Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Neighbours

We live next door to an elderly black couple who have apparently lived in every house in our neighbourhood at some point over the last 30-40 years. They often sit out on their porch with a friend and chat about whatever in a heavy Southern accent which sometimes requires effort to understand.

Today, while going around posting posters asking for help in finding our missing cat I had an incredibly educational experience through talking to those same neighbours. As I was handing over a "Lost Cat" poster to the old lady (unfortunately I've never spoken with them long enough to get their names) one of the old guys suddenly stood up and directed our attention to the nearby intersection. There a fairly aged vehicle was being flanked by two, loudly-lit police cars.

Inside the surrounded car were three black teenage boys, each of which was pulled from the vehicle separate from his fellows. The neighbours started to talk about what led up to this, surprising me with just how well they pay attention to literally everything that happens on our street. Apparently the car had been going up and down the road and had been changing passengers all morning. As the last boy was removed from the car a police officer had him bend over the hood and spit something out of his mouth. The neighbours friend, looking on through thin-framed sunglasses, just muttered, "They're riding dirty."

What we had witnessed was a drug bust, and my neighbours were certain the police had been tracking it all morning. While listening to them explain the situation from their viewpoint I acquired some insight into inner-city black culture and the image of city police for the minority. They spoke of what they know of police salary, how the police acquire bonuses by making arrests, and even why there were three cars, one pulling up later in the event while the arrests were taking place. They pointed out that the occasional black guy on a bike was more than likely scoping out the bust, probably because he had stake in whatever deal was going down. There were comments about what will happen to those boys when they go through processing and how they should have been spanked during their upbringing by their parents instead of the GRPD.

At one point the friend of the neighbour made a statement about how he'd now have to walk around the other side of the block just to get home. I asked him if he really thought that they would stop him. He looked at me, smiled weakly, and said that they probably wouldn't. The old lady turned around and looked at us both murmuring, "You don't need that harassment!"

I was alarmed at the thought of such a thing, and I was left pondering the larger picture. These are people who are incredibly fearful of what I would normally take for granted as just another routine police event. They saw the police as cold-hearted wage slaves out to nab certain "types" so that they can treat themselves to a steak dinner through a rather grim incentive system. They saw the boys as unfortunate fools who weren't raised properly, weren't shown the error of foolish life before it was too late. Now those boys are victims of a system designed to do them great harm both physically and mentally. I witnessed the true plight of neighbours, people, human beings living in my town, in the United States, as insecure about their well being as someone in a war-torn, third-world country. No matter what some people might say black people have it extremely hard even still. Why does it have to be like this?!

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