Category Archive 'Charles Blow'

27 Jan 2015

Contemplating Black Privilege

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PolicemanwGun

The Yale Alumni Magazine is full of chin-stroking and thumb-sucking over the scandal of the century: the Yale undergraduate son of a black NYT columnist being stopped by a Yale Police Department officer looking for a burglary suspect, having a gun pointed at him, and being forced to lie on the ground.

The NYT columnist, Charles Blow, yesterday contended that his son’s encounter with that Yale cop was terribly (and permanently) traumatic.

[T]]he scars cannot be unmade. My son will always carry the memory of the day he left his college library and an officer trained a gun on him.

Yale President Peter Salovey, yesterday afternoon, acknowledged too the “personal pain” experienced by many in the bien pensant community at this outrageous example of racial lèse majesté.

All of which brought back to my mind decades-old memories of cops pointing guns at me the time I shot that rapist in New York. Regular readers may remember my mentioning the incident once previously. I was Chief Operating Officer of a Manhattan real estate company. I used to stay in the city during the week, setting up some kind of temporary bedroom in the immediate vicinity of my temporary office, located for convenience in the building currently undergoing the most extensive renovation.

I got a call near midnight from a tenant on the top floor who said that a woman was screaming on the roof. I borrowed the super’s .22 rifle and went up and found a rape in progress. Naturally, I made a citizen’s arrest of the rapist, but in the long course of walking him down six flights of stairs, he made a break for it and tried to escape. I cried Halt! and fired a warning shot, but he kept running, saying as he moved away: “You ain’t gonna shoot me, man. You ain’t gonna shoot nobody.” So I shot him. Intentionally, in the center of the left calf, so that if I were to wind up getting sued, the amount of damage and risk of fatal injury would be minimal.

He screamed, fell to the ground, and bled a lot. At which point, my super arrived, and I told Sam to call the cops. In a short while, multiple police cars came screaming up to the building on East 13th Street. Cops piled out of those cars, all drawing their pistols and aiming them at me. “Drop the gun!” the police demanded, overlooking the fact that I was holding it with the muzzle pointed in the air and my hand outside the trigger guard. “Here,” I said, “I’m handing it to you.” And they ran up, took the rifle, handcuffed me, and stuck me in the back of a police car.

It was obvious to me at the time that, had I made one injudicious move, those cops would have panicked and riddled me with lead. I was a mite perturbed at the time that those New York City cops could not instantly perceive that I was a good citizen rather than a criminal, and I was mildly alarmed at having looked down the barrel of so many pistols with so many fingers on their triggers. But, c’est la vie! They didn’t actually shoot me, so I figured no harm, no foul.

Unlike the sensitive Messrs. Blow père et fils, I can’t even say that I ever bore any particular psychic scars over having pistols pointed at me.

Also unlike the more fortunate Mr. Blow minor, I actually did get arrested. In defiance of the statute, which authorized the use of deadly force by a citizen making an arrest in such circumstances, I was arrested, tossed into the New York City jail system for days prior to being arraigned, and then had to face a Grand Jury deciding about whether to affirm proposed charges of First Degree Armed Assault (and incidental –never really discussed– Gun Law violations). I’d say that spending days in the filthy New York City jails, incurring serious legal expenses, and experiencing the jeopardy of possible prosecution and conviction for a major felony were all a bit traumatic, though I have certainly gotten over all of them. Being actually arrested, jailed, and potentially charged are all much bigger deals than being accosted by a cop or even having (very briefly) a gun pointed at you.

(If anybody is really interested in my shooting a rapist story, I put the scrapbook of documents on line a while back.)

Now I know that what a liberal like Mr. Blow will say is: Harummph! Well, you can skip shooting rapists and not get in any trouble, Zincavage, but I and my son were born African-American and cannot avoid getting profiled on the basis of the color of our skin.

To which I would reply: True, you can’t do anything about your skin color or ethnicity. Yet, it is actually pretty easy for a bourgeois chap of African-American descent to increase very significantly the odds of police recognizing his elite social status simply by dressing like a preppy. If Mr. Blow minor had left Sterling Library the other day wearing a J. Press Harris tweed sport coat, khacki trousers, and a tie, what are the odds that the Yale cop could possibly have confused him with the resident of New Haven recently guilty of burglarizing Trumbull College?

