The holiday season brings a lot of excitement. Between the shopping, Christmas parties, and family gatherings, it is easy to get distracted. Throw alcohol into the mix and it is easy to see how one may let their guard down as they are out and about. Slow down and pay attention to what is going on around you. We can all play a bigger part in reducing victimization and looking less attractive to criminals on the street.
Holiday personal safety tips:
Pay attention to your surroundings.
Walk in well-lit areas.
Scan the street and make a mental note of what and who you see.
Stick to familiar areas.
NEVER walk down the street talking on your cell phone (or listening to music on headphones).
Try to walk with others as there is strength in numbers.
Let friends and loved ones know where you will be.
If you are drinking, ensure that you have a sober friend with you.
If you’re out shopping, try to carry packages in one hand so you have a free hand.
If you’re scared, ask a security officer to walk you to your car. It is ok to ask for help and to put authorities on alert.
Criminals are looking for vulnerabilities. The minute you let your guard down they will pounce. Pay attention and reduce the distractions so that you can get home safe and enjoy all the fun the holidays have to offer.
“They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression.”
A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in the Multicultural Teaching Scholars Program while I was in graduate school. I had the distinct pleasure of being assigned to the University of Missouri. My experience was wonderful. There were great students, great faculty, and a great campus. The lack of diversity was not so great but not unexpected at large, traditional campus. Imagine my disappointment when Mizzou dominated the news for their handling of racial issues a few weeks ago. There were stories of white students taunting black students and using ugly racial slurs. A report surfaced about the use of racial images including a swastika outlined in feces in a student dorm. These recent incidents brought Mizzou’s problem with race to a boiling point. Black students argued they raised these issues with the administration for years and nothing had been done. There were calls for the resignation of the president and provost and still nothing. Missouri’s own Lieutenant Governor argued that there was little evidence of racism when asked about the issue (Graves & Knott, 2015). The university’s defense was that they didn’t know these issues were occurring on campus. It was not until the predominantly black football team took a stand and refused to practice or play that the university started to pay attention. The Twitter pictures showing solidarity among black players and white players and coaches were telling.
According to the University of Missouri website, “Mizzou has a diverse enrollment with 35,000 students.” At the University of Missouri, diversity equates to a student population that is 9% black and nearly 73% white. In addition, of the nearly 1,600 faculty that are tenured or on the tenure track, only 302 are black. (These figures do not include part-time or non-tenure track faculty). How does one truly learn, appreciate, and understand different kinds of people, cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints in such a sanitized environment?
The threat of the school losing money if the football program halted made the board take real notice. College football is a multi-million dollar industry and a life line to these schools. It was the economic threat and not the desire to truly do what is right in the face of racism, oppression, and discrimination that prompted closed door meetings, national discussion and ultimately the loss of jobs and the penning of new policy. In 2015. Curious. And the hiring of a diversity officer. I wonder why such a position did not exist before? Furthermore, Mizzou’s exposure led other schools to re-evaluate the complaints they received from minority students. In 2015. Other schools are now patting themselves on the back for being innovative in the area of diversity and inclusion because they have crafted new diversity policies. In 2015.
So I leave you with this. If we as some argue live in a post-racial society, then why are we so uncomfortable discussing race??
It’s that time of year again. The days are shorter, the leaves are turning brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow and the mornings are crisp and cool. As fall begins so too does the holiday season. For those that participate, Halloween is a time for fun and games and to perhaps live out a childhood fantasy through dress and play. (I still secretly think I’m Wonder Woman, but aren’t all women???) This week’s post is a quick safety reminder as you prepare for parties, to take the kids out trick-or-treating, and engage in other fun activities.
Small children should always be accompanied by a parent or other trusted adult guardian while trick-or-treating.
Older children should travel in a group and should never be out on the street alone.
Avoid placing children in long costumes that may drag on the ground as they may trip and fall. The costume may also get caught on a curb causing injury.
For costumes that incorporate make-up or a mask, ensure that the eyes are not obstructed.
