A a few weeks ago, I published I’m Still Not Black, my (then) latest installment in an ongoing series of race related posts. The subject was what appeared to be racially motivated police activity in detaining actress Danièle Watts, questioning her as a possible prostitute. A resident in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles called the police to report lewd activity in a parked car. Watts clearly saw the actions of the police as discriminatory.
Since the break of the story, new information has come out, including audio indicating that the only one being unreasonable in the exchange was Watts. So much so, that local civil rights leaders, ones who came to her defense early on, are calling on her to apologize. Here’s the audio of Watts’ interaction with police. The police officer in this interaction, while becoming mildly frustrated, is the voice of reason here.
TMZ (I know, I know…TMZ!) has posted what they say are photos of Watts straddling her boyfriend in the front passenger seat of a car with door open. They also report that local business employees actually saw the PDA, and went and spoke with Watts and Lucas (her boyfriend) before the police were called.
So, if all this is true, it looks like Watts and Lucas were given the opportunity to stop, but feeling defiantly amorous, they continued, and the police were called – reasonable. The police then asked for their ID – reasonable. Lucas priovided his – reasonable. Watts refused and, instead, became agitated, emotional, and uncooperative – unreasonable. The police officer, simply attempting to follow up on a call, continued to seek to ID Watts, and ultimately chose to detain her in order to do so. Once he did, he released her – reasonable. Watts took to social media, and stirred up a story, that seemed plausible to many, myself included. Things aren’t always what they seem.
From The Hollywood Reporter’s post regarding the response of local civil rights acivists:
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable president Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Project Islamic Hope president Najee Ali and other activists held a press conference Friday, telling reporters that they now have doubts about Watts’ side of the story.
“I was one that was very outspoken about it,” Hutchinson said about having come to Watts’ defense when her story first broke, as quoted by NBC 4. “We take racial profiling very seriously. It’s not a play thing. It’s not trivial.”
The Associated Press quoted Hutchinson as saying that Watts “cried wolf” regarding this incident being racially motivated.
Here’s my takeaway:
Both black and white people can be reasonable when it comes to race.
Both black and white people can be unreasonable when it comes to race.
Reasonable civil rights activists are willing to discern which situations are racially motivated and which are not, and will communicate their findings publicly.
Danièle Watts “crying wolf” doesn’t therefore automatically make Darren Wilson innocent or Michael Brown’s death justified.
Racial profiling is “not a play thing.” Nor is it trivial. Racism exists. Dialogue is necessary. All involved must be reasonable.
One more thing. Now that some time has passed, and ISIL (ISIS / Islamic State / Bill Maher & Ben Affleck, etc) and Ebola are the new 24 hour news cycle darlings, the issue of race and equality in the United States has returned to its designated back burner, on slow simmer. Until another race oriented issue turns up the heat, and things begin to boil over. This must become unacceptable to us as human beings.
I am a classic avoider. If something isn’t immediately calling my attention, I can ignore it. And I have paid stupid tax on that behavior over and over again. How long will we wait – how much stupid tax will we pay as a nation of human beings before we say individually and collectively say that it’s just not worth it? Why wait for one more Ferguson, one more Danièle Watts incident, one more…one more.
My name is Bill. I am prejudiced. Let’s work on our prejudices together.