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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Color bravery: should you practice it?

Harriet Tubman was a courageous Black female who led
many to freedom. (Artist: H. Seymour Squyer, National Portrait Gallery)
Attorney General Eric Holder said Americans are "cowards" for not having honest conversations concerning race. Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments L.L.C. and wife of a Star Wars movie director, says we need "not to be color-blind but to be color-brave." Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced today that his company would be putting "Race Together" messages on coffee cups to start a dialogue on race.

But should African Americans practice race-courage in 2015, especially when law enforcement is involved?

I must admit, I've lived in Marietta, Ga. for 20 years, and today was the first day I ventured into the police department building. I've gone to the county jail once to give a friend some spending money for toiletries and to the sheriff's office twice to file some papers. I try to stay away from downtown Marietta because I don't want to be pulled over for no reason...

Today I went to file a fraud report on my husband's behalf.  I went to the Cobb County Police Department where I was directed to the Sheriff's office. Everyone up to this point had been nice and civil, even going through police checkpoints into the building.

"What can I do you for?" asked the on duty officer which took me aback. I was disrespected, I thought. I waited 35 minutes with no one else in front of me before an investigator came out. He asked me "personal" questions related to a form I had completed. Our conversation was in front of two other people who were waiting to state their concerns. The entire conversation was very public which was an interesting way to have a "fraud" report filed.

The officer said my husband would have to take off work to come in himself and file the report or come in between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, but to call 15 minutes ahead to make sure someone was there to take the report.  What the???

He said he couldn't verify that I was my husband's wife, even though I offered to show him that we had the same address which appeared on my driver's license. He said he couldn't call him, either. And no, I couldn't take a form to have him fill out at home. Blank forms were not allowed outside the building. And there was no form that could be filled out online.

"Since this is an important matter, your husband has to come in himself." No report or notes were taken, but he did keep the form I filled out and signed that asked for my signature and Social Security number. When I asked for it back, he said he had to keep it, but it would be shredded that night.

I waited to listen to his next conversation which was with a young black woman complaining that her ex-boyfriend had used her cellphone and racked up a lot of charges which she did not authorize.

"You're over 18, and you should have kept up with the charges on your bill." No report was taken on her either. Was it because we were two Black women trying to file problem-solving reports?

The badge stood out, and our time was wasted. No reports were filed. Justice was not served. Maybe payback for recent complaints about police brutality in Ferguson, Mo. and Coconut Creek, Fla.

I talked to my son about this, and his response was that I was dealing with overworked, ill-paid and ill-trained government officials, a stereotyped view of those who are supposed to be protecting and serving us. He said it was nothing against me and was probably just how the county's system works.

Only men with guns know for sure.

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