White woman defends black man against DC police (power dynamics and other observations)
Last week, an elderly African-American man was walking through a wealthy neighborhood just outside of Washington D.C when he was confronted by two African-American Washington Metro Police.
Without any reason, the officers stopped the man and began to question him. The man had allegedly expressed some dissatisfaction with how he was being singled out, and the officers then ordered him to get on the ground.
Jody Westby, a white, female attorney and CEO of a company called Global Cyber Risk LLC, witnessed the altercation while working from her home office. She immediately ran out to confront the police, and asked her housekeeper to record the developing situation.
Westby quickly ran to the man’s (Dennis Stucky) defense, saying that he was a friend and associate of many people in the area.
The police informed Westby that they were responding to a report of burglary, and said that they stopped to question the man to see if he had anything to do with the incident.
Westby did not back down, and demanded that the officers tell her the address of where the report came from. When they provided her with the address, she informed them that they were blocks away from the alleged crime and weren’t even in the right neighborhood.
She then informed the officers that she is an attorney and that they did not have the right to detain him. After threatening to report the officers, she picked the man up and carried him away, saying to the them “please leave our neighborhood.”
Westby then said to the officers as they were driving away, “Just because he’s black doesn’t mean he’s here to rob a house. He works for us. He’s been in this neighborhood for 30 years.”
Westby later said that “You got a white woman and a Hispanic woman standing up for a black man against two black cops…It was shameful how they behaved. And if it were Columbia Heights, or some other neighborhood, it’d probably just be worse. It was very interesting, in the sense of getting a picture of how black cops treat black people…And how humiliating that was for him. And how they were treating him just like a dog.”
Read the full article HERE
My three biggest take aways from the video:
1. This is what being an ally looks like. Please note that Ms. Westby did not quietly watch the incident unfold and then talk shit about the sticking it to “the man” after the police departed. Nor did she engage in crier dening or say “weeeeelll, I don’t know if it was really racism" or "who can really say what’s in their hearts" —those are flat out racism hall passes white people reflexively issue to other white people far too frequently
Westby effectively weilded her white privilege to aggressively intervene
(SN: yes, there is an obvious caviat: specifically, would Westby have acted similarly if the police involved were also White? It is a fair question, but from different accounts of the incident I’ve read, I’m not giving her sainthood, but I think I’m at least willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. As long as their name isn’t Tim Wise or Macklemore, and they don’t display a white savior complex, I don’t demand absolute perfection from white anti-racism allies, just genuine and timely *actions* instead of flowery words…and NO, trips to Africa for photo ops & bragging rights about how you (white people) helped save Africa do not count)
2. Black police officers are not ignorant. They know *precisely* what would happen to them if they did to a white woman (wealthy or otherwise) what white police routinely do to Black people who try to get involved in active police brutality incidents…and rest assured, there wouldn’t be any endless equivocations like, “everyone should just wait for all the facts" if Westby had been shot dead (while unarmed) because the Black officers claimed she seemed "threatening"
And I remind you—this is important—that in the cases of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford, Jonathan Ferrell, Shantel Davis, Ezell Ford, Yvette Smith, Dillon Taylor, Amadou Diallo, Vonderrit Myers, and a host of other UNARMED Black people…they were all shot dead by the police within 60 seconds of first contact with law enforcement. Let me repeat that: it took the police less than a minute to escalate from visually sighting an UNARMED Black body to applying leathal force. Ms. Westby interacted with the two Black officers for nearly three times as long, almost three minutes, and her life was never in any danger despite her (appropriately) aggressive tone and threats to report the officers. A standard American jury wouldn’t even bother looking at any video to find them guilty of murder
And the interesing thing is how everyone involved instinctively knew their “places” in this drama. The Black officers knew what would happen to them if they even thought about harming an unarmed white woman, and the white woman also knew that, even completely unarmed, she held a fair degree of (social) power over the officers
Black people frequently face dire consequences for intervening between the police and other Black people
White privilege is real af
(SN: And for the record, I strongly disagree with anyone who says classism was at work here. What the officers were “respecting” the most was Westby’s race. I argue that those two Black officers could have been in the worst trailer park in the country, and they would have *still* known that they would’ve been in for a world of hurt, then harshly prosecuted and then executed if they even dared to shoot an unarmed white woman dead. And God help them if she was even moderately attractive. If you think I’m wrong, just ask Richard Sherman what happens when a Black man becomes a bit too boisterous in close proximity to an attractive white woman)
Many (usually white) people like to inject classism into convos about race when they want to sell the idea that racism is juuust about over & done with, but the real truth is that poor white people only face classism—but all Black people face both racism AND classism
3. Merely adding a handfull of Black people to racist police forces is a woefully incomplete solution. Because many Black people have learned to internalize racism and direct it at other Black people
There are four very simple and plainly obvious solutions to the rash of shootings of unarmed Black people by the police:
First, end ALL racial profiling (aka “pedestrian checks" aka Stop-and-Frisk) by the police. It is legalized racism (actually, racism-by-proxy) and over policing and it is disproportionately done in Black communities
Second, immediately and vigorously prosecute ANY officers who murder unarmed people who were minding their own business and presented no credible threat. Fuck the paid leave while the shooting is “investigated” by friends of the police
Third, place more police on the force who actually live in the neighborhoods they police. That will probably do wonders for community based policing and foster more good will between the police and Black neighborhoods
Finally, place the police under genuine civilian (non-partisan) oversight where the oversight board possesses actual power to hold the police accountable for harassment and general misconduct
After watching this video, I am forced to wonder how much further along America would be if White people immediately and routinely called out racial bias and abject racsm each and every single time they saw it