Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Landry Thompson Incident: Where are you going with that white girl?

I never had an official version of "the talk" which some black parents allegedly give to their children, especially their boys, somewhere around puberty about how white racist expectations can place them in danger and how they have to be careful. In part this was because (1) I think my parents believed such warnings to be self-defeating and self-limiting, (2) I grew up in an environment which was predominantly black, and (3) as both my parents and other relatives were active in social movements I picked up a lot by osmosis through the years, making a formal "talk" entirely unnecessary in any event. All the same I did get the idea, whether through comments by relatives or other people, that a black person needed to be especially aware of his surroundings and his companions. You have the right to travel anywhere in this country and with anyone whom you like. That doesn't necessarily mean that it is always a smart thing to do.  Because sometimes people can misinterpret such actions. And when such misinterpretations are based on race and people with the legal authority to detain, arrest or kill you get involved things can get dicey indeed.

We talked before about how a white parent or other adult with a black child can raise some concern among some people. I don't ever remember having any problems growing up traveling with white aunts, uncles or teachers but then again I didn't do that too often. Well just as a white adult with a black child in tow can make people question you the opposite is also true. A black adult travelling with a white child needs to be prepared for the occasional odd look, challenge or question. That's just the way it is. They probably aren't prepared to be arrested and accused of crimes but as no doubt some of my more cynical elders would say what did they expect.

A teenage Oklahoma hip hop dancer is still shaken after her dream trip to a Texas dance studio ended up with her in handcuffs and taken to Child Protective Services and her guardians in police custody.
"They had nothing on us," dance instructor Emmanuel Hurd told "Instead of going the route they should have went, they took her to CPS. The only reason someone gave me was we were black and Landry was white."Landry Thompson, 13, has been dancing since she was 7. For the past few years, she has dreamed of traveling to Houston to dance with well-known hip hop dancer Chachi Gonzales at Planet Funk Academy.
Over the weekend, Thompson's parents, instructor and dance partner made her dream come true. Landry flew to Houston from her Tulsa, Okla., home on Saturday and met up with Hurd, 29, and her dance partner Josiah Kelly, 22.
The three spent the day at the dance academy and taking part in a video shoot. After wrapping and dinner, the exhausted trio stopped at a gas station around 3 a.m. to program their GPS to find their hotel, according to Hurd. He dozed off and awoke to find their car surrounded by police. A police officer eventually took Landry's phone and spoke to her mother. "He got on the phone and he said, 'Are you aware your daughter is in Houston, Texas, with two black men?' And I said, 'Yes, I am aware of that,'" Destiny Thompson told "Then he started mumbling stuff about my parenting, why I would let her do that and then he proceeded to tell me the people she was with were intoxicated or on something." 
I certainly don't fault the police for inquiring as to why a underage girl is in a car with two men at 3 AM in the morning. What I do question is seemingly ignoring the notarized letter, detaining the men and putting the girl into Child Protective Services until everything was worked out to their satisfaction. I also question if race alone should have been enough to indicate arrest/detention. 
But to be fair I'm sure that police who do run across trafficking rings hear similar "explanations" all the time. Still if there has been no crime committed, and I don't think that falling asleep at a gas station is a crime is it, it's hard to see why they didn't let the trio continue on their way. 

All the same I would, for this reason and many others, avoid situations where I would be traveling with a child who's not mine, especially if the child is of a different race. As has been remarked elsewhere the men are lucky they weren't tased, beaten or shot. So all's well that ends well I guess.

What do you think?  Good necessary police work or something else?

What's the difference between arrest and detention?

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