Thursday, August 13, 2015

Interacting With Police

Today, we hear over and over how police single out blacks for abuse. I am sure there are many times when this is the case because we find racism everywhere. There are other forms of prejudices that are rampant. Because of past violence, there is sometimes prejudices against bikers. Bikers have often been stopped simply because of their mode of transportation and appearance. The LGBT community also faces discrimination by police.

At my old work place, black employee sometimes numerically equaled those of whites. The break room was often filled with some interesting discussions on race. In one instance, a coworker and I were discussing the local theater that operated during the days of Jim Crow laws. During those times, blacks were required to sit in the balcony, with whites on the main floor. As a young child, I didn't understood the separation of races. My black friend was amused that I often wondered why black people got the best seats. We laughed at how the young can have such a different prospective on life. While I saw one thing, he felt trapped at the time. Some theaters in the area placed blacks on the main floor, with whites in the balcony. Apparently it was more about separating the races than giving whites the better seats, at lest in this instance.

I only mention this to show how perspective can change how we view the world around us. During that time at work, many of us were bikers that regularly attended Myrtle Beach Bike Week. Somewhere along the line this event turned into two weeks, one for whites and one for blacks. The Myrtle Beach rally is the third oldest in the USA. This is a weekend/week where Harley riders all over the country congregate for fun and games. Because most Harley riders were white, that became white bike week as black sport-bike fans came the week after to celebrate Memorial weekend at Atlantic Beach, a traditional black beach.

During Harley week, we have our share of arrests. Anytime alcohol is involved, you will have fights, but for the most part, crime is down that week. I have had more than one police officer tell me that they look forward to that week because bikers were better behaved than the golfers that typically fill the resort town. Bikers know they are under special scrutiny that week, so make an effort to behave within reason. During the weekend, the favorite biker bar was surrounded by ATF, DEA, FBI, and SLED—South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. During the many years I attended the event, police were usually fair. They had a few strict rules that if you obeyed, many others were overlooked. Even marijuana smoking was overlooked as long as it wasn't flaunted in their face. A couple of the strict rules were no drinking on streets and sidewalks, as well as no nudity.

I only attended the first couple days of black bike week. Even with just few stragglers entering town, I could see a remarkable difference, such as loud cursing and urinating on the sidewalk. Some business owners told me closing that week saved them a lot of repairs that cut deeply into profits.

My black friends at work complained they were harassed by police during bike week. When I mentioned the reason for that harassment, they simply told me whites didn't know how to have fun – that we are prudes. I've drank side by side with Hells Angels and Pagans, but never imagined they could be viewed as prudes. If not raping and shooting each other is being a prude, then I guess Harley riders are just that, prudes. I say Harley riders because not all were white, but were the majority.

At the end of the day, I believe the main difference is how we interacted with police. If you want trouble, police are sometimes too eager to oblige. Personally, I have found that I'd rather check my ego at the door and not spend a night in jail. During my teens I had a police officer that harassed me for no reason. He looked for any chance to arrest me. This continued until he was fired. I learned later that it was a personal matter that involved a cousin. If I hadn't been close friends with the sheriff's son, who knows what might have happened to me. These encounters did teach me how to deal with police. I learned quickly that fighting and shouting got me nowhere. I learned you can calmly argue your point to resolve the situation, such as the time when I was detained for possible Grand Theft Auto. Because I didn't kick and punch a police officer, I walked away a few hours later, free of any crime.

There is a time and place to fight when you have been wrongly detained. Even police officers are human and can lose their temper. If you have two people out of control, nothing will end well for either party. You might end up dead or badly injured and the officer could go to jail. But it would have been better if you resolved the issue and went home to your family. Violence always begets violence.

We do need citizen review boards for police officers, or even government in general. There is bad behavior in all aspects of government. I recently called the police for a theft and he looked down on me because my stolen lawnmower wasn't his favorite brand. The windows smashed from my car didn't seem to matter because it was a battered 1987 Ford. So yes, I am aware that the police are not perfect. I know some think they are better than the poor. This doesn't mean violence against police will solve our problems.

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