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Jamelle Bouie’s TV Moving Dilemma

Jamelle Bouie has an extra television and decided to give it away for free. So, he’s clearly privileged. Except for this:

As I was getting ready to go, it occurred to me that this would be a terrible idea. Not because I would have been carrying a TV at 10pm down a quiet city street—I actually feel pretty safe doing that. But because I would have been a black dude—in a hoodie, no less!—carrying a nice-looking TV down a quiet city street at 10pm.

What’s more, it’s a street well-patrolled by police officers—I didn’t want to play with the odds of being stopped on the street, and having to explain where I got the TV from. After all, there was no way for me to quickly prove that the TV (formerly) belonged to me. It’s not as if I had a bill of sale, and telling a cop that it’s “for a friend” is a sure way of spending the next few hours in a holding cell.

[...]

I have no idea what would have happened if I decided to walk a nice TV three blocks down the street. It’s entirely possible that the police would have left me alone. But I couldn’t count on that. Calling my [white] friend, and making a different arrangement, was the only prudent thing to do.

What does it mean to be privileged? It means not having to think about any of this, ever.

Considering that a black kid in a hoodie carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles can find himself dead, thinking about things like this is indeed prudent. And, no, my caucasian self would never have considered the implications of walking down the street with a TV were I giving one away.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    It’s the Drug War. The idiotic, racist Drug War.

    Take that away and this stuff will finally start disappearing. It won’t be gone overnight, but it will start leaving. And that’s a good thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Considering that a black kid in a hoodie carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles can find himself dead, thinking about things like this is indeed prudent. And, no, my caucasian self would never have considered the implications of walking down the street with a TV were I giving one away.

    And this is what so many “Conservatives” never seem to get.

    Oh, and by the way, I too have a free TV to give away. 32″ diagonal with all the bells and whistles. My step daughter and her husband just got married and had the exact same TV so she gave us hers. I hope it doesn’t take long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. mattb says:

    To channel Janis, while the posting on same sex weddings at the national cathedral has been pretty tame, I don’t see this one going particularly smoothly.

    Bouie’s essay was excellent, thanks for highlighting it James. And your reaction was spot on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Considering that a black kid in a hoodie carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles can find himself dead

    A whole lot of bad decisions were made between Trayvon Martin getting those Skittles and finding himself dead. Several of them by Mr. Martin himself — the biggest one was deciding that simply going home was a darned good option, and turning, confronting, and beating the crap out of the guy who was “dissing” him by briefly following him was a really poor one.

    Jamelle’s situation, though… that sucks. And yeah, it’s largely a product of the drug war. The drug war Obama’s fully committed to continuing. Except for that whole “arming Mexican drug cartels” thing, that is.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 26

  5. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    beating the crap out of the guy who was “dissing” him by briefly following him was a really poor one.

    Again… getting your ass kicked should not be permission to kill someone else. And before you go on Jenos, I’ve seen all the pictures. Zimmerman got a mild ass whoopin’. As I have said before, I am sure it felt like his head was being cracked open on the pavement. But the visual trauma and the medical reports both prove it wasn’t the case.

    And if you read the police report, the officers at the scene had the same reaction.

    All that said, under stand your ground, it is very likely that Zimmerman was within his rights. But that demonstrates the problems with “stand your ground” as a whole.

    Jamelle’s situation, though… that sucks. And yeah, it’s largely a product of the drug war.

    Right. It’s all the drug war. And Jamelle’s skin color has nothing to do with it… or the assumption that someone of that skin color is most likely involved in the drug war.

    Except for that whole “arming Mexican drug cartels” thing, that is.

    Wow… Martin deserved it and Fast and Furious in one post. All you missed is that Democrats are hypocrites for supporting Hagel and Bengahzi and you would have had a prefect wing-nut bingo score in your first post.

    Man it’s going to be a fun four years…. Any bets on how soon till Jenos calls for impeachment?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  6. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    …turning, confronting, and beating the crap out of the guy who was “dissing” him by briefly following him…

    You don’t know that one bit of that is factual, but your tendency to blame the victim when gun violence is concerned is noted, yet again. Asshole.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @mattb: That thread, other than one bizarre Papist, was pretty tame. This one, however, has the potential to bring out all of the resident racist d-bags.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. JKB says:

    And, no, my caucasian self would never have considered the implications of walking down the street with a TV were I giving one away.

