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.
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 pÃ¨re 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!