Walking While White (female and old)

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By Tia Will

I have a confession to make. I sometimes break the law deliberately. Yes, I am an occasional jaywalker.  I don’t jaywalk on busy streets or during high traffic times, or if there are cars approaching. But I do it sometimes on my morning walks. I would like to tell you about the most recent time.

Several days ago, while taking an early morning walk around Old East and Old North Davis on my way towards College Park and campus, I spotted a house for sale on the other side of the street. It was mid-block. I decided to get a closer look. But instead of walking down to the corner and crossing legally, I looked both ways to ensure safety and then deliberately stepped right out into the street. What I had not noticed was an officer just turning the corner onto the street. Oops! Now what would happen?  Would I get a ticket, or just a verbal warning.  Absolutely not! What I got was a smile, a wave and a cheery “Good morning”!

I would like to contrast this with two recent situations that have made the news.

The first is that of Mr. Cain from Sacramento, stopped for “jay walking.” When he became verbally belligerent, he was taken down and beaten by the detaining officer. While it is questionable whether or not Mr. Cain was jaywalking to begin with, thus warranting a stop at all, it is the subsequent police actions that I find so objectionable.  Perhaps even more importantly for our entire society, so disparate from the treatment that I received ostensibly for the same infraction.

I have heard many possible justifications in discussions on this issue over time. I have heard the argument that Mr. Cain might have been walking in a higher crime area than where I was walking.  The second argument I have heard used is that young black men are more likely to commit crimes. Both may be true, but does it mean that he personally is engaged in crime?  That is quite an assumption and, as an individual, deprives him of the presumption of innocence that I routinely receive.

The second incident is the Picnic Day scuffle in which two conflicting versions of what occurred have been reported. Now I would ask the reader to imagine for a moment that there had been a “crowd” of white women over the age of 50 standing on that corner. Do any of you think that such a group would have received anything more than a pleasant admonishment to step back away from the curb for our safety even if some had been “blocking the intersection”?

What I have had time to observe during my post-retirement walks around Davis is just how pleasant everyone is to me. Traffic enforcers wave and smile. Bicycle and patrol officers banter over girl scout cookies and other bits of trivia from our daily lives. I am asked how my day is going.  Until recently, I have taken this treatment for granted. This friendly environment is the sea of pleasantness in which I swim. And yet, it is not until now, with more time to contemplate, that I have come to realize how many of my fellow citizens swim in very different waters. Waters where being of a different color, or gender, or age may lead not to a friendly greeting, but to an unnecessary detention and questioning, or even to physical force. This has existed throughout my entire lifetime. But it is becoming progressively more obvious to me, especially now post January, and post my retirement. Now, I have time to observe, question, and call it to the attention of others from my very privileged position.

I just thought I would share this with you now. Will be interested to hear your thoughts.



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About The Author

Tia is a graduate of UCDMC and long time resident of Davis who raised her two now adult children here. She is a local obstetrician gynecologist with special interests in preventive medicine and public health and safety. All articles and posts written by Tia are reflective only of her own opinions and are in no way a reflection of the opinions of her partners or her employer.

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49 thoughts on “Walking While White (female and old)”

  1. Keith O

    I confess that I’m a white old man.   Not that long ago my wife and I went downtown to see a movie.  We accidently went to the wrong Regal and quickly jumped back in my truck and hurried to the other Regal on F St.  Upon parking close to the theater a bike cop walked up to my door and gave me a ticket for no seat belt.  I was mad at the cop for what I felt was overzealousness on his part but at the same time I was guilty of not wearing a seat belt.  That came to @ $150 fine.

    A few weeks later I happened to see the same bike cop standing on a corner.  I walked right past him into the crosswalk when a black girl on a bike blew right through the intersection without even slowing down and almost hit me.  I turned back at looked at the cop who saw the whole near miss and he just stood there and let her ride away.

    So here a Davis bike cop gave an old white man a ticket for no seat belt but let a black girl slide for running a stop sign and almost hitting someone right in front of him.  So am I to wonder if he let her go because she was black?  Do blacks get preferential treatment from cops for fear that they will receive backlash?