If possible, wear light colored costumes so that you are easily visible. Consider placing a light or reflective material on children wearing dark colored costumes so that drivers can see them as they navigate area neighborhoods.
Stay in well-lit areas and on familiar streets.
Let people know where you will be and always carry a cell phone.
Parents and guardians should always inspect their children’s candy before it is consumed and it is best not to eat homemade treats. Throw away any candy that has been opened, has a hole in it or appears to be tampered with. If you have any doubts, err on the side of caution and throw it away. (There have been police reports across the country of authorities uncovering candy laced with ecstasy so you can never be too careful).
For those adults participating in Halloween parties, be mindful of your alcohol consumption. If you know you’re going to be drinking, use Uber or have a designated driver.
If you’re at a private home, club or other venue, never leave your drink unattended or consume a beverage you are unsure of. Unfortunately, predators still try to entice victims by placing harmful substances in their drinks.
People tend to let their guard down when they are excited or distracted. These reminders are simple tips for preventing harm, injury, and victimization. Have a great time this weekend and as always, be safe!
Last week the Pope was in town. It was sheer Pope Pandemonium. People adjusted their schedules and lives in the hope of just catching a glimpse of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. I had the honor and pleasure of seeing Pope Francis’ Pope-mobile and seeing him address the US Congress. It was truly a blessing. From his arrival on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 to his departure on Thursday, September 24, 2015, a spirit of love had set over the city of Washington. The City was calm and peaceful. Everywhere you went people smiled and discussed in excitement their experience of the Papal visit. There was so much optimism in the air that it felt like there was a shift. A shift in the way we view each other, a shift in the way we treat each other. The happiness was infectious. I thought that perhaps this was the change we needed and the examples provided would lead to healing of some societal hurts such as discrimination, hate, lack of respect, rudeness, and violence. Unfortunately, that was a utopian desire as once Pope Francis left the United States, the calm dissipated and we all went back to our normal habits. Wouldn’t it be a better and more enjoyable life if we all had mutual respect for one another regardless of religious background, political affiliation, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, whether you like cats or dogs, or sleep upside down? It should not be that hard. Really.
I wish there was a way to recapture the feeling of last week…
With the highly publicized incidents of police shootings over the past couple of years, many people have questions about exactly they must act when they encounter the police. There are basic rights everyone has, however it must be recognized that each interaction may unfold differently.
The general rule of thumb is to keep calm and obey the directions of the police. Bad feelings and issues may be sorted out later but you cannot take back a life if an interaction with the police escalates to the point of deadly force.
Q1: Can a police officer stop me if I’m walking down the street?
A1: It is within your right to refuse to speak to or stop for the police. However, if an officer believes that you are behaving suspiciously, they have the authority to detain you for the purposes of an investigation.
Q2: If I am stopped by the police, do they have to read me my rights before I answer any questions?
A2: No. If you are being placed under arrest, the police are required to read you your Miranda Rights. They are not required to read you your rights during traffic stops or encounters on the street.
Q3: Do the police have the right to search me?
A3: It depends on the circumstances. If the police reasonably believe that you may have been involved in a crime, this gives them probable cause to legally search you. If a police officer asks permission to search you or your property (ex. a vehicle) and you give permission, then that is considered voluntary consent to search. The police may also search you or your property if they have a warrant.
Q4: May I record a police encounter?
A4: This varies by jurisdiction. In the District of Columbia, it is legal to record police officers carrying out their duties in public as long as it does not interfere with official police business.
Q5: If a police officer orders me to get out of my vehicle, do I have to comply?
A5: Yes. The police have the right to ask you and any passengers to get out of your vehicle. If you believe they violated your rights, remain calm during the interaction and follow-up later at the closest police station and file a formal complaint with a police supervisor.
Follow me on Twitter: @CrimeDoc1213
Flyouth. (2005). SE youth and the police [Pamphlet]. Washington, DC: Facilitating Leadership in Youth.
