MY TURN-I have lived in the same house in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles for over 30 years, where up until now I have had little or no interaction with the Los Angeles Police Department.
And yet in the last two weeks, I have had two separate and rather suspicious encounters with the police.
Could this have anything to do with the fact that I rent out three bedrooms in my house to three African American male friends? Let me describe these encounters. And then ask yourselves if the same police response would have taken place if my three friends/housemates were White or Asian and not African American or Latino, like one of my previous renters was.
The first incident took place a little over a week ago. Two LAPD officers walked on my property without permission and shined their high intensity flashlight through my kitchen window where my housemates were engaged in the highly suspicious activity of having dinner and chatting.
My housemates called to me and I went outside to ask the officers, who had retreated to their patrol vehicle, what they wanted. Was there a problem? They said there had been a report of a stolen vehicle in the neighborhood and they were investigating. One of the officers wanted to know what was behind my gate and I told him he was welcome to look or was free to come in my house. They never took me up on this offer. At that point I started to wonder how much the police presence had to do with alleged criminal behavior or whether White neighbors were uncomfortable about having three Black men living on their street.
The second incident occurred two days ago, when I noticed a police car with several officers in it parked on the wrong side of the street directly in front of my house. It remained there for the better part of an hour without the officers ever exiting their vehicle. I must confess that my first thought was that if I had parked my car that way – absent an emergency -- I would have been cited.
On two separate occasions, I called the LAPD division on Venice Blvd. about these incidents. I needed to know what was really going on. During my second call, the Latino officer who took the call actually said -- without overtly acknowledging the officers came to my home because of my Black roommates -- "Blacks and Latinos commit more crimes." This may be statistically true, but such a statement doesn't address why it is so and what effect this has on the majority of the Black and Latino people who are law abiding. Most importantly, it does nothing to help dismantle our racist socialization system in which the police are the unquestioning enforcers. And it avoids the obvious need to enact relatively inexpensive reforms that would address how Blacks and Latinos are programmed for underachievement and consequently robbed of their God given potential -- both physically and mentally.
What makes me most aware of our society’s pervasive racism is the fact that, other than mouthing platitudes about equal rights and opportunities, there is little expectation not only in the White community, but among Blacks and Latinos, that all students can do well in school. That a good education will allow them to reach their highest potential and be fully integrated into a more just society where racial fantasies of inherent superiority or inferiority can't exist.
If a fully integrated public education system could be implemented -- as was mandated by the 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education -- White, Black, and Latino racial prejudices would finally go by wayside. And maybe, just maybe, police might be able to do their jobs in an equitable manner.
(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer, and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.