    1. Tia Will Post author

      By that reasoning Keith, why not assume that this police officer happens to be gender biased against men and let her go because she was a woman. Are you really trying to say that you believe that white men get harassed in our society more commonly than do minorities ? Or were you just sharing an anecdote as I was in the opening to my piece, in which case, it would have exactly as much validity.

      1. Keith O

        I just wanted to show that it can swing both ways.  I don’t feel our Davis Police Dept. is racist.  Of course an incident here or there can be cited, after all they have tens of thousands of interactions each year with the public.  They aren’t perfect but I get tired of the continual cherrypicking of a couple of incidents, some of which were many years ago, to try and paint them as racist.

        1. David Greenwald

          Quote from UC Davis Police Chief Calvin Handy I got in 2007: “My first act as [UC Davis] police chief here was to meet with large groups, students, staff, and faculty, and they had this consistent belief that racial profiling was happening in the city of Davis… After 12 years it is kind of amazing given how much we engaged in the process that people are saying the same thing. This problem has just gone on for too long and too pervasive.”

        2. Jim Hoch

          “they had this consistent belief that racial profiling was happening in the city of Davis” People often believe things that are not true because they are consistently told that they are true and have no evidence either way. 

          Your comments are just more evidence of the feedback loop which reinforces a belief which may or may not be true. Why does the Vanguard say it’s true? because everybody believes it’s true. Why do people believe it’s true? because the Vanguard says it’s true.

        3. Jim Hoch

          “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.” 

          Lie implies intent, lie “My inauguration crowd was the biggest in history”. “Fable” I think is more prevalent like “Native Americans are more connected to the Earth and make better stewards of it” which is a popular belief among those that have never been to a reservation.

          Most people are in no position to determine which ethnic group is a better steward so they repeat what they have heard.

        4. Keith O

          I just quoted the phrase written, but in this case I believe a better adaptation would be:

          If you repeat something often enough, people will believe it.

        5. Tia Will Post author

          Keith

          I don’t feel “

          Of course you don’t “feel” it. And neither do I.  That was largely the point of my article. I don’t feel the discrimination. But is that because it is because it does not exist, or is it because I am a member of the privileged group and thus will never “feel” it?

          Also, “racist” as compared with what? I also could compare the Davis police force with let’s say that of any major city in which obvious discriminatory practices have been documented and say ” See, we aren’t that bad”. And I would agree. But does that mean that there is not room for improvement and that we should not support that improvement in order to blindly defend the Davis police when there is an incident ?  I would say “no”.

        6. Keith O

          I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.  Our police dept. does a wonderful job, not perfect but who is?  Not pointing at you Tia Will but personally I get tired of some of our town’s liberal activists constantly trying to drag our DPD through the mud.

  2. David Greenwald

    A few years ago when we started up the court watch program, my assistant and I were interviewing potential interns.  We interviewed a guy who was a football player, African American.  Nice guy, very soft spoken and gentle.  At one point I asked if he ever got stopped by the police in Davis.  He said, all the time.  We stopped coming into town because we got tired of getting harassed.  That’s not an outlier, that’s the summation of most African Americans in this town.

      1. Tia Will Post author

        Jim

        I saw the anecdote as an illustration, not a summation. The summation part comes from talking with many minority members about their perception of how they are treated in town. One of my points in writing my article was that my perception of what happens to me is 100% accurate….from my perspective. It has been woefully inaccurate at times in appreciating the experience of others. Too often, we interpret our own observations as how the world must work for everyone. This imposition of our own perspective onto the rest of the word is both illusion, and delusion and leads to a very biased view of the world.

        1. Jim Hoch

          Hi Tia,

           

          Summation is the word DG used. I would also note that you are generally well known in the community and clearly better liked than Keith who does get tickets.
           

          Jim

        2. David Greenwald

          I used it to summarize the views expressed over 10 years by African Americans about police encounters in Davis.  I think that’s a pretty accurate portrayal.

      2. David Greenwald

        If you would like, I could give you 100 such anecdotes (literal number) that I have collected over the years. It will take me a while, given today’s schedule, but if that makes you feel you feel better.

        1. Jim Hoch

          “data” is not the plural of “anecdote”. Besides given your outlook and where you hang out your anecdotes will have a brutal cluster bias anyway.

