As a spate of car thefts captures the news, there are calls to extend the time that the state keeps kids in detention. Incarcerating children is a common knee-jerk reaction to youth crime – though we know for a fact that locking kids up generally makes their behavior worse.
Sitting in the paddy wagon, I was afraid – maybe apprehensive was a better word, since I rightly suspected that white privilege would guarantee me good treatment. Still, I said a prayer of thanksgiving. After years of advocating for people in our carceral system, I was given a chance to develop more empathy.
My muted reaction to the Meghan/Harry/Oprah event is shocking my friends. Denying help to a suicidal person or regarding visible melanin as a birth defect are, of course, reprehensible, but royalty is based on a fiction that some people are better than others by virtue of their ancestry. Racism and indifference to human suffering are very much on brand. No U.S. citizen is going to topple that institution.
For me, election night used to mean getting together with friends to watch the returns, having a few beers, and exchanging high fives when our favorites triumphed. Actually, in 2016, there were no high fives and more beers than usual. This year, of course, COVID-19 makes it unsafe to huddle around a television with a crowd. But it’s never been more important to watch the election results with friends.
In the 1980s, when I was a callow youth and newspapers were fat with ads, we struggled to fill The Darien News-Review. We’d do “man on the street” features to eat up space. This involved standing outside the library, getting headshots of passersby and printing their answers to questions like: “Does Darien need a movie theater?” or “How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?” Around Martin Luther King Day, we asked, “How do you think Black people are treated in Darien?” One man told the reporter that he didn’t like n—–s and moved to Darien so he wouldn’t have to look at them. Furthermore, he changed the channel whenever a n—— came on screen.