No One Was Sticking Up For Him; Not Even Him
August 15, 2014 7:03 PM   Subscribe

*shakes head in sadness*
posted by Fizz at 7:06 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

*shakes head with pride*
posted by artof.mulata at 7:30 PM on August 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

posted by daq at 7:43 PM on August 15, 2014

Awfully dusty in here.
posted by Mizu at 7:48 PM on August 15, 2014

Sounds like it could have ended a whole lot worse for the young man if she hadn't stepped in. Amazing bravery and strength.

It's also terrible to hear about this and all the other recent injustice issues. Even worse, they are not just an American problem.

Here is Australia, 2.5% of the Australian population are Indigenous, but they make up 26% of the adult prison population. 30% of all incarcerated women in Australia who were Indigenous in 2010. 48% of juveniles in custody are Indigenous. Aboriginal people are 14.8 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people.
posted by greenhornet at 7:50 PM on August 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

So many people are walking around feeling denied simple, basic, humanity. But we are, all of us, human.

It's when we forget that we are all human that we lose compassion.
posted by arcticseal at 8:03 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

it was as though his very presence was the issue.
And it was.

Pia Glenn is a hero and a mensch.

And the crowd as well as the woman demanding that the he leave are symptoms of the cancer that is rotting america.
posted by el io at 8:13 PM on August 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

He got up, looked me in the eyes and said, “Why did you do that? Why are you being nice to me?”

That he even had to ask why somebody would stand up for his innocence is just... God damn it.
posted by KGMoney at 8:15 PM on August 15, 2014

Pia Glenn is a goddamned national treasure, and I hate that the effort of doing her show was too much to maintain. She should be given a production crew pronto.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:17 PM on August 15, 2014

Bless Pia Glenn, because damn. I had to stop for a moment while I read her piece. All those women seemed to be hysterical, and I needed a minute to process their ridiculousness before I could continue. He was simply standing there listening to the music in a public space, and this woman got agitated over what? She whipped herself into a froth "believing" that he was bothering her, how?

This so called "fear" is what I've come to understand as a lie from the first time I'd heard of it as a child. The young woman was supposedly scared, but got up in his face to yell at him to go away? What crap. He didn't do what she commanded him to do, and she got angry.

I'm glad Pia wrote this essay. It's convincing me that it's time for POC to stop doing the heavy emotional lifting of releasing this country's deep sins. It's time white people did the work of examining themselves and and challenging each other to stop acting like pus sacs of rage when they can't be control freaky or universally dominant over everything and everyone else at all times. In the end, that's what this is, isn't it, from the white woman crossing the street clutching her bag, to a freakout over shared public space, to tanks being pointed at peaceful protesters, to shooting unarmed kids in cold blood in the streets? It's repulsive, and worse are the lies white people tell themselves so that they don't see the truth, because that would make them Bad People™, and they don't want to feel bad about themselves ever! I'll bet this woman thought herself as peaceful as a cooing dove. If only that awful black man hadn't shown up!

I hope she thinks really hard about what she did and what it took to reverse even a tiny piece of that damage. I hope she saw that essay and realizes how evil her actions were that could have ruined a young man's life. I hope she is ashamed. She had better do better for the rest of her fucking life.
posted by droplet at 11:06 PM on August 15, 2014 [17 favorites]

I'm white, male, and 6'6. I'd like to think I would have done the same thing she did here, although I'm afraid I wouldn't have, not because of the racial aspect, but because I'd have the same doubts she had about stepping in and whether or not she would be defending some harasser, but with the added problem of being male and doing it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:20 AM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am short and white and female, middle aged and dumpy and I almost always step in in these situations. I start asking questions about the welfare of both parties. I think I'm seen as a harmless but bossy mother/PTA type and people usually answer my questions or move on. Then if/when the police turn up I take on the concerned citizen role who understands their plight but is a polite advocate for the vulnerable and truth...and a witness. I hang around while people are questioned and offer to call their family/friends from my own mobile phone over the shoulders of the police. It's actually ridiculous how often I have been in this situation.

This is one of the few times that being in my demographic is a good thing. Fuck the patriarchy, they accidentally gave me power and I'm not bloody afraid to use it.
posted by taff at 3:02 AM on August 16, 2014 [48 favorites]

It's time white people did the work of examining themselves

Most white people do seem to have a common cognitive difficulty in misreading black men's facial expressions and body language as threatening even when those men are being friendly or just neutral. I've certainly had several false positives myself despite not (consciously) harboring any racist beliefs.