           

          I’m not arguing one way or the other but if your point is that certain ethnic groups are treated differently than other we are still in the realm of opinion.

          1. David Greenwald

            Maybe, but a few years ago when we reviewed Davis traffic stop data there were disproportionate traffic stops among blacks and Hispanics. We don’t have conclusive data on this, but the data we do have is suggestive.

        2. John Hobbs

          ““data” is not the plural of “anecdote”.”

          No, but since almost all LEOs eschew any attempts at detailed data collection regarding traffic stops and other encounters we must look at the numbers we know. In Sacramento county, blacks make up 13% of the population, but account for 32% of traffic stops. That disparity should elicit curiosity and concern about racial profiling.

        3. David Greenwald

          There is statewide legislation that will make data collection on police stops mandatory (and to John’s point LEA’s were loudly complaining about how onerous it would be).

        4. Jim Hoch

          “we must look at the numbers we know” Rather than using numbers that are irrelevant we could simply say “we don’t know”.

  3. Howard P

    Tia… you need an education on what is, and what is not, ‘jaywalking’… what you described is not ‘jaywalking’.  Seek it (education).  Not in my job description, to provide such basic education.  From all written accounts and the videos, Mr Cain did not ‘jaywalk’, either.

    Hint:  all street intersections are implied crosswalks, marked or not (unless signed to the contrary).  Think all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are square.

    Keith did not provide enough information to determine if there was a ‘violation’ by either him or the bicyclist.  But, by his own admission, he clearly violated a law, as to the seatbelt.

  4. Keith O

    Keith did not provide enough information to determine if there was a ‘violation’ by either him or the bicyclist. 

    A bicycle blowing through a stop sign without ever stopping while a pedestrian is in the crosswalk is a clear violation.

    1. Howard P

      You said nothing about there being a stop sign.  I say again, you did not provide enough information, but you have now corrected that.  I accept your apology for questioning my assertion.

      1. Keith O

        I guess you missed this in my original comment:

        So here a Davis bike cop gave an old white man a ticket for no seat belt but let a black girl slide for running a stop sign and almost hitting someone right in front of him.

        As you offered me I accept your apology.

        Thank you

        1. Howard P

          You have it… I focused on

          I walked right past him into the crosswalk when a black girl on a bike blew right through the intersection without even slowing down and almost hit me.

          You are correct.  My bad.  My apology.

          Maybe goes to show that when one reads something, they ‘see’ that throughout… was sure you were wrong about saying ‘stop sign’, but it turns out that you correctly corrected me…

          Guess I have ‘an unconscious bias’… had I written the quoted sentence, I would have included the stop sign thing initially (“crosswalk at a stop controlled intersection”)… different writing styles… both OK.

  5. Tia Will Post author

    Howard

    I have no idea what I did to bring on your sarcasm with regard to my need for education. Did you not see that I put the words “jay walking” in quotes indicating that was the officer’s rationale for the stop ? Officer claimed one thing, tape indicates another. No need to condescend with regard to my understanding of the term.

    1. Howard P

      Wow… you accuse me of sarcasm, yet you wrote,

      Yes, I am an occasional jaywalker. [punctuation kept intact]

      And more recently,

      Did you not see that I put the words “jay walking” in quotes? [yes, elsewhere, but not having anything concrete to do with you and the experience you 100% had]

      I agreed with you regarding the Sacramento incident.  Seems like … [self-moderated]

  6. John Hobbs

    Have you guys ever fixed your water problems? To get your garters in a twist over this article, there must be something grinding your gears. My experience mirrors Tia’s. I could carry a sub-machine gun across the middle of Florin rd and the cops would wave at the old white guy. My Latina neighbor got a warning for stepping out in the street to see if the bus was coming.

    1. Tia Will Post author

      John

       could carry a sub-machine gun across the middle of Florin rd and the cops would wave at the old white guy.”

      It seems to me that an older white man of national prominence made a similar claim with a bit more explicit violence involved and stated it would not cost him any support. Unfortunately he was correct. I could be wrong, but I sincerely doubt a minority male could have made the same claim and come away unscathed.

  7. Tia Will Post author

    Jim

    if your point is that certain ethnic groups are treated differently than other we are still in the realm of opinion.”

