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.