Racism where the sidewalk ends

Life in sunny Tucson is good. I’m sunny most of the time but shit happens that’s hard to take. What I wanted to write about today was last weekend’s stimulating, fun Tucson Festival of Books; finding my mother-of-the-groom dress in Berkeley a few weeks ago; or reading “Breaking Stalin’s Nose,” a terrific middle-grade chapter book by Eugene Yelchin.

Instead,  I’m concerned about the perversion of my beloved 14th Amendment. (I hoped my high school U.S. history students would always remember its meaning: Equal Protection under the Law. It was the most important amendment, I told them, and if in 30 years we ran into each other walking down the street, “Blurt it out.”)

My recurring concern hit me this morning, although it was one of my typical sunny days.

needed a pedicure. A friend was having a ladies’ birthday luncheon at the Westward Look. My chipped turquoise nails looked crappy.

Luckily, Melissa at Nails2GoGo could schedule an appointment for me at 9 a.m. Melissa is a smart, gritty single mother who works six days a week to support five kids. She used to work two jobs — one as a nail technician and one as a smartphone technician. Now that Melissa has only one job she smiles more and seems less tired whenever I show up for my monthly pedicure.

Melissa and I talk about real stuff, except when I check out for one of her fantastic foot massages. Her hands are strong, like her. I respect her stamina and cannot fathom how she works so hard.

Today Melissa tells me that her 18-year-old son received a police citation  for walking in the street instead of on the existing sidewalk. “It’s ironic that there is no sidewalk in our neighborhood,” she says.

On the day of the incident Melissa had just returned home from a long day of work. She saw the police in front of her house. When she got out of her car one of Tucson’s finest directed her to go inside, but she refused.

Her son will have to appear in court. I wish a local attorney would take this on-the-surface ludicrous case, argue it in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oh, did I mention that Melissa’s son is black? No matter what your socioeconomic status, if you’re the President of the United States or the son of a New York Times columnist who’s a student at Yale, or an 18-year-old high school student wrestler — if you’re a black male in the so-called land of the free, Beware.

Dammit. This isn’t right.






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7 Responses to Racism where the sidewalk ends

  1. Catherine says:

    Hey Sheila,
    Ludicrous is the word. Aren’t we free to step on or off a sidewalk and down the center of the road(even if unwise)? I can’t help but think of that police officer as nothing but a power monger and thug.

  2. sheilawill says:

    Thanks Catherine! One would think so if we’re paying any attention to the 14th Amendment!

  3. sydvinflynn says:

    What an appalling story! Thank you for posting it. It seems that the Civil Rights movement never happened.S and V

  4. sheilawill says:

    You’re welcome S and V! I agree.

  5. Barb says:

    Sheila, thanks for sharing this story. It’s hard to believe that the cops would be so blatant, but after hearing too many other stories like this, I have no doubt that it happens all the time. My heart goes out to Melissa and her son.

    I—privileged, reasonably-well-off, white lady—am frightened by the cops, who are intimidating, laden with their weapons. And I of course have relatively little to fear from them. I can’t stand what our country has become. It seems as though the election (twice) of a black man has driven the racist bullies crazy. More likely, this has been going on forever, but now we see it more clearly.

    I can only hope that it’s the dying gasp of a dwindling culture of oppression. It would be fantastic to have a case like this make it to the Supreme Court.

    Of course, there’s so much more that needs to be done to fix less obvious entrenched racist policies.

    Speaking out is important. Thanks again.

  6. Gail says:

    Yes, thanks for posting the story. Jim Crow is alive and well.

  7. sheilawill says:

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
    –Martin Luther King Jr.

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