“Go ahead, make my day”: Videos and citizen-police confrontations

Of course everything going on in Ferguson and the rest of the country is on people’s minds nowadays. In New York today there was a demonstration that many people joined in midtown to show solidarity with protesters all across the U.S. There are commentaries on every side about what the purpose of such demonstrations are, how they’re different from the 1960s (lower risk, more like a publicity stunt than actual protests), what will happen 3-6 months down the road…but no matter what, it’s on people’s minds and lips. And that’s a good thing.

I saw today a headline that caught my eye: “Black Man Detained By White Police Officer For Walking With His Hands In His Pockets.” The video was made over the weekend and takes place in Pontiac, Michigan, where a police officer was called because, well, you saw the title. Insane…ridiculous…and yet not so surprising given what our country’s lazy, noncommittal view of racial profiling has been over the last few years.

When I watched the video, it struck me as absurd – yet so indicative of our technophilic culture – that both the man being stopped by the camera and the cop used their phones to record what was going on in video. Was it fear? Was it a desire to document what he thought might get ugly? Or was it just that anything that happens in any social sphere – be it a birthday party, a drunken mishap, a disaster, a case of (a probably White) someone calling the cops because they thought (a Black) someone else looked suspicious – must be transformed into an externalized event and put online for all to see?

It was like four people, not two, were at the scene in Pontiac, Michigan. But yet I imagine Black men all over this country are making sure to bring their cell phone with them, in case something happens. Now that the police are under fire, perhaps it’s the same with them. While I get it, I get the apprehension about the guy on the other side of what has become a nasty dividing line, it saddens me that a little more distance and tension even than usual have been put into place between them.



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