All this, too, demonstrates the need for fellows like Charles Blow to recognize the national extent of Black Privilege. His son gets stopped briefly, questioned, and immediately released by a Yale cop, and that trivial incident provokes national navel-gazing and serious debate.

I, a white and Lithuanian Yalie, got arrested, tossed in the calaboose for days with the roaches crawling everywhere, and I got, at the time, a joking reference in a humor column in Time Magazine. So much for Equality, Mr. Blow!

26 Jan 2015

NYT Times Columnist Offended By Son’s Questioning By Yale University Police

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CharlesBlow
NYT’s columnist Charles Blow

The politics of racial privilege marches endlessly onward.

Last week, Yale University experienced a minor crime wave consisting of a series of thefts from undergraduate residential colleges on York & Elm Streets.

Oldest College Daily:

On Jan. 15, Michael Cruciger ’15 had his laptop stolen from his Trumbull College common room in entryway J. Another student in the same entryway reported his wallet missing, and Axell Meza ’16 said an unknown man entered his common room claiming to be looking for “Josh.” On the same night, Kartik Srivastava ’17 said that while he was sleeping, his wallet was taken from a desk no less than a foot from his person, and his suitemate’s checkbook was taken. Transactions had been made on Srivastava’s debit card, and his suitemate’s checks had been cashed, he said.

Several days later, laptops and an iPad were stolen from a suite in Lanman-Wright Hall, the freshman residence for Berkeley and Pierson colleges.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, another pair of students in Trumbull encountered an intruder in their suite. Although the Yale Police Department reported that they had arrested a suspect in connection with the Saturday afternoon intruder in the Trumbull College suite, they initially targeted the wrong individual. Later that day, Tahj Blow ’16, son of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, was confronted at gunpoint by a YPD officer because he allegedly matched the description of the suspect. …

Mr. Blow responded to learning that his son had been stopped and questioned by Yale University Police because he matched the description of the suspect, “tall, African-American, college-aged student wearing a black jacket and a red and white hat,” by having a conniption fit on Twitter:

CharlesBlowTweets

And in his column in the Times:

When I spoke to my son, he was shaken up. I, however, was fuming.

Now, don’t get me wrong: If indeed my son matched the description of a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questioned appropriately. School is his community, his home away from home, and he would have appreciated reasonable efforts to keep it safe. The stop is not the problem; the method of the stop is the problem.

Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?

What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.

My son was unarmed, possessed no plunder, obeyed all instructions, answered all questions, did not attempt to flee or resist in any way.

This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious “club.”

When that moment came, I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him about how to conduct himself if a situation like this ever occurred. Yet I was brewing with sadness and anger that he had to use that advice.

I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.

There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.

The dean of Yale College and the campus police chief have apologized and promised an internal investigation, and I appreciate that. But the scars cannot be unmade. My son will always carry the memory of the day he left his college library and an officer trained a gun on him.

Demands for special consideration and regard for American Americans as recompense for a system of involuntary servitude ended a hundred and fifty years ago and a system of regional segregation ended fifty years ago never seem to end and, indeed, keep escalating.

Black privilege, these days, is considered by its loudest advocates to include immunity to profiling by police in defiance of the obvious reality that essentially all crime in places like New Haven, Connecticut is committed by African Americans.

Mr. Blow implicitly demands that police should start treating all suspected criminals, without regard to the well-known propensity of many belonging to that category to be illegally-armed and readily capable of murderous violence, as if they were all respectable citizens.

Evidently Mr. Blow believes that, in order to avoid offending the amour propre of the rara avis upper middle class African American the police officer might encounter one day, he ought never to draw his gun first or insist upon immobilizing any gangbanger from the Hood. All police officers should simply trust to the benevolence of humanity. Protecting the police officer’s life is, from Mr. Blow’s perspective, less important than the possibility that psychic scars might be inflicted upon some black haute bourgeoisie by being confronted with lethal force or by being briefly treated with less than the customary reverence he is accustomed to receiving.

Needless to say, few police officers, black or white, are likely to share Mr. Blow’s priorities.


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