When Children Become Strangers In A Strange Land

by Burr Deming

I cannot claim to be diligent about exercise.

It has been years since I ran or even walked for any purpose other than getting some short distance away.


It isn’t a defiance of mild medical admonition, exactly. It’s more an issue of time. Sometimes what is most important is not what is most urgent. At least that’s the story I tell myself.

I still see folks as I commute. You can tell the people doing their daily obligation to health and wellbeing. They do the same thing I sometimes did in my less sedentary days. I carried a stick. It was for a couple of reasons.

It signaled to me that it was time to adopt a fitness persona. Tired? Keep running because I had the stick.

But it was also for early morning or late night protection. I’m pretty big and kind of dopey looking. So nobody is likely to bother me. And walking in most neighborhoods is safer than you might think. But why take chances?

So I see folks walking or running with their sticks in hand, and I know they’re exercising.

A few years ago, one early morning walker in Montgomery, Alabama, suddenly found himself surrounded by police. Officers from two patrol cars were joined by another on a motorcycle. They questioned the man. Did he just come from South Perry Street? As questioning went on, the reason became apparent. The police had a report of someone walking with a crowbar.

Walking with a crowbar?

After a bit, the man challenged the officers. Wasn’t it apparent that he was carrying a walking stick? And about that crowbar. Was it really illegal to walk with a crowbar?

The police were polite. No, they said. Crowbars are legal. So are sticks. But when they get that type of call, they have to check it out.

That type of call.

So they were prepared to stop any black man carrying anything at all because of a call saying someone saw a black man carrying something. The man was irritated at being stopped simply because someone was suspicious of a black man walking down the wrong street.

In this case, the man the police stopped was a Circuit Court Judge for the County of Montgomery. He showed them his badge, and that was the end of the interrogation. The police left and the Circuit Court Judge continued walking.

It was an experience shared by many black people. Those of us with black children know about “the talk.” Children must be taught that tragic consequences can come from an encounter with a malevolent officer, or with even a normally friendly officer having an abnormally bad day. Truly good officers provide safety, but there is no way to tell. No-one wears a badge that says “I’m one of the many good ones.”

If the officer is black, it is no guarantee of fairness. Neither abuse of authority nor fairness in the use of that authority is color-coded. Abuse can come at any time, and black citizens may become an inviting target.

So irritation must be suppressed. Argument must be avoided. Hands must always be visible. Make no sudden moves that might be seen as threatening. We want our children back home, alive and unbruised.

Fear of police abuse is a burden shared by police and many of the citizens they protect.

Judge Greg Griffen wrote of his experience in a post on Facebook. He mentioned the courtesy shown by the police, and later pointed out that one of the officers was black. But he described his irritation at being stopped for no apparent reason other than his race and the walking stick.

A few days later, he posted a separate Facebook entry with a photo of himself shaking hands with the Chief of Police. “We discussed the incident.”Then in caps, “WE ARE OK!”

Sometimes encounters with the police do not have a happy ending. When death results, and there is probable cause, an officer may become a defendant. Occasionally, a presiding judge may be black, perhaps even a black citizen who has been irritated by a police stop. It is not, after all, a rare experience.

Early last year, a 58 year old man was walking home from an after-work card game when he was stopped for questioning by a police officer. It was a high-crime area, and the officer later said he wanted to conduct a “field interview.” The officer testified that the man ran from him, then turned and attacked him with a long-poled paint roller.

The citizen’s version will be forever unknown. He was killed.

Medical evidence showed the deceased man had been tased multiple times, beaten with a baton, then shot 5 times. A baseball cap was still tightly clutched in his hand, making the described paint roller attack difficult. His fingerprints were not on the pole.

The shooting was investigated by the Alabama State Police. They reported the officer changed his story during their inquiry, eventually saying he was not sure about the roller attack. His cruiser camera and his body camera were both off during the fatal encounter.

The police officer was charged with murder.

It was already a politically charged case when it landed in the court of Judge Greg Griffen. Attorneys for the accused officer are demanding that Judge Griffen be disqualified. Their reasoning? official misconduct.

Judge Griffen had criticized his own early morning stop by police. The attorneys describe the incident as “eerily similar” to what happened to the deceased man on his way home from a card game.

This Honorable Court was so enraged by this incident that it wrote several comments pertaining to the same on a social media site proclaiming its disgust with the Montgomery Police Department…

The specific impropriety by the judge pertains to the case. Judge Griffen may have to decide:

…whether Mr. Smith, a white officer, was justified in stopping Mr. Gunn, a black mane(sic)

They meant a black man.

I suppose legal briefs must often be expressed in exaggerated terms. It is hard to find any part of social media in which Judge Greg Griffen “proclaimed” his “disgust with the Montgomery Police Department.” He did point out the courtesy of the police, but added that

it was aggravating to be detained when the only thing I was guilty of was being a black man walking down the street in his neighborhood with a stick in his hand.

Seems a reasonably restrained reaction. And the experience of being randomly stopped and questioned is more commonly shared by black citizens than is generally acknowledged.

It is common enough to make a common sense point:

If a black judge who has had a common black experience must be disqualified from deciding if “a white officer … was justified in stopping … a black mane” (that would be “man”) then we have moved to a place we hoped we had left. We have graduated to a challenge against any black judge in any case of alleged misconduct by an accused white officer.

It seems predictable that racial logic would begin the journey through our judicial system. We have had a clear warning.

I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage.

Donald Trump, June 3, 2016

So what happens is the judge who happens to be, we believe, Mexican…

Donald Trump, May 27, 2016

Why, why did you refer to his ethnicity, Donald?

Well, because his heritage is Mexican.

Donald Trump, June 5, 2016

Some slopes really are slippery. The logic of ethnic determinism is pushing us into massive tragedy, and a national disgrace.

You know what I want? I want dreamers to come from this country … I want dreamers to come from the United States … We’re always talking about dreamers for other people.

Donald Trump, February 15, 2016

Other people.

800,000 can seem like a statistic, until one or two appear before us. When individuals are seen for what they are – individuals – it becomes difficult to regard them as numbers, to be totaled up and sent away. One young adult fights back tears as she testifies to us on camera.

I have pledged allegiance to the flag for, like, 21 years.

Tania Breton, Morristown, NJ, on NJTV

We can multiply Tania Breton by hundreds of thousands.

I can’t change what my parents did.

800,000 Americans who have known no other life than that of an American are told to leave their country, to become, as it is put in Exodusstrangers in a strange land. Not knowing new local language, unfamiliar with new local customs, alien to new local people.

Some national leaders are speaking up in their defense:

Efforts to round up kids who have grown up here, and for all practical purposes are American kids, and send them someplace else, when they love this country.

President Barack Obama, January 18, 2017

The median age I think is six years old for those 800,000 when they came across the border. They should not be punished for the sins of their parents.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), September 3, 2017

The logic that would disqualify one judge because of common racial injustices, and condemns another because of the ethnicity of his parents, is now applied to teenagers and young adults. They are to be rounded up and exiled for the desperate sins of survival committed years ago by parents living on the edge.

We are shocked but not surprised, that this:

Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage.

can so easily become this:

We’re always talking about dreamers for other people.

Via Fair and Unbalanced

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Posted by on September 10, 2017. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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One Response to When Children Become Strangers In A Strange Land

  1. Michael John Scott Reply

    September 10, 2017 at 11:17 am

    One has to wonder what happened to us? Since the election of an incompetent to the highest office in the land America has lost its position in the world, and has taken positions that threaten who we are. I’m scared for us. All of us.

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