    I understand your point about “realm of opinion”. But feel that it misses several points.

    1. Some “opinions” are based on sounder information than others. Not all “opinions” are equal. 2. “Opinion” is frequently formed by those in power. In our society, that happens to be predominantly white males who hold the largest amount of both political and economic power. 3. Our society happens to value authority highly. Thus those in power are much more likely to have their “opinions” valued more than those of lesser perceived “authority” even if the lesser individual happens to be correct. This is not universal. Some societies have distributed respect for opinion differently with age being an obvious example. Other societies, usually much smaller ones, tend to value the perspective of each individual with each person’s perspective being given consideration rather than being automatically dismissed because it is different.

    4. Finally, stating that something is an “opinion” does not make it either correct or incorrect. It only means that the speaker does not consider it to have been proven.

     

  8. John Hobbs

    ” we could simply say ‘we don’t know’.”

    But we do, some of us just don’t like to admit it. We can put blinders on and say the future looks bright, too. Some of us “don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

     

    1. Jim Hoch

      Tia

      1. Some “opinions” are based on sounder information than others. Not all “opinions” are equal. 

      So in your opinion certain opinions are more valid than other. Numerous studies have shown that opinions that are more in line with our own will be considered to be more valuable and authoritative than those that are not.  The medical field is rife with examples of people being wrong, bloodletting, ulcers, etc.

      2. “Opinion” is frequently formed by those in power. In our society, that happens to be predominantly white males who hold the largest amount of both political and economic power.

      A very ignorant opinion in my opinion. “Opinion” is driven by media. I am not responsible for your uncomfortable shoes even though current taste says they are “cute”.

      3. Our society happens to value authority highly. Thus those in power are much more likely to have their “opinions” valued more than those of lesser perceived “authority” even if the lesser individual happens to be correct. This is not universal. Some societies have distributed respect for opinion differently with age being an obvious example. Other societies, usually much smaller ones, tend to value the perspective of each individual with each person’s perspective being given consideration rather than being automatically dismissed because it is different.

      All society happens to value authority highly, that is why “Authority” is created. In my opinion you are engaging in some fantasy based ideation here. Can you provide examples? Even in the smallest groups proven successful mastodon hunters will be given deference in deciding where the group hunts. That is why they have the special headdress.

      1. Tia Will Post author

        Jim

        1. I will illustrate for you. I am notoriously bad at math. If asked to make an estimate at the answer to a numeric calculation, I can virtually guarantee you that my partner’s opinion about the estimate will be more accurate than mine even if neither of us knows the answer for sure.

        2. I was speaking of those in power who until very recently I believe were less media driven in their opinion than the current holder of position of POTUS. I think that a constitutional law professor for instance probably draws opinion from more reliable sources than Fox and Friends …. but that is just my opinion.

        3. I will be happy to provide an example. Disclaimer, I have not lived on the reservation for the past 30 years, but when I was there for two years, it was explained to me the Tohono O’odham traditionally had made major decisions in a very democratic fashion. Meetings open to any adult in the society were held and major decisions were discussed until consensus was reached. This apparently could take many days. I am not suggesting this as an optimal strategy for us, but to illustrate that humans have developed different strategies for decision making.

        1. Jim Hoch

          Let me give you my opinion on this. We have a court in Washington that is supposed to be comprised of penultimate legal experts. These men and women have extensive backgrounds in law having studied at the top schools, often taught, and generally have a decade or more as a judge. These people’s opinions should be much more knowledgeable than mine about law based on your theory.

          Given that why is it I can predict the outcome of the court votes based only on my knowledge of the politics with better than 95% accuracy? Never having studied law?

    1. Howard P

      hmmm… let me take a wild guess… could it maybe is that those lacking a “Y” chromosome aren’t present?

      That said, Davis PD is probably more ‘diverse’ than the Davis citizenry… you are correct though, as to who we need to hear from… and that also applied to those “stopped for being white (nordic -looking) male youths” in Davis, under the pretense that they were looking for two bank robbers, described by all of those who reported the crime, as ‘black males’… there may be a place for ‘profiling’… if the victims describe the perps as black males ~ 25, should police use ‘profiling’ to leave 17 yr old white males alone?

