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Those of us who have it easier in this country sometimes realize it in smaller moments. One of those for me came six or seven years ago, when I was pulled over on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel.
I had pressed a button on my phone to accept a shorter route on Google Maps, which was enough for the (white) officer to write me a ticket for using a cellphone while driving.
As he handed me the citation, I looked him in the eye and said, firm and defiant, “You and I both know this is bulls--t, right?”
He shrugged and walked away.
It’s pretty clear what gave me the confidence to speak my mind in that situation -- and it’s the same reason that former MLB star Johnny Damon could behave as he did in a recent DUI arrest, and fear nothing worse than a court date and embarrassment.
Damon was born in Kansas, the son of an American father and Thai mother. Violence and discrimination against Asian-Americans is a serious issue in America, and it’s on the rise.
But let’s be real here: In an encounter with police, Damon is not Black, which starts him at a far safer and secure place.
The point of this column is so obvious that it almost wasn’t worth writing. But buzzwords resonate better across the ideological spectrum when backed by a literal, human example. Here, the baseball beat has provided one.
Many people who still chafe at phrases like “systemic racism,” which became a corporate talking point across MLB last year, and “white privilege,” even though those objections are counterfactual.
According to the Pew Research Center, Black adults are five times more likely than white adults to say they were unfairly stopped by police because of their race or ethnicity. More than eight in 10 Black adults say that they are treated less fairly than whites.
Per the Washington Post, a Black person is three times more likely than a white person to be killed by police. And a white suspect is killed by police in one out of every 100,000 traffic stops; for Black suspects, the number is 20 out of 100,000. Read that again: Twenty times higher.
We don’t have to wrestle with complex concepts here to understand why people like me and Damon are comfortable talking back to the police.
Last month, police in Windermere, Fla. stopped Damon at 1:23 a.m. As TMZ reported at the time, he was slurring and unsteady, and his wife, Michelle Mangan-Damon was “uncooperative, combative … and pushed a police officer.”
The bodycam footage released Tuesday shows Mangan-Damon telling the officer “Don’t f--king touch me.”
Damon’s blood-alcohol level was between .294 and .300, almost quadruple the legal limit. He scuffled with the officer. “Stop trying to pull away from me,” the officer said.
“Believe me, I am Blue Lives Matter,” Damon later said. “What are you doing right now? We are all for cops. Guys, we are all for cops .… Hey, bro, I’m a good guy and I know people are trying to target me because I’m a Trump supporter.”
Like I said, this is a simple, obvious column. It doesn’t take a thousand words to get to the point here.
We’ll just leave it at this: The next time someone tries to tell you that systemic racism and white privilege don’t exist, tell them a little story about a former baseball star, and ask what might have happened to Johnny Damon in the wee hours of Feb. 18 if he were Black.