Why do you think we whiteys are like that? Is it just cultural conditioning to perceive black men as scary or is there some sort of innate brain thing that makes it difficult for us to read people of other races? Because this is a pretty serious mental deficiency for someone in a modern society yet I have no idea how to go about fixing it on either a personal or societal level.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2014

 "The young woman was supposedly scared, but got up in his face to yell at him to go away? What crap. He didn't do what she commanded him to do, and she got angry."

It bears repeating that we have no idea what happened prior to Pia Glenn's arrival. We should not assume that the singer's initial shouting was not a legitimate response to microaggression. He did not touch her - it was not assault - but that doesn't mean he did nothing.

As Glenn points out, the flagrant racism was in the escalation, the mob circling him and the police response that could easily have gotten him jailed, tased or killed. The singer herself seems to have thought that the police intervention was disturbing, but we shouldn't infer that she had no reason to react harshly at first.

Believe women when they complain about harassment.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:09 AM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Heh, I just did some Googling and it turns out that white people being especially sucky at this is indeed a documented thing:
"White subjects performed significantly more poorly on trials involving African American faces than on trials involving White faces, whereas no such difference was obtained among African American subjects."
So yeah, WTF, white people? We really need to get our shit together.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:11 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Believe women when they complain about harassment.

Her only complaint was that he wouldn't go away. This sort of blanket, lecturing statement is out of plave in such an obviously racially charged situation. No one was "not believing women" here.
posted by spaltavian at 9:40 AM on August 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

A better way for the police to have dealt with this would have been to 1) disperse the crowd, 2) and calmly get both sides of the story. These jerks were looking for a fight.

But equally bad is the fact that there is no feedback mechanism in place to educate them. no system in place where a fellow officer can say - OK, let's look at this particular situation - here's the right way to have handled it.

Even dick cops deserve at least an opportunity to become better - without it, they're just going to keep on dicking.

We need more officers like Officer Jim Kurring (from Magnolia). Someone like him would have handled this perfectly.

Maybe the woman was a racist; maybe she had a legitimate reason to be alarmed
Maybe the crowd was racist; maybe they were just responding to the woman
Maybe the man was doing something wrong; maybe he was unjustly being accused because of his looks

But the only thing that seemed to be a definite was the behaviour of the cops and this was 100% preventable.

They had a duty and an opportunity to truly LEAD and they FAILED COMPLETELY.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:24 AM on August 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

I hate that I'm completely not surprised by how the cops responded to this. I should be. It should be an outlier. Hell, video of it should be used as an example in training to show other cops what not to do, and it should be so out of the norm that people should wonder if it was staged.

I've seen situations like this play out in real life. When what the cops need to do is come in, split everyone up, disperse people, let everyone calm down and then ask for sides of the story but they just cockswing in like this.

A friend of mine spent the night in jail because of a situation like this. He was white, I'm sure it would have been 1000x worse if he wasn't. The cops didn't listen to other people, including the woman saying he shouldn't get arrested and that their conclusion of what happened wasn't the case at all. Ugh.
posted by emptythought at 1:38 PM on August 16, 2014

"White subjects performed significantly more poorly on trials involving African American faces than on trials involving White faces, whereas no such difference was obtained among African American subjects."

I would be very interested to know whether this holds for Whites who grew up and were socialized in diverse neighborhoods. If you never need to worry about what dark-skinned people think of you, or read their emotions, then you're not likely to learn. Blacks have to deal with White authorities, so they do. Result: "all black people look the same!"
posted by BungaDunga at 2:17 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

…And what would they do with Richard? And if they sent him away, what would he be like, then, when he returned? She looked out into the quiet, sunny streets, and for the first time in her life, she hated it all—the white city, the white world. She could not, that day, think of one decent white person in the whole world. She sat there, and she hoped that one day God, with tortures inconceivable, would grind them utterly into humility, and make them know that black boys and black girls, whom they treated with such condescension, such disdain, and such good humor, had hearts like human beings, too, more human hearts than theirs.