      1. Keith O

        I was once walking my dog in a Davis park while getting my oil changed at Speedee.  Two cops approach me, one standing a ways back with his hand on his holster.  The cop then proceeds to question me but backs off and says I can go but says he stopped me because I fit the description of someone they were looking for.  Racial profiling?  Nah, I didn’t take it that way even though I was walking while white (male and old).

  9. Todd Edelman

    I’m not clear if the recent attack on an innocent person engaged in normal walking by a policeman in Sacramento  prompted discussions not about what’s defined as “jaywalking” or not, but why the term exists in the first place. From the time cars entered the streetscape in the late 19th century – when they were limited to not much more than walking speed preceded by a someone waving a flag – til the 1920’s – when, for example, Cincinnati residents tried to enact a law that would mandate that cars had speed governors set to 25 mph – cars were in large part seen as a menace, more so than anyone crossing a neighborhood street in a logical, efficient and direct path – anywhere they wanted to. The term “jay driver” prefigures “jaywalker”.

    In the 1920’s the country became much wealthier but still only the relative elite owned cars, and the pedestrian was increasingly seen as the poor person, and therefore ethnic minorities were over-represented among them.

    Local car dealers mobilized to strike down the measure in Cincinnati, and “…Over the next decade the auto industry pursued aggressive action to take sole possession of public roads and, in turn, reshape the conversation around cars. The American Automobile Association, or AAA, sponsored safety campaigns in schools, educating students on the dangers of crossing the street in unmarked zones. Boy Scouts handed out cards to pedestrians, warning them against the practice of jaywalking. Mock trials were conducted in public settings to shame or ridicule offenders. The National Automobile Chamber of Commerce persuaded politicians and journalists to shill for their cause. The Packard Motor Car Co. went so far as to construct tombstones engraved with the name Mr. J. Walker. In Buffalo, beachgoers were treated to a public performance by the National Safety Council, in which a jaywalker was arrested, handcuffed and fitted with a sandwich board that read “I am a jaywalker,” and then ushered into a police wagon plastered with anti-pedestrian slogans. (“Hell is paved with good intentions, but why crowd the place? Don’t jaywalk.”) By the 1930s, jaywalking had been adopted as common law in most major municipalities. The term was near ubiquitous, and opposition to the automobile had softened to scarcely a whisper.” – from The secret history of jaywalking: The disturbing reason it was outlawed – and why we should lift the ban – by Ravi Mangla, Salon, 8.20.15. (Sadly – actually viciously – the generally well-intentioned Street Smarts program of the City of Davis borrows some of the perverted philosophy and language from those campaigns, and brainwashes kids with it — zoom in on the imagery at the bottom of this page…)

    At the very least it should be explicitly legal for anyone to cross a 25 mph street anytime and anywhere they feel it is safe to do so. Better yet, while using crosswalks could be encouraged, design speeds should be lowered so the risk of serious injury or death to a pedestrian crossing the space between buildings in a normal fashion who is struck by a motor vehicle. Cities all over Europe make their streets safer with a design speed of about 18 mph with some slowed even further. If denizens of Davis –  all of whom can either move on their own or with assistance travel at 3 and ½ miles per hour which is the optimal design speed for perception in the human brain – want a truly “walkable” Downtown they will be able to move in it more or less any direction they need to. (This would be the real Downtown, a fully-pedestrianized district a few blocks long in two directions.) This will bring up Davis up to speed with the rest of the best cities and towns on the planet.

    “Jaywalking” itself – the criminalization of the way 99.9% of humans have gotten around for millions of years – walking the shortest distance between two points – is racist, classist and elitist.

    1. Alan Miller

      TE,

      That was a most excellent article on Jaywalking you just wrote there.  The assumed bias of the road to be the path primarily for the automobile is truly absurd, and outright insane in Orange County.

      I agree wholeheartedly that eventually downtown Davis should consist of pedestrian/bike mall on 3rd Street and E Street, the natural flow paths for these modes.