The Subculture of Violence is a criminological term normally reserved to explain crimes committed in poor, urban communities but today’s on air killing of WDBJ Reporter Allison Parker and Cameraman Adam Ward show us that these behaviors have not been confined within neatly drawn boundaries around disadvantaged neighborhoods. This violence has oozed out of areas where it normally occurs and is now everywhere. Rudeness, dismissiveness, and a sense of entitlement lead to poor and sometimes heated interactions which are precursors to violence.
We as a community have got to do better. And, we have to treat each other better. It is no secret that those involved in these violent incidents are trouble souls. They feel invisible because society does not care about them. Or at least that is the perception. They have been cast aside by family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. This does not excuse this behavior. Violence is NEVER the answer! What it means is that we need to wake up. We have a responsibility. If something is out of the ordinary, say something. If something does not seem right, do something. Ignorance is not acceptable. We can no longer be complacent spectators going through the motions of life. We all play a vital role in this script. Now is the time to start caring. Wave at a neighbor. Smile at someone coming down the street. Help an elderly person across the road. Stop at stop signs and let pedestrians cross safely before you gun the engine to move quickly through the intersection. Ask someone how they are doing and have the compassion to wait for the answer to ensure they are truly okay. Slow down. The world does not revolve around you or me. The only way we are going to survive is if we go back to basics and start treating people kindly, gently, and humanely. Hatred has crept into places that used to be off limits: our schools, playgrounds, churches, and workplaces. We need balance. We live in this world together and thus must be accountable to one another. Recognize the warning signs and act on them.
Hurting people hurt, and in this case kill. Let’s do better.
On Sunday, August 9, 2015, the anniversary of Mike Brown’s killing was marred by a shooting in Ferguson, MO. A peaceful protest turned violent overshadowing its purpose and meaning. Those that are a part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well as those watching from the sidelines are left questioning this reaction. This has fueled the argument that we also need to focus on the black on black violence that continues to plaque large urban areas in the United States and explanations of this behavior.
Black males are six times more likely to die by violence in comparison to white males. For black males aged 15-24 years old, homicide is the number one cause of death. The legacies of slavery, oppression, and discrimination have forced the Black male to adapt and reinvent himself and the result has been the cool pose. The cool pose is the creation of an alternate persona that shields black males against the constant barrage of racial discrimination in American society. The cool pose has diametrically opposed effects. On the one hand, it raises his self-esteem and on the other it further marginalizes him and may even reinforce negative stereotypes because it is outside the norm and is viewed as unacceptable. As such, the spotlight is on this group and garnishes the attention of criminal justice authorities.
Black males have developed the cool pose as a defense mechanism to everyday struggles in the inner-city. There is a huge gap between the desired status of the American Dream and the means to achieve that station in life. Due to the history of oppression, black males feel powerless. The cool pose is a rejection of the definitions imposed upon them by the dominant culture through a creation of a new, individual identity. This identity is a play on masculinity and was formed as a sense of survival (Majors & Billson, 1992).
The cool pose is black masculinity personified and involves role-playing based on urban conventions of dress, speech, and behavior. Actors control interactions with an air that observers may view as arrogance but is grounded in honor and dignity. This stance is more prevalent among disadvantaged males and is a cultural, physical, and social detachment from everyday negative life. The cool pose, an external projection, belies the internal pain and struggle of the actor playing cool.
The cool pose has positive effects on the black male psyche as it gives them a sense of pride, value, and personal control over their own lives. The cool pose is a honed craft for the black male which boosts his confidence. Conversely, the cool pose also has negative effects, some which explain the violence we see played out night after night on the news. There is a lot of posturing between males on the street who will fight to the death to protect their image as respect is a form of currency in inner-city communities. With so much lacking in other areas of their lives, respect is all they have and as such they go to great lengths to protect it. One must be prepared to take a life or give up their own life to save face and remain ‘cool.’
Despite the positive effect the cool pose may have on black male self-esteem, it has increased the involvement in damaging behaviors. Thus, the race-crime connection is perpetuated through destructive behavior maintaining high rates of violence among young black males. Perhaps it is time to redefine this posture by holding onto that which is positive and rejecting the negative qualities that are currently sustaining the cultural, economic, and social blight. Remold the mask, change the posture, and save the community.