The “Double Standard”

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Here’s to hoping your 4th of July celebrations were without incident, and that you, your friends and family experienced a fun filled day!  I stayed in most of the day for a variety of reasons.  I had a little “side work” to complete on my computer, and I just wanted to “hunker down” and meditate on memories of my father, Isaac H. Cook … He was my hero though we didn’t always agree.  He wanted me to play baseball and I didn’t like it so much.  My dad had played baseball in the “Dirty South”, and like many youngsters then, had aspirations of playing in “The Negro League”.  He never achieved that dream and had his own heroes like “Satchel” Paige, and, while he never told me to “just play sports”, there was no question that baseball was the sport he liked most.  For me, it was basketball and track … even football for a while, though I did play little league baseball for several years in the City of White Plains Recreation Department’s “youth league”.

He literally died in my arms as bone marrow cancer claimed his last few breaths …  I used to walk with him around the “block” at the Grant House where he and my mother moved after living in the Winbrook Housing Project on South Lexington Avenue in White Plains for most of the children in our family’s youth.  While at the Grant House, still on South Lexington Ave. just one hundred numbers up, my parents even helped to raise my oldest sister’s two children until they were able to get on “their own feet”!  They were the BEST with me, putting up with ALL of our “not so good” behaviors.  He is the reason that I take my recent health challenge of prostate cancer so seriously …  It was his birthday yesterday, so I wanted to spend some time alone just meditating …

I have been staying in a local hostel near the airport in Ft. Lauderdale until my flight to Barcelona, Spain in two weeks.  There is a French guy named Alexandre Schmid from France who is also staying there, and we have become associates.  We decided to go to the beach together to enjoy the last few hours of daylight from 4pm or so until the Fireworks Celebration on A-1-A Beach and Las Olas Blvd.  “Alex” and I took the bus down the 17th Street Causeway to A-1-A to Las Olas and I signaled the bus to stop near Beach Place.  There were barriers made of metal on both sides of the street for the safety of pedestrians as there was bumper to bumper traffic being directed by Ft. Lauderdale Police Department Officers as well as Public Safety Aides.  It was hot!  The bus stopped to let us off on the “ocean side” of A-1-A and we had to walk along the barriers, which were connected up and down both sides of the street.  My friend “Alex” started to disconnect the barriers so we could get onto the sidewalk.  But, since we had maybe 15 – 20 yards before arriving at the intersection, I suggested that Alex NOT touch the barriers as I did not think that the “police” would want us to.  Within seconds, a motorcycle police officer drove past us yelling, “Get out of the street!”  He had gone past us as I said, “Where do you want us to go?”  I was asking a genuine question. By this time, we were maybe 10 steps from the intersection where there were no barriers.  The motorcycle officer stopped his motorcycle and came directly to me and stated yelling, “Sit down on the curb and show me your identification!!”  I looked at him in surprise that this was what he wanted me to do and started to take my wallet out and gave him my driver’s license.  He again yelled, with all of the “bumper to bumper” traffic, hotter than hot out there, “Sit down on the curb!”  I once again looked into his face which showed a hatred and anger that I had seen before … and I told him in a stern voice, “What are you stopping me for?!”  He then said, “If I have to tell you again to sit down on the curb again …” I looked him squarely in the face and replied, “I have arthritis in both of my hips …”  He then walked to the barrier, lifted it up so I could walk through, ordered my friend Alex to keep going, and told me to sit on the wall of the sidewalk separating the sand on the beach from the sidewalk where hundreds of people were enjoying themselves and casually walking by.  He stated, “You shouldn’t be walking in the street!”  I replied, “That is where the bus dropped us off at!” He replied, “I don’t care!”  Alex took four more steps and stopped to observe what would happen next.  The officer again yelled, “Now sit down!”  I looked at him as if he were a patient in a psychiatric hospital, allowing a few people who were walking by to have the “right of way” as his anger grew due to the fact that I was moving slowly and respecting pedestrians who were walking by on the crowded street on the “beach side” of A-1-A.  The officer’s anger grew as he was clearly losing control.  I asked him, “What are you stopping me for?  I have a master’s degree and am intelligent enough to know that you have to tell me why you are detaining me!”  He said, “If you have a master’s degree, why didn’t you remove the barrier?!  You will see why I am detaining you when I come back with your ticket!”, and began to walk away as if he were triumphant.

The motorcycle cop then ordered a female officer to stand close to me and make sure  that I didn’t move …  I was in the shade, my friend Alex was leaning on the barrier waiting to see what would happen next and the female officer glared at me as if she were part of a big “sting”.  I turned my back to her, took out my cell phone and took a couple of photographs.  I then dialed a friend and began to explain to her in Spanish what was going down.  She suggested I stay calm, which I was, and that the whole incident was ridiculous.  I agreed and told her that I would call back when all was over.  The motorcycle officer was joined by a second motorcycle officer and together they scoured my “history” for nearly 20 minutes.  I sat patiently and began to enjoy the music pumping from a tent of Caribbean folks on the beach and began to move to the rhythm as I waited for my license.  I knew what the officers were doing … it is common … looking for some “open warrant”, probation or anything that they could use to detain me further and possibly arrest me.  I haven’t been in that position for over ten years so I knew that they weren’t going to find anything and continued to focus on the ocean, the celebration and the happy people.  Finally, Sgt. G. Schoen walked over to my turned back, handed me my license and … a ticket for “Fail Use Sidewalk” … says to me, “Have a nice day, sir”, and walked away.  My friend Alex was NOT given any warning nor ticket and we were doing EXACTLY the same thing … I had just answered the motorcycle cop back when he yelled “get out of the street” … and … I was “walking while black”.  Even Alex said, “What a fuckin racist!”

If you look closely … or distantly … you will see the double standard.  And of course, if you have been brainwashed like many folks to believe that I … or any other African American male needs to be quiet … you won’t see any double standard!

Have a great day … I sure am … and will plead not guilty as there is no court appearance required for this “nonsensical ticket”.  I will file a complaint against officer Sgt. Schoen.  I know it won’t go far … but I will ALWAYS answer anyone back.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director
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