    And you would be quite stupid for not considering your risk of police involvement if you lived in Jamelle’s neighborhood. The street is well-patrolled by police, so that indicates an area of high crime or targeted for crime suppression. As such, as a resident, white or black, in a hoodie, you run a risk.

    Now, if the question is, would he, as a black man, be stopped in your current neighborhood, James, whereas you wouldn’t feel you would be perhaps even walking right past the officer while he’s conducting the stop on Jamelle, then there is a problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  9. stonetools says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Hey, it brought out Jenos already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. mantis says:

    @JKB:

    And you would be quite stupid for not considering your risk of police involvement if you lived in Jamelle’s neighborhood

    And what do you know about his neighborhood?

    The street is well-patrolled by police, so that indicates an area of high crime or targeted for crime suppression.

    Or a well-heeled area with low crime, no doubt in part due to it being well-policed. What do you know about D.C. neighborhoods? I have some guesses as to where he might live given his profession and experience, and it ain’t the rough hoods of that city.

    Notice that Bouie states that he would feel safe going out at night on his street except for the fact that he might be mistaken for a criminal? Wouldn’t that indicate that he thinks it is a pretty safe street overall?

    As such, as a resident, white or black, in a hoodie, you run a risk.

    You run a risk just leaving the house, or staying in for that matter. All of life is risk. You have no information to indicate that this street is particularly risky, and what information we do have indicates the opposite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    Now, if the question is, would he, as a black man, be stopped in your current neighborhood, James, whereas you wouldn’t feel you would be perhaps even walking right past the officer while he’s conducting the stop on Jamelle, then there is a problem.

    I suspect that the fact James included the following statement “considering that a black kid in a hoodie carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles can find himself dead”, perhaps he things that this might be the case.

    Of course, part of this also ties into urban versus suburban living. If everyone in the neighborhood knew Boulie, there’s less of a chance of his being stopped. That said, depending on how well the local police force knows the neighborhood, there’s no guarantee (see Gates, Henry Louis).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  12. Paul L. says:

    @mantis:

    a black kid in a hoodie carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles

    Sorry to question your narrative of Tiny 13 year old 140 Lb kid armed only with Skittles and Iced Tea gunned down in cold blood by a 250 lb white man.

    Amazing, the damage Skittles and Iced Tea can do to a guy.
    Prosecutors in Trayvon Martin Case Finally Release Picture of George Zimmerman With Bloody, Clearly Broken Nose

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    Yesterday, in his post “Obama Hit For Lack of Diversity in Reshuffled Cabinet”, Doug Mataconis stated that “Indeed, haven’t we gotten beyond the point where a person’s gender or the color of their skin should even be a relevant consideration”.

    According to Jamelle Bouie, perhaps we haven’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. mantis says:

    @Paul L.:

    Sorry to question your narrative of Tiny 13 year old 140 Lb kid armed only with Skittles and Iced Tea gunned down in cold blood by a 250 lb white man.

    You were quoting James Joyner, the author of this post, not me, and you distorted what he wrote without any reason to do so. You are clearly full of shit and rather dumb to boot.

    I’ve said nothing about Martin’s size or Zimmerman’s injuries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    Back in my younger days I did some pro bono work, and one thing I was struck by was how many young African-American men (and some women) were in jail or on trial for simple possession of a controlled substance. How do the police ever catch any of them, I wondered? I could have walked around with a kilo of coke strapped to my torso the last 20 years and would never have been discovered. So how are the police even finding these drugs in the first place?

    But then again, I’m a prosperous looking white man, not a black man, and therefore run no risk of the police ever stopping me for no good reason….and if they did stop me, I’d be able to refuse a search and walk on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    And you would be quite stupid for not considering your risk of police involvement if you lived in Jamelle’s neighborhood.

    What neighborhood is that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. Paul L. says:

    @mantis:

    You are clearly full of shit and rather dumb to boot.

