I was riding the bus up through the University District here, and as we rode past a bar, I saw a cop with her foot on the bumper of a big ol' red SUV, writing a ticket for parking in a NO PARKING zone. So I already don't have a lot of sympathy (let's see -- drove into the U. District, parked illegally, drove an SUV).
Then I see the guy running out of the bar. He struts around the SUV, opens the door, shouts at the cop some. She raises her eyebrows (she's perhaps 60, he's 25?), but from inside the bus, I can't hear anything, so I don't know if she said anything. I don't know what he said, either, but from his face I can tell he's using, um, crude anglo-saxonisms. He walks around to the driver door, opens it, struts back to the cop, shouts at her some more, swings away to return to the driver's door. As he steps away, he slapped the keypad on which she's punching in his license plate number.
I'm not talking about a little nudge. I'm talking about a full-on follow-through carry-some-weight-behind-it swing. It spins out of her hands, but she snagged it with a fingertip and deftly flicked it back into her grasp (I was quite impressed, really). Then shouty man jumped in the car and drove away.
I got off the bus at the next stop, walked back down to the officer where she was finishing up her ticket.
"Excuse me, officer," say I. No response. "Um, excuse me." She looks up. "Uh, I saw that guy hit you."
"Oh, don't worry about it. No harm done," she says. "I'd have called him in, but my radio was dead."
I went on my way.
So, what observations do I have after this experience?
I bet you can guess what race the man was. (Yes, he was white.)
Would I have gone back to volunteer my witness, had the cop been a man? No, probably not.
I am quite sure that I (as a bus rider, and a commie-pinko-symp) partly went back to talk to the officer just to twist the knife of seeing an SUV-driver get a ticket for his single-occupancy two-ton internal combustion engine. I'm the sort who gets physical nausea from seeing a Hummer. Would I have gone back if the driver were driving a beat-up old 1985 Datsun with Nader bumpers stickers? I might have gone back. But I think I probably would not have.
Would I have gone back if the driver were black? No, I think I wouldn't. I'm conflicted about this, but I honestly think I wouldn't have. I'm not convinced that it's right, but I'm pretty sure that's the snap judgement I would have made at the time. I look at it as "he'll get enough shit from the cop anyway." But I don't feel good about that -- he was parked illegally, he was cussing out (and swat at!) a small, gray-haired woman for doing her job, and he was dumb enough to run out of a bar and jump in his car -- he should go down for DUI and assault on an officer, regardless of his race. But I suspect he walked away (er, drove away) with a parking ticket and little more -- probably because he was white.
Then again, a black man in the US probably would have more reasons to have second thoughts. This guy's sense of entitlement was huge; I could see the outrage in his face that he was getting called on breaking the rules. ("Bitch! rules are for keeping those other people out of my way!").
I'm not really seeking a vindication of my decision -- I did what I did; I'm not too guilty about it anyway. It just brings up some interesting hypothetical situations, and I'm interested in thinking through the dynamics of what happened there.
What happened in the driver's mind?
What happened in the cop's mind?
What happened in my mind, as random white liberal/radical bus-riding bystander?