The U.S.A. has never been a place to take change easily, even a slight change of the status quo. I am a 1950’s baby who experienced a lot of backlash under Jim Crow Laws in Louisiana until age 12, the turbulent 1960’s-70’s with peaceful (that turned violent with “law enforcement intervention”!) Civil Rights protests/demonstrations , under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, to name a few of the Civil Rights Leaders of that time period I respected and, more or less, followed by attending some of their events and read literature they wrote. I was not a participant in protests by the Black Panthers (of Oakland, CA area, even though I was a student at UC Berkeley at the time, 1968-76, and many of my acquaintances participated. I am more of a meek, mild, humble Southerner, who advocate freedom, justice for all!)
As you can research and read yourself, often times law enforcement arrived at these peaceful, fully protected by 1st Amendment Rights (for all?!!) protests, often times resulting in bloody arrests, and sometimes even death. It’s a wonder Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his life up until age 39, with the numerous arrests of humiliation he endured as a God fearing minister and advocate of freedom and justice for all! They (his enemies!) had to have him assasinated, preparing to leave for one of his many Civil Rights Protests for marginalized people of varying issues, instead of being outright horribly lynched like was customary during that time (Black male victums were often times found beaten, blooded, and lynched from a tree, across the U.S.A.!)…at least he was allowed some dignity! Thanks for small favors, enemies of justice.
In 1969, I experienced police harassment first-hand, myself, even as an African American female…during that period of time it was unusual for an African American female to experience police brutality or harassment, unless they were apart of, as I recall and can imagine, a Black Panther Party Demonstration, which I still never got any first-hand information about. I lived in Berkeley and Oakland from 1968-1976. It always baffled me that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) never ever, in my recollection from media reports or otherwise, had not one bloody demonstration any where in the U.S. with law enforcement! Doesn’t sound like equal justice and protection under the law, to me!!
Anyhow, back to my experience with police harassment: I was about eighteen and half years old, a Freshman at UC Berkeley, living in Davidson Hall Dormitory on campus, minding my own business driving the new Buick Opel Cadet my parents had given me as a high school graduation present. I driving along Shattuck Avenue to go shopping, from my dorm on Haste Avenue, when lo and behold, a cop car with red lights flashing pulled me over to the curb. The cop came over to my driver’s side and demanded: “where are you going, boy?” I actually wore a short Afro haircut at that time, and in his ignorance and bias mind I was a “boy”, even though I clearly had on earrings ! (Guys didn’t wear earrings at that time.) Nevertheless, I responded that I was a girl and was out shopping from my dorm on campus…he seemed a bit embarassed, but not much, no apology , he just said o.k., and walked away! He probably wanted to initially say to me: “what are you doing driving this car, boy?!” He more than likely assumed I was driving a stolen vehicle! After that experience, I could certainly empathesize with the numerous African American male friends and classmates who shared experiences of police harassment (and physical brutality in some cases!) with me, whether they were from working class, middle class, or upper class African American families…whether their fathers were doctors, lawyers, small business owners, construction workers, or whatever.
These kinds of experiences are claimed by many African Americans, even more so since the 1970’s…it’s gotten increasingly worse, for either gender, male or female! What’s the old saying: “Stopped while driving Black!” (whether you are driving a vehicle, jogging, walking, in your own home, etc.) It’s another story, to be discussed another time, how and at what age African American families of the past thirty-plus years, until nowadays, have to counsel their young boys and girls how to behave and what attitude to maintain when approached by law enforcement!
Like many of us Civil Rights Advocates believe: you can change policies and laws a lot easier than hearts! We’re for sure and most definitely inching along…