    You saying I imagined that narrative of “armed only with Skittles and Iced Tea” that was promoted on every News network except Fox when this started?

    Bringing up the “carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles” is the perfect excuse to remind people of how much that narrative was false.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  18. mattb says:

    @Paul L.:

    Amazing, the damage Skittles and Iced Tea can do to a guy.
    Prosecutors in Trayvon Martin Case Finally Release Picture of George Zimmerman With Bloody, Clearly Broken Nose

    Again… a broken Nose — or a mild ass kicking — is not a good enough reason to sanction killing another person.

    As I wrote just a few posts above:

    I’ve seen all the pictures. Zimmerman got a mild ass whoopin’. As I have said before, I am sure it felt like his head was being cracked open on the pavement. But the visual trauma and the medical reports both prove it wasn’t the case.

    And if you read the police report, the officers at the scene had the same reaction (the officer described Zimmerman’s injuries as “marginally consistent with a life-threatening violent episode as described by [Zimmeran].”)

    All that said, under stand your ground, it is very likely that Zimmerman was within his rights. But that demonstrates the problems with “stand your ground” as a whole.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Bringing up the “carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles” is the perfect excuse to remind people of how much that narrative was false.

    Oh? How was it false? Did Martin have some kind of concealed weapon inside the bag of Skittles? And if we want to talk about false narratives, let us talk about the narrative claiming that Martin was “turning, confronting, and beating the crap out of the guy who was ‘dissing’ him by briefly following him”…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  20. JKB says:

    @mattb: (see Gates, Henry Louis)

    Gates was profiled by his neighbor not the police. Once called, the officer had an obligation to verify who was in the house was lawfully there. Gates chose to make the situation confronttational. Gates was arrested because he was an a-hole, not just that, but a stupid a-hole, because he let himself be lured into public (visible and audible from the street) where his behavior was disorderly. When dealing with the cops, don’t be stupid, they’ve got lots of practice in dealing with a-holes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  21. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders: What neighborhood is that?

    If you had read my comment and the post, you would know that the neighborhood had a large police presence. More police, more crime suppression, more police interaction for seemingly benign behavior.

    A few years ago, I was stopped by the police on a road I frequently travelled, ostensively for speeding, the officer checked my license, said something about trying to slow traffic and let me go. Seemingly benign, except along that section of the road there had been a lot of police activity in the previous months, even SWAT raid due to some drug houses. It took me a bit to realize the officer was A. stepping up the police profile in the area, and B. checking IDs. Mine had a nearby address so my presence on the road was logical. But had my ID been from someplace distant, I’m sure I would have been explaining my visit to may aunt while he looked for signs to permit a vehicle search. He was accomplishing his goal of making drug customers wary of visiting the drug houses. More police activity in an area, more interactions with the police

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  22. MarkedMan says:

    The “blame Trayvon for getting murdered” crowd on this site never seem to carry it through to the logical conclusion. Martin should have been armed. Under Florida’s concealed carry law, when he became fearful of the strange armed man following him, he should have pulled out his gun and killed him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  23. PJ says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Under Florida’s concealed carry law, when he became fearful of the strange armed man following him, he should have pulled out his gun and killed him.

    It doesn’t apply to black men, and it only applies to hispanics when they end up shooting someone who isn’t white.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  24. bill says:

    weak, lame too. race baiting 101, and 50 seconds of reading i’ll never get back.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  25. Herb says:

    The drug war? C’mon…..

    Saying that makes it sound like American History started in 1972. It didn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. superdestroyer says:

    the author lives in the District of Columbia. There are many neighborhoods in DC where a white person has to think very hard about walking down the street late at night with or without a television set.

    The idea that whites are so privledged that they can walk down any street in DC and not think about their safety is laughable. A black guy walking down the street in Northwest DC with or without a television set has much less to worry about that a white guy walking down the street in Anacostia any time of the day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  27. James Joyner says:

    @superdestroyer: Bouie’s a young writer for the American Prospect. He’s not living in Anacostia. And, regardless of where you live, the implications of a black man and a white man of walking down the street carrying a television are simply different.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  28. superdestroyer says:

    @James Joyner:

    Would a white man walking down the street in Anacostia have more or less