Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Seattle Crime Of Standing While Black
Speaking of institutional racism, today I spent five minutes on the sidewalk with one of our vendors, and my sense of outrage us up to around a 9.7 on a scale of 1-10. Donald Morehead, a poster child for the screwed, poor, and dark-skinned if ever there was, had the misfortune to be standing while Black last month in one of Seattle’s drug enforcement zones. The arresting officer grabbed him by the face hard enough to extract a molar without anesthetic, but was kind enough to distract our vendor from the tooth pain by slamming his head against the car hood hard enough to leave permanent marks. Donald spent more than two weeks in King County Jail when he failed to accept the plea bargain.
“I’ve spent eight years in the brig,” he told me. “Three months is no big deal. I’m not going to cop to a nothing charge for this BS.”
Donald is one of our more politically involved vendors and is well known and loved around here, yet it was more than two weeks before he was able to get word to us through a lawyer of his problem. By the time we had his bail the next morning, he’d been released because, basically, the city had nothing. He spent two weeks in pain, courtesy of chez King County, where Blacks are represented in the daily average jail population at nearly ten times their numbers in King County. With this sort of targeting going on, it’s easy to see why.
Donald is one of those people who, not to put too fine a point on it, was fucked from birth. Raised Black, male, and poor in the projects of New York, he took his best shot at success by joining the Army just in time for the first Gulf War. When he came back, Donald found that he was still Black and poor, and all his military experience counted for was a case of PTSD.
Since then, most of his time has been spent homeless or in prison. Given that our system seems to delight in nothing more than kicking people when they’re down, I find this sadly unsurprising, and admire him for each and every day that he’s woken up without hating the entire human race
Our vendor was released to the street after 16 days, minus his twenty bucks from Real Change sales. Drug money and “evidence,” the cops said. But Donald got a decent lawyer, and at least got out. Given the math of poor people in jail on bullshit charges and funding for public defense, this was an improbability. Donald, believe it or not, was a lucky man.
“There’s a war going on,” he told me this morning,” and as the economy goes down, it’s only going to get worse.” Word