Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Epic racism

It really, really chaps my rear end when I have to get important and mainstream Houston news by way of the "Epic Sh*t" Facebook group instead of through what are supposed to be the conventional, respectable channels of journalism.
I read Houston Chronicle daily, including the paid subscriber portions, and I saw not one word on the story of Landry Thompson, who traveled to Houston with her dance instructors and was forcibly taken into CPS custody despite overwhelming evidence that her circumstances were proper.

Furthermore, when I search the Chronicle online edition, I find no hits involving her name.

Screengrabbed from www.chron.com's search engine.
I can, however, get the story from HuffPost.  I can get it from ABC's Good Morning America - but apparently not from the ABC affiliate KTRK (which dominates our local TV market, by the way). 
Silencio.  What's up with that, exactly??  ABC can't claim that they didn't possess the content, because they broadcast it nationally. 

Screengrabbed from KTRK
This was an incredibly important local story last week, and apparently only KHOU had the guts and the conscience to report it.
"Only on KHOU" indeed.  Screengrabbed from Facebook. 
This story was incredibly important for two reasons:

(1)  Because HPD really screwed up.  There is no excuse for what they did to these people.  And then they compounded their unbelievable screw-up by intentionally NOT issuing a proper apology!!

(2)  Because this could have been an excellent teaching moment for the public in more ways than one, instead of being something that the local news media seems to have buried  - why? - because they don't want Houston or HPD to look bad so maybe it's best to sweep it under the rug?  Or far worse, maybe because they think that there was really no story here?!

These young people did everything correctly, and their civil rights were still violated, in my opinion. 

Most importantly, they were traveling with a notarized custody document.  That's the big missed opportunity for public education here.  Properly-presented news coverage could have given the public more information on this vital tool which is designed to eliminate confusion and ambiguity on exactly this kind of situation. 

And on that subject, I myself can speak from experience.  I have a daughter whose last name is different from mine, who isn't the same color as I am, and who doesn't strongly resemble me.  Particularly when we travel abroad, we always travel with a notarized document from her other biological parent explaining that she's properly in the custody of me and/or whatever larger group she is with (I can't tell you what law or rule compels this practice, because I only learned to do it by word of mouth from other people with similar family complexities). 

Racial profiling does work both ways, eh?  Of course, it's absolutely nowhere near as common for a white woman to be profiled as a black man, but it does happen.   Over the years, I have been interrogated.  It always starts with the same suspicious question:  "What is the relationship of this child to you?!"  And it always proceeds with the same initial answer:  "I gave birth to her."  If I'm feeling a bit puckish that day, I might volunteer that I delivered her naturally after only 12 hours of labor, which is unusually short for a first pregnancy in an ass-less American white woman (translation: small pelvic structure), but I was very physically fit and so it was an efficient process. 

But it doesn't matter how much TMI I provide.  More than once, the historical result has been a furious glare as the "authority" mentally embraces his or her default belief:  That it's more likely that I'm one of those sinister rich bitches who trafficked the defenseless child of color out of the third world so that I could chain her to my toilet and use her for slave domestic labor for the next fifty years of her life.

Unlike the young people in last week's news story, I've never been pushed beyond the initial phase of interrogation.  Maybe its because of that expectant look on my face that always says, "Go ahead - make my day."

I do hope that the Thompson family decides to litigate in this situation.  I certainly would if I were in their position, but that's an individual decision and a tough call either way.  It probably wouldn't gain them that much personally, but it would do a tremendous favor for American society by publicly emphasizing that not all young black men are criminals.  And not all unusual child custodians are criminals, either. 

Major, major kudos to KHOU in stepping up to the plate on this one. Here's their initial coverage:

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