Existing while Black: not a regular person.

Today’s episode of Justice with Judge Mablean has me reflecting on the perils of existing while black. In this episode, the plaintiff, Jerome Mills, sued David Green for emotional distress.  According to Mills, he was outside a restaurant phoning his mother to pick him up from a restaurant he’d just patronized. The defendant, Green approached him and began asking for ID. Mills ignored him. Green responded by patting Mills down while repeatedly asking for ID. Mills, now alarmed, asked why. Green threw Mills to the ground. Others come on the scene. Mills was handcuffed. Once the authorities came, Mills was checked out and found to be as he said, “a regular person,” and let go.

This was a textbook case of racial profiling. The defendant Green is a security guard at a strip mall. According to him and in textbook fashion, there had been a rash of robberies in the area. He received reports that a man dressed in a hoodie, baggy pants, and sunglasses was acting suspiciously. Green said he approached Mills from the back and saw him moving around suspiciously.

Jerome Mills is not only a black man. He is blind.

Judge Mablean asked Green an important question. “Why didn’t you identify yourself as a security guard.”

David Green asserted that he wore a uniform so Mills should have complied. At the time he said he didn’t know Mills was not sighted. Mills as a blind man couldn’t see the uniform. Judge Mablean asked why Green didn’t see the cane Mills carried. The cane along with the glasses were telling clues that Mills was blind.

The Judge ruled on behalf of the plaintiff.

Why is this a textbook case? Some “concerned” citizens saw a black man, the most important descriptor for racial profiling, wearing sunglasses, a hoodie, and baggy pants, standing outside a restaurant. They alerted the (obviously) untrained security guard. He was untrained in proper protocol but very trained in the socio-cultural morays of the day, i.e. black=criminal. He approached the  presumed black criminal from behind–Green is shorter than Mills and probably unarmed–with demands for compliance. He didn’t care that this was a human being with rights and the privilege of being treated with courtesy. Green thought Mills upon “sight” of his whiteness should have complied without reason. Had Green been armed, he probably would have shot Mills.

Judge Mablean made good points. Without notification, Mills, blind or sighted, didn’t have to comply. Green could have been an assailant she explained. He could have been impersonating a security guard. Green lost his cool at one point saying he wasn’t going to risk going home dead to his two children just to inform Mills he was a security guard. Translation: He had determined that Mills was a criminal on sight, probably armed, and undeserving of rights.

As is custom on these shows, the plaintiff and defendant usually interrupt each other and the judge repeatedly. Judge Mablean admonished Mills for this a number of times during the episode. She did this with Green as well, but not as much. She admonished Mills for having an attitude during the incident as well. She told him he needed to deescalate the situation for his own safety. I didn’t agree with that. There is much data that shows no amount of compliance or “niceness” will stop the law enforcer from using inappropriate force with the presumed black criminal. The racially profiled victim is at the mercy of the law enforcer and their level of fear and aggression.

Had Jerome Mils been white he would have been treated differently. I bet the “concerned” citizens wouldn’t have reported him as suspicious. You are only suspicious if existing while black. If you are existing while black, there is no presumption of innocence or benefit of the doubt. David Green didn’t understand any of the admonitions Judge Mablean gave him about his duty to inform. He saw no problem with his actions. He was afraid, essentially, afraid of the black monster before him. How does one combat that fear in so many who wear badges and carry guns? If it’s not fear, it is outright aggression. Both are equally dangerous.

This is the second episode of this sort of case. There was another case of a white man suing a black employee of the business where he was employed as a security guard. He blamed the employee for causing him to lose his job. The black employee accused the security guard of harassing him as he entered and exited the business to and from work. The black employee accused the security guard of telling racist jokes and subjecting him to daily searches each time he left work. He didn’t do this to any of the other employees who all happened to be white. The black employee audio recorded the security guard and caught the white security guard saying he would do to him what George Zimmerman did to Trayvon Martin. When the black employee sent the recording to the owners, the security guard was fired. Judge Mablean ruled on behalf of the black employee.

I wonder if the producers solicit these cases? I was surprised to see two of this sort.

The Privilege of Obtuseness

I was watching Jimmy Kimmel’s interview with Robert Pattinson last night. As per usual, he was sort of awkward and clueless when he responded to questions. Jimmy asked him where all his belongings were since he was now homeless again. He bumbled through the answer. At first he wasn’t sure where his belongings were. Then he kind of remembered that his stuff might be in a storage unit somewhere. I balked at his responses sleepily–it was late. I mumbled something like, “Oh those rich celebrities and the privilege of their obtuseness…how does he not know where his stuff is?  Rich people can afford to be obtuse. I know where all my stuff is.”

My husband chuckled at me, but was noncommittal. That got me to thinking. It really is a privilege of the rich and famous to be obtuse. When you have personal assistants at your beck and call, it is their job to schedule your life. As Robert Pattinson sat at Jimmy’s desk, I imagined his agent or assistant or both along with a plethora of stylists and others in his entourage ensuring that he got to his scheduled appointments on time and dressed. I’m sure they know where his stuff is.

There is another option. He could be play acting–being deliberately obtuse. Deliberate obtuseness is a penchant of the rich, famous, and those in power. I remember in another life I worked for an Executive Director who never had a clue about certain details. She was sharp and shrewd, but she would always ask these questions that made me wonder, “Are you that clueless?” I soon realized that she could empty her brain of such mundane details since we, her minions, were at the ready, happy to supply the answer.

Well I have never been able to be obtuse. I’m not rich, famous, or powerful. I always know where my stuff is.

Disclaimer: Robert Pattinson was not harmed in the writing of this post. I am indifferent towards R.P.