“White folks get a ticket, they pull over ‘Hey officer! Yes, glad to be of help. Here you go.’ (Blacks) got to be talkin’ about ‘I AM REACHING INTO MY POCKET FOR MY LICENSE! CAUSE I DON’T WANT TO BE NO ACCIDENT!’
“It’s often, you wonder why a (black) don’t go completely mad. You get your (stuff) together, you work all week, make $125, he go out and get clean and be driving with his old lady going out to a club and police pull him over ‘GET OUT OF THE CAR! THERE WAS A ROBBERY! (BLACK) LOOK JUST LIKE YOU PUT YOUR HANDS UP TAKE YOUR PANTS DOWN AND SPREAD YOUR CHEEKS!’
“Now, what (black) feel like having fun after that?”
The above was said in 1974 by Richard Pryor.
It could have been said in 1964 or 1954 or 2020.
I have no business writing about this. Just like the thousands upon thousands of white people who post their outrage on social media.
You, I, will never, ever understand.
I write because I can’t help it. I write because I saw the video and cringed and I sat there stunned at what I just saw. Again.
We did not have cell phones in 1974. Most of us were ignorant of the brutality inflicted by police.
Today, we see it instantly, sometimes live and when we watch a white cop nonchalantly kneeling on a black man’s neck until the last breath of air leaves his blood-soaked lips, we gain just a small bit of understanding of what black people have endured.
A very small bit.
A few years back I was driving home from Barker and I was not in a good mood and in my rear view mirror I see a police officer following me, out of town and for about three miles before the lights came on.
I pulled over, steaming, rolled my window down and impolitely asked the officer why he pulled me over.
“You didn’t come to a complete stop back there,” he calmly said.
I yelled at him, telling him he was full of it and how the hell could he have seen that if he was parked hundreds of yards away?
My children cringed in the back seat, begging me to calm down.
The officer remained calm, told me to be more careful and walked away.
Think if I was black that would have played out like that?
I don’t know. Maybe not. Not all police officers are the same and most of them show restraint and kindness.
Police have a difficult job. Just look at what happened here on Wednesday night. A routine call can always go horribly wrong.
In my 31 years of reporting, I can count on one hand the number of times we have received complaints about police brutalizing black people in our communities and never once has anyone told me that they were pulled over “for being black.”
But we are sheltered. We don’t live in Rochester of Buffalo or Minneapolis or New York City.
When I watch videos of police shooting unarmed black men and women, of police choking the life out of another human being, I think “How would I feel if I was a black person?”
It is something that I cannot comprehend. I can express outrage and feel sad and I can write a silly column that has no effect whatsoever.
I can join the protests and write letters to Congress and in the end none of that matters.
Nothing is going to change.
It didn’t during Richard Pryor’s lifetime. It didn’t during Martin Luther King’s or Malcolm X’s.
Nothing ever really changes anyway. We are a maddening country, a country that can be both at times gloriously progressive and wonderful and at other times frustratingly third-world.
My sense is that we are spiralling downward.
Then again, maybe we have been for a long, long time.
Scott DeSmit is a general assignment reporter for The Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org