Sometimes, when I’m feeling a special kind of cynical, I put on Michael Jackson’s “You Can’t Win” from The Wiz and wallow in its bluesy refrain. Being black in the U.S. of A., if you watch the news, or think too hard about the daunting odds of America living up to its promise of parity, you just might start to think, what’s the use?
Sometimes it’s as if we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
A recent case from Oklahoma got me thinking.
Here is the case of a (respectable) black Tulsa real estate investor, Adam James, who said that he was arrested and jailed in September because he was too compliant with police.
And so they handcuffed him, threw him in the back of a cruiser and took him to a hospital to be tested for drugs before booking him for what he called “over-obeying.”
Tulsa World reports that Deputy David Allen and Deputy Randy Schaefer pulled James over because he “veered partially” into an inside lane three times while driving a black 2001 Honda Civic.
They wrote James a ticket for an expired tag (no mention of swerving). He was also accused of doing illicit drugs after they confronted him in a parking lot slightly after midnight on Sept. 30.
“I don’t recall swerving because the [deputy] would have said that,” James said. “He never mentioned that.”
James said that he was so nervous he might be shot, he fumbled for documents in his glove box. He said that he frustrated police by moving slowly, explaining what he was doing as he did it and keeping his hands raised.
“Adam James had difficulty following simple instruction [sic] without them being repeated multiple times and continuously raised his hands in the air,” Allen wrote.
James said he felt as if he was in a can’t-win situation.
“So no matter what I did in there, I was going to lose,” James said.
James took eight sobriety tests and acknowledged struggling with the one leg-stand test, calling it a “karate kid”-type stance that the deputy himself couldn’t perform well, according to Tulsa World. Otherwise, he said, he passed the tests.
Once his blood test came back negative, prosecutors dropped the charges against him.
James said that the “surreal” experience left him feeling humiliated.
“[I felt like I wasn’t] an equal. That I was not a citizen. That I don’t matter,” he said.
Yet Tulsa Sheriff Vic Regalado vehemently denied racial profiling and said that perhaps the reason James tested negative for drugs is that he was under the influence of something that was too unusual to be detected by a blood test.
“That is not uncommon for that to happen,” Regalado said. “And the reason why is when it does happen, it could be a variety of different things. It could include those tests only test for certain intoxicants; it doesn’t test for synthetic drugs, inhalants and things like that.”
He also noted that everyone gets nervous when pulled over, “not just African Americans.”
James said that by the time his attorney gets his record expunged, he will have spent somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000.
“I got out because I had the means,” he asked. “What if I didn’t?”
This whole thing stinks to high heaven, from his being pulled over (racial profiling) to the way he was treated by police (by the way, the wife of one of the cops was in the car when this was going on), to the fact that the sheriff still tried to besmirch his good name afterward.
Maybe James was nervous because he had seen footage of police killing Philando Castile, Alton Sterling or, surely, Terence Crutcher, who, in the very same city of Tulsa, was shot and killed by police while his hands were up.
Either way, he couldn’t win.
Read more at Tulsa World.