      1. Todd Edelman

        Thanks… about Downtown, to be clear I meant to write “in two dimensions” and between C* and G** & 1st*** and 3rd****

        * So it’s contiguous with Central Park; residences including those between C and E would have car-access, max 10 mph.
        ** Parking on the east side of G could be accessed by the alley.
        *** Inclusive of the north side of much of 1st. Would be great to convert the 1st St garage to a venue and build a parking structure on the other side of the train tracks that would be the main lot for visitors arriving via I-80, with free shuttle to Downtown.
        **** Inclusive of the south side of 3rd, which would be the north border and a dedicated bikeway with similar configuration to the bike path in front of Memorial Union with no motor vehicle crossings between G and B (except at night for deliveries and for emergencies/exceptional situations.)

        All of this would need to be complemented by fully paid parking that would help fund better public transportation access, and support for bicycles that can carry kids, dogs and cargo, such as very safe parking for electric assist cargo bikes, etc.

        1. Alan Miller

          I’m looking at a next step, implementable strategy that balances modes, and could be in place in a decade if there was a consensus and movement to do so.

          Your ideas are based on a paradigm-shift utopian ideal that is not likely achievable within generational and societal limits, sans a global cataclysm.

        2. Todd Edelman

          Alan, what do you mean by “balance”?

          And basically you’re saying that Davis – its urban form and culture – is somehow on the wrong side of a global cataclysm that already happened….  in the early 20th century when automobilization appeared?

          So much of the world is exactly as I describe. This is somehow an alien culture in eyes of what you think are the unimaginative, car-addicted, yet pennyfarthing-as-unicorn-riding good folks of Davis? We should all visit one of our lovely and eager planet’s many carfree areas and calmly talk to people in the commons – right in the middle of the space between buildings that’s designed for life – and get multiple translations of dystopian-by-default-and-lack-of-hope pessimistic word salad, which unfortunately describes your last comment. Americans loves these spaces when they’re e.g. in Europe… or Disneyland…. or most of the UC Davis campus. Hugs.

    2. Howard P

      At the very least it should be explicitly legal for anyone to cross a 25 mph street anytime and anywhere they feel it is safe to do so. 

      Except for the “explicitly” part (undefined by you) and “they feel” (try the term reasonable and/or prudent), that has always been, and still is.

      If you mean I can step off a curb, mid-block or otherwise, when a car is in close proximity (figuring speed and distance) and expect it to screech to a halt like I have titanium armor, just can’t get there…

      I don’t want/need to be a Darwin award recipient.  Feel free to ignore laws, including that of physics… when I cross a street, at intersections or mid-block, look around, proceed when it is arguably logical I am safe, I break no law.  The idea that it is illegal to cross a street, except in very narrowly defined circumstances, is just male bovine manure.  Feel free to wallow in that.  I won’t.

      1. Todd Edelman

        CVC says one can cross mid-block between two junctions without signals or between one with a signal and one without. However, cities can further restrict this practice of traditional pedestrian mobility: Los Angeles does (also the link to an explanation of the above code), but Davis does not.

        It is therefore legal to cross anywhere within the boundaries of the south side of Russell/5th starting at A all the way to L, L  to 2nd/3rd, and then along 1st all the way to A – with the exceptions of  5th/Russell between A and B, B and C, C and D, E and F, F and G, 1st between E and D. I am not sure about e.g. B between 3rd and because there is a T-junction for 4th that only has a marked crosswalk. It is, however, perfectly legal to cross B mid-block south of 3rd. Are any of the places outside of these exceptions equipped with a sign that says that traditional mobility is not permitted?

        But still you’re more or less correct, Mr. P(edestrian). My point about “explicit” referred also to the Street Smarts-facilitated pressure about using intersections, which can – after all – overpromise safety to children. Indeed, this flyer – which seems to be a few years old – further twists the jaywalkingestalt into a lie, nearly: “Cross the street at a corner or crosswalk only. Do not cross mid-block!” (Curiously, though it’s – as most of us know – illegal for anyone to do so Downtown, the flyer also says that children under 10 should ride bicycles on the sidewalk. Its literal enforcement is unlikely – but be wary of lawyers! – face value is that the flyer is saying that children should not ride bicycles Downtown!  Now… does this age 10 thing allow our politicians, planners and engineers to shirk their responsibility for some of the youngest street users? No? If not, then why the 10 thing? Why 10, and not 8?)

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