But Richard was not sent away… there was no evidence on which to convict him. The courtroom seemed to feel, with some complacency and some disappointment, that it was his great good luck to be left off so easily. They went immediately to his room. And there—she was never all her life long to forget it—he threw himself, face downward, on his bed and wept.

She had only seen one other man weep before—her father—and it had not been like this. She touched him, but he did not stop. Her own tears fell on his dirty, uncombed hair. She tried to hold him, but for a long while he would not be held. His body was like iron; she could find no softness in it. She sat curled like a frightened child on the edge of the bed, her hand on his back, waiting for the storm to pass over. It was then that she decided not to tell him yet about the child.

By and by he called her name. And then he turned, and she held him against her breast, while he sighed and shook. He fell asleep at last, clinging to her as though he were going down into the water for the last time.

And it was the last time. That night he cut his wrists with his razor and he was found in the morning by his landlady, his eyes staring upward with no light, dead among the scarlet sheets. — James Baldwin
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:45 PM on August 16, 2014

"He asked me my name and told me his. He said, “I can’t believe you did that. You’re being so nice.” He repeated the word nice with a sense of wonder and heartbreaking unfamiliarity, and we stood and talked for a while."
(emphasis mine)

Saddest quote from the whole damn article.
posted by prepmonkey at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2014

esprit de l'escalier, lately I've been re-reading some James Baldwin too. From his essay, “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,” in The Fire Next Time:
You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity. . . . Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:07 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, forgive me if I can't see a heartwarming story here. We don't know what the guy did before the author got there, what twigged her enough so that she asked him to go away, if he hit on her, what. Most importantly, we don't know why he wouldn't just leave when asked to do so. Just because the singer didn't want the man arrested doesn't mean that everything was peachy keen.
posted by corb at 8:54 AM on August 18, 2014

I'd also point out that we don't actually know that she was a street performer - she may have simply been a woman who wanted to play her guitar in the park, and didn't want people coming over and sitting close to her. Remember also that personal space is a relative thing - per this New Yorker, at least, it's the amount of available space, divided by the amount of people who are using it. I can only imagine how creeped out I'd be if I was singing to myself on a train or something in an empty subway car and someone came in and wanted to listen to me singing so sat on the bench next to me - even though on a crowded subway car, it wouldn't arouse any attention. And there are in fact a lot of microaggressions around people assuming that women's time, attention, sociability, or presentation is theirs to act on.
posted by corb at 9:13 AM on August 18, 2014

Ugh. From the article:
She craned her neck all the way back to yell in his face, not retreating at all, and he was standing a fair distance outside of her personal space with his shoulders hunched over and arms outstretched to emphasize his lone statement: “I just wanted to listen to the music.”
Even the singer seemed a bit surprised by how quickly things escalated to a mob situation, and she quieted down. What happened next cemented for me that I had to step in.
And a little later:
To her credit, she was straightforward with me about him not having attacked her or anything like that, and she seemed to grasp that even though she can’t control others’ perceptions, there could now be very serious consequences for the young man.
And later, after the singer confirms no action is needed and the cops leave:
Finally, the police left. The crowd fully dispersed. The boy remained motionless. The singer and I moved a few steps away and she actually thanked me for saying something.
This wasn't a streetcar, a subway car, a bus, or any enclosed space. The picture in the article shows the open area where the singer was standing. No benches, as you suggest there were. Maybe you're not familiar with the Promenade area, or busking in general, but that's not an excuse for you to reinvent this situation to fit your ideology.
posted by palomar at 1:04 PM on August 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

I want to make it clear that I think there's a strong difference between what I think people should be arrested for, and what I think it's legitimate for people to complain about and want to change. You might only call the police if you were actually attacked, but still legitimately not want a man creepily close to you. The picture shows the area, but it can't possibly show what the singer considered her personal space, if the guy had followed her before, etc.
posted by corb at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2014

Again: she was straightforward with me about him not having attacked her or anything like that.

It's really gross that you're still trying to twist this situation around to fit the scenario in your head.
posted by palomar at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you seriously incapable of imagining a situation where a woman might be uncomfortable with something a man is doing but that doesn't rise to the level of an actual attack?
posted by corb at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2014

Are you seriously incapable of imagining a woman flipping out at the mere presence of a tall black boy, with no provocation? Sure seems like you are.
posted by palomar at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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