Thursday, February 16, 2012

Black & White and Read All Over

Have you guys heard/read this story? It was all over the news yesterday morning:
White Grandfather Detained While Walking With Black Granddaughter: Scott Henson Cuffed By Texas Police
A crime and politics blogger living in Austin, Texas, claims he was cuffed and detained by police for simply walking home with his five-year-old granddaughter.
The reason this happened, he says, is because he is white and she is HERE to read the rest of the Huffington Post story...

And here is Scott Henson's own telling of the story as it appears on his blog (about the criminal justice system), Grits for Breakfast:

Me, APD, and 'Babysitting While White,' Part Deux

A few years back Grits posed the question, "Is babysitting while white reasonable suspicion for police questioning?" after my granddaughter and I were detained and questioned at length in my neighborhood on suspicion of some nefarious deed (it was never quite clear what). In that incident, the police were pretty clear I was stopped solely because Ty, like her mother (who came to live with my wife and me when she was a child) is black, while I'm an almost stereotypical looking white Texas redneck. At the time, Grits was amazed that three squad cars were dispatched to question me for walking down the street with a child of a different race, detaining me for no good reason and scaring the bejeezus out of then-two-year old HERE to read the entire post...

I'm not sure how I feel about the incident. On one hand, I can understand why the police approached the grandfather and his granddaughter (if an older Caucasian man kidnapped Sabine and every older white man with a young, black girl seen nearby was detained, I would not be disappointed). On the other hand, I think the police handled themselves and the situation ridiculously. But the police, in most cities it seems, aren't known for their finesse, fair-mindedness or appropriateness.

All I know is that it sucks to think that a five year old had to have this experience when she was simply walking down the street with her grandpa. I think the blog description Scott Henson (the grandfather) wrote detailing what happened is much more thorough and informative than the Huffington Post article. I promise you that this little girl will never forget the chaos and fear she experienced that day or the fact that her grandfather was painted and treated so negatively. Her grandfather, even though it was temporary, was assumed to be a criminal or a pervert simply because the police were looking for a difference in skin color.

Again, it makes some sense that the police approached the pair. It doesn't make sense that they handled it the way they did. And it doesn't make sense that no matter how close this girl and her grandpa are; no matter how much natural and unconditional love they have between the two of them, their difference in appearance--and therefore their relationship--will be the first thing people notice, a curiosity, and something that will be questioned for a longtime to come.


Jessica said...

This was one of my husband's worst fears before we had a baby. Then the baby came out - awfully light skinned. Instead it's me who is subject to many questions. I guess I should consider myself fortunate that I'm a woman and not likely to come under that kind of suspicion?

Laura Mauk said...

Yes, men seem to automatically suffer the pervert/criminal assumption. This is why my husband keeps to himself at the park. If a child falls and the mother isn't nearby, he doesn't dare touch them.


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