Monday, June 22, 2009

Race Relations

Last night I saw a pair of legs putzing on my stairs, and then heard rifling through my trash. I had decided to come out and ask him what he wanted because strangers will invariably run away when you ask them why they're doing something silly. As I approached my door however, I heard a loud crash and physically cowered; ducked and covered, if you will.

I came outside 30 seconds later to find my snow shovel lying on the ground and the window to my bedroom (upstairs) vandalized.

I panicked that it might be a direct attack at me, then silently thanked (insert name of higher power) that I wasn't actually in the bedroom by the window watching TV or anything.

Looking down the street I saw a black kid that can't have been more than 12 years old, running with a fire extinguisher spraying cars on the street. I decided if it was just some punk kid I wasn't going to get mad, but I called the police just to make an official report for my landlord and insurance.

The cops were really nice. Two young black men writing down all the details of my little story. They asked me to describe the boy and where he went off to, and noticeably uncomfortably, I told them...

Anne: He's wearing a red cotton shirt, blue pants or blue jeans, snug, and old white sneakers. Not tall enough to look over the roof of that car he sprayed.
Officer: How old did he look? What did he look like?
Anne: Can't be more than 12, maybe even eleven. (Pause) Black. (Longer pause) He ran into the park toward the projects.

Anyway, there I am being a dipstick when one of the officers says, "you mean, like that kid over there?" and points toward the park at THE KID.

The other officer smiles and me and says, "get in our car. We'll get him." The first officer adds, "what an idiot, hanging around like that."

Now at this point, I'm thinking, "what the fuck are we going to do when we 'get him'?" But I acquiesce and get in the backseat... which was also weird, because now I look like I've been arrested.

We zoom toward the park and somehow lose him. The cops talk to each other about going into the projects where he's probably hidden.

I am now in the Red Hook housing projects driving around in a cop car.
I am sweating balls.

Now, the Red Hook projects are big, but blend into the fabric of the neighborhood pretty well. You have to walk through them to get to C-Town, the post office, or the Smith-9th Subway station. I think people might hear "projects" and think of The Wire or any number of Law & Order episodes. Totally unlike that. There are park benches and people say hi when you walk past them.

However, cops routinely drive around said projects and aforementioned park to cattle drive teenagers out of public soon as night starts to fall. On their loud speakers they tell everyone to go home. It's really kind of condescending and hugely hypocritical, because the drunken white revelers playing Nerf ball in the middle of Van Brunt at 2 in the morning doesn't seem to warrant any police stare-downs or loud speaker cattle driving bullshit. I mean c'mon, coppers.

So I am not scared of the projects. I am scared of being in the projects in a cop car rolling 3 miles per hour with cops looking as far as they can see into the buildings, making eye contact with everyone like it's samurai showdown. With me. In the back seat.

We've all heard those stories about cops being pelted from top floor tenement housing, right?

The cops insist on driving SEVERAL TIMES through the buildings on what I thought were sidewalks. I realize the projects are structured with cleverly disguised concrete walkways just wide enough for a Crown Vic.

So there I am in some fucked up version of Driving Miss Daisy Langston Hughes wrote high on cocaine. I don't want to be there because I was never going to press charges on the kid anyway. The cops, ironically, defuse my tension.

Officer 1: Where did that kid go? It's so weird. He just vanished.
Officer 2: Man, I want to get him. What a stupid idiot.
Officer 1: We'll get him.
(Pause, Officer 1 turns up the volume on the radio which is playing hip-hop. Both cops start bopping their heads.)

Finally we relent and they take me back to my street. A bunch of white people on Van Brunt look at me like, "whoa. What did she do..." I just want to get to my dinner. When we get to my apartment the officer who's been dictating the whole time gives me a number and tells me a report will be ready in 48 hours.

Ten minutes later I see them still out there, now joined by two large white officers. They are watching me patch up the window with black vinyl, duct tape, and a bamboo kitchen floor mat (don't laugh). From inside I see the cops through that window, and as I close up the view for good, I thank (insert name of higher power) I didn't roll through the projects with the white cops.

1 comment:

Nguyen Duong said...

wow! what a experience that must've been. yeah, i would've probably taken a pass on riding shotgun w/the white cops. ;) thanks for the share.