Nothing much to add to this debate... except my own experience.
I was driving cab, around 98, in Chicago. I made the decision early on that I was going to disprove the idea that all white cab drivers were rascists who passed up blacks. I had already driven cab in Toledo, and was more sophisticated than any small town indiana boy really needs to be after the experieince -- not only was I not raised racist, but I started driving cab in a city where the black underclass used cabs because there were almost no buses, and the housing projects were isolated in an industrial neighborhood off downtown.
I had also been ripped off dozens of times, experienced the prostitutes jumping in taxi's to avoid getting busted for being on the street, and their doing about anything to get out of paying. Heard all the stories, etc... Chicago turned out to be safer than Toledo, but I was blown away by the racism.
People using the n word right and left... jumping in a cab and assuming that I was a racist, these folks would just go on and on... usually this line started with, "Oh, cool, a white cab driver."
So one day I picked a woman up from a grocery store and I drove her to Cabrini Green, which back then was a fairly dangerous, and very notorious, housing project. She jumped out and two young kids jumped in.
I got their destination and took off without giving any thought to the fact that I had just picked up two gang aged kids from a project, and they were going to another project on up the road.
Bam... in the rear view mirror I see the lights of the cops. I inwardly curse and outwardly prepare myself to be the nice cab driver to the cops. I am very pragmatic about cops. I do not feel like I can win an arguement with them, or that showing any animosity is going to do me any good. Fucking with a cop is like black magic -- whatever you do comes back at you three times harder. They are working joes doing one of the most stressful activities that I can imagine, and they have powers that they can use, anytime, anyday, to cost you, at least, a lot of money and time.
Outside of Cabrini Green, I watch in the rear view mirror as two cops approach the cab. As one comes to my window, the other stops behind the cab, pulls out his pistol and aims in our general direction. The cop actually sounds nice as he asks me, "Where did you pick them up?"
"I dropped a woman off at Cabrini Green and they jumped in."
"Okay. You two, hop out and come around to the back."
The kids are searched. Spoke to. They look like they are kind of pissed but resigned not to say a word. Like me, they have been taught how to act around cops, how to remain neutral in the battle of good and evil.
They get back in the cab and I try to make them feel comfortable again, some how make up for what they have just been through... "You guys get that a lot?"
"All the time." The words come out in the same flat tone they used with the cops.
"Well, I'm sure as hell glad they didn't search me. I've got a huge bag of weed in the glove box. You guys want to smoke a joint?"
"You got weed?" They both start laughing, having hit the jackbox for any stoner, a stranger offering them weed when they don't have any.
I do not know what it is about cabs.... I used to think that since we took people to clubs, this was why customers were always offering me weed. I was never offered anything to drink, but I was offered coke and heroin and weed. Sometimes I would smoke with them, if it was dark and there were not a lot of cars around. You never know when you are driving a cab if you are in some spot where cops are watching. In fact, when I would hit the one hitter as I drove, afterwards I would always, by habit, then act like the reason I kept lighting my metal cigarettte (which it was painted to look like), was that the lighter was not working... I would always hold it up and click it a few times afterwards, look at it in disgust.... then put the one hitter and lighter away. And of course, once, as I finished my little ritual, I looked in the rear view mirror right into the eyes of a cop behind me at a light looking straight at me and kind of calming down from being pissed -- he saw me taking the hit, and was ready to bust me for sure, then my game played him.
You know, I read the other day a quote from Daly about people driving cab stoned... asking if we thought that was okay? I have to fight the urge not to be a hypocrit and say that I wish I had not smoked weed while driving. It helped me make it through the night, deal with working way too much, etc. They passed legislation here this week that makes pot a 200 ticket in unincorporated Cook County. Interesting.... good news, but nothing like a solution to any problem.
Which brings us back to racial profiling.... Talib, the dark marine in dreads, gets searched all the time... last time he talked about this, he had a brand new bowl and tried to get the cop to let him keep it... instead, the cop smashed it in the alley. They had no weed on them, so the cops just let them go.
The problem with this topic is people like to play BLAME THE COP over this shit. Which is patently unfair. Racial profiling like I saw at cabrini green has other elements. The kids they searched were probably in gangs -- the cops knew them, and people die in the streets of Chicago all the time because of the guns. I am all for cops going after people who are notorious for carrying around guns and killing little kids... and sending others to jail forever.
We tell the cops to do their best to stop crime. Then we set up a society where the underclass has few ways to move up in the world; where pot is subject to prohibilition, as seems the world wide consensus at this point, criminals have an in. Someone is going to make money off of pot. The pragmatic way to deal with the problem is to legalize pot, then fund drug treatment alternatives for hard drug users with the taxes. Gangs would lose their attraction real fast without money.
The alleged need for a gun on the streets would drop. The hundred kids killed in Chicago every year from gunfire would become a thing of the past. Cops could concentrate of preventing crime.
The prisons would lose a lot of money... the for profit prisons actually lobby for harsher laws so that they can get more inmates. IS anything more horrible than a company that wants people to be put in their prisons? They want to enslave others. They make money off of people they keep captive and force to work.
The cops who do the front work on this huge issue, are mere pawns on a game board too large to see from one side to the other. I have been to the ghettos enough to know that there is a different world than the nice neighborhoods, that poverty, lack of education and nutrition and employment all combine to create a problematic environment that creates a lot of criminals.
Drug dealers hanging out in the streets are all black or hispanic. Cops see this, and of course that is who they pull over. They also racial profile whites who are in black neighborhoods where drugs are sold.
I know that a lot of cops are racist. I think it shows a mental flaw to become like this, a certain level of madness in ones worldview that taints everything else. The frustration with the system that cops feel wants a target, just like everyone else.... right or left, the one thing they have in common is that they seem to almost need enemies. This is because we are programmed genetically to look at the world as us and them. Football did not invent rivalry, merely played to the genes, as is usally the case.
I don't want to be an apologist for racism, but we are xenophobic apes who tend to naturally fear strangers, and unless we can open up our empathy to another race, we are kind of stuck there.
Once again, I get to the end of the exploration of some idea in an essay, and my feelings are so ambigous . . . I think everyone is a victim sometimes to larger systems, their culture, upbringing, genes.... all kinds of shit that is not their choosing. Blaming them is tricky...
Check out all of my blogs by googling my name, John Scott Ridgway