Saturday, March 6, 2010

Amidst constant Police Surveillance, keep your house in order

I was reminded of a few things today around police surveillance and criminality. Yesterday, (Friday 3/6/10) Michael Lofton, a long-standing community activist and leader in Austin, put out a call. His e-mail offered the oft-told tail of a young black male high school student who gets into small trouble that spirals into major trouble once the police get involved.

I was immediately reminded of earlier examples of this scenario, as well as the research detailing the implications of police presence in our schools and the too-frequent criminalization of black boys in particular. The second reminder came the next day (Saturday 3/7/10), and after I had written a letter calling for research into the positive and negative impact of the police presence in central Texas schools. The reminder came in the form of a sheriff knocking on my Austin door in order to arrest me. The arrest was for failing to pay a 2008 ticket that I received for failing to wear a seatbelt. So whereas reminder one was about the prevalence and impact of police surveillance in schools, reminder two was about the need to have your house in order if you are an activist who will speak to police powers that be.

My thought is not whether my letter led to the attempt the next day to arrest me for a 2008 failure to pay a "no seat belt" ticket. Rather, my thought is that I don't need something as silly as this in the way of my trying to serve as a community resource. When you get arrested you can be embarrassed and sullied, and your work can become that much harder. I owe it to myself and others (including my kids who could have seen me arrested) to have all things personal in order when I go out to do and serve greater goods.

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