Thursday, 12 February 2009

The US Police State Drove Me Out of My Homeland

This article has been submitted to for publication.

In his book “Quitting America: The Departure of a Black Man from His Native Land”, Randall Robinson, a Black lawyer and founder of Tran-Africa, who dedicated himself to ending South African apartheid, explains why he ultimately decided to leave America for St. Kitts, just after George W. Bush assumed the U.S. presidency.

Like Mr. Robinson, I am an attorney who could return to the U.S. to practice law if I desired to do so. Many people here in Brazil ask me why I prefer to live in this “third world country” instead of in the United States. With any life-changing decision, the reasons are many, but I’ll focus just on two: first, the utter emptiness and deep personal void I felt when living in the United States, even when practicing law as a managing attorney; and second, the American skin-color aroused police state. Maybe these are interrelated.

Two years before I left the United States, I drove from Massachusetts to New Jersey for a job interview as a managing attorney. On the way back to Massachusetts, I decided to take a break from driving (aren’t we advised to take a break every one in a while), and I got of the highway somewhere near Harlem. Immediately, a Black and a white police officer stopped my car, which was registered to my employer, the Catholic Church.

Like gun slingers from the Wild West, these officers of American lawlessness approached my car from behind, with their hands on their guns, treating me as if I was terribly dangerous, simply because they perceived the dark color of my skin. They let me go on my way only when they determined that there was simply no reason whatsoever to have stopped me in the first place.

And yet, like so many Black men whom the police “thought he had a gun,” I understand that I was within an inch or a twitch of death that evening. Had the police killed me, they would undoubtedly have done so with impunity. There is, for the most part, no penalty for police who kill Black people in the United States, and so they do so at will.

During the days of Jim Crow and de jure segregation in the United States, it was nearly impossible for Blacks to travel because we could not find restaurants, hotels and even bathrooms that were open to us, and there was no telling what color-aroused dangers we might face on the road. With respect to the police, we may be just as likely to be stopped while traveling now as we were in the 1950’s.

When I moved to New Jersey to accept that new job, on one occasion I was stopped twice in fifteen minutes, first in one town and then in the next.

Ironically, when I left the US for France in 2000, I spent two years driving there, and in Italy, without ever once being stopped by police. Yet, during a one-week visit to the US in 2000, I was stopped twice by police. Did I really become so much more potentially dangerous just by crossing the ocean?

Many US Blacks are accustomed to being treated like criminals, with police treating us as if we are on the wrong side of the prison gates, simply because we are Black and we are still not incarcerated. For example, police once stopped my older brother and me in a white neighborhood and released us only when a white friend, who was also a stranger to these police, “vouched” for us. It seems little has changed since before the Civil War, when Black freemen needed an official pass to travel, and slaves needed a letter from their owners.

Here in Brazil, with so many Black people and mulatto people who would be considered Black in the United States, and so many apparently “white” people whose immediate relatives (mothers, fathers, grandparents) are Black, I do not feel like an anomaly or like an elephant being hunted for its tusk.

I prefer to live in Brazil for a number of other reasons. Brazil’s constitution provides for a right to health care provided by the state; the US Constitution views a right to guns as more important. (Blacks need health care, but how can American Blacks have a “right to bear arms” when all a police officer need say is, “I thought he had a gun”, as a justification for shooting us dead?)

People don't use the term "interracial marriage" in Brazil, because they understand that virtually everyone here has white and Black ancestors, if not immediate family and, in any case, bichromatic relationships are so common as to be unremarkable.

I didn’t realize the toll all of this American persecution and hypocrisy took until I was in France. France has its own color-and-ethnicity associated abrasions, but stopping virtually all cars with Blacks drivers and/or passengers isn’t a French obsession, as it is in the US.

However, Mediterranean France has its own drawbacks, including a culture in which white Frenchmen feel free to make color and ethnicity associated comments that would not be considered socially acceptable in the U.S. or legally permissible in Brasil.

Did you know that it is unlawful to insult someone in Brazil on the basis of or in association with their skin color? So most of what we decry as “overt racism” in the United States is simply illegal in Brazil, and can lead to immediate arrest and detention.

Now, I hear readers shouting that the “right” to insult others on the basis of their skin color is enshrouded in the US Constitution and essential to “freedom.” Give me a frickin’ break! Just as standing on a table and farting directly in others’ faces is not constitutionally protected “speech”, calling people color-aroused epithets is not an essential “right”.

Brazilians understand this, but US Americans do not, so I’ll just continue living in Brazil, where civilization has advanced beyond some of the most overt “First World” color-aroused stupidities.


Black Women in Europe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Black Women in Europe said...

Thanks so much for submitting this to!

We will publish it in an upcoming edition. We only publish once a quarter, but I will let you know when it has been published.

Thanks again!

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the wedding enthusiast said...

I personally believe that he is not the only one displaced upon Bush's assuming the presidency. There are lots and we just don't know all of them. Reasons were even never revealed but we know there's more.

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