig into confessing. Officer K. said,

"I just, I just, I guess, I guess I'm gonna say I'm just disappointed in you, sir. I'm just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you." ( emphasis added )

Hmm...who's the guy that Officer Karsnia gets "out of the hood"? That's right--the black guy. We're you thinking any other ethnicity when you read that? I doubt it.

Ok, as I see it there are two things wrong with this. First, Karsnia is saying that he expects guys that come from the hood to lie to him. I think I'll write this off to Karsnia being a cop--cops have a tendency to treat everyone they come into contact with as a criminal--I think it's the way they're trained. Did you know that if a cop tells you to stop walking towards him or her and you don't, protocol tells them to shoot you--even if you are unarmed? Just FYI...

So, Officer Karsnia is letting us know that if he picks up a black kid in a poor neighborhood, the assumption is that the kid is not telling the truth. This sucks for the black kids that are trustworthy.

But I think that the bigger issue is what he doesn't say. "I expect this from poor black kids, but not a rich, old, white guy such as yourself." Yeah, yeah I get the whole elected official bit. But, in our society, the rich old white guy package that Craig comes in automatically lends him an air of credibility. But why?

We are taught that old white guys don't do things like lie, they do things like make this country great. Even though we have numerous examples to the contrary ( Ken Lay and Richard Nixon, just to name two) When an old white guy does something wrong, we don't say "Well you know those old white guys--you just can't trust 'em." But if a black kid commits a crime and then lies about it, a white person can say with a straight face that they think poor people "from the hood" are less trustworthy on the whole, and few would give it a second thought.

White people have gotten smart enough to not actually say "black," now they just use euphemisms like, "urban" and "inner-city." But we all know who they're talking about. The news program that I heard the tape on certainly didn't say anything about it, and I doubt that Karsnia even gave it a second thought. And I am not trying to brand Officer Karsnia a racist or to even imply that he made that comment with any malicious intent. The whole point of this post (and this blog) is to show white people the subtlety with which these messages are transmitted today. We hear things like that almost unconsciously without recognizing how they affect us. But when we see a black dude strolling down the street minding his own business, who doesn't look like he just came from a day at the office--we get scared.

Is there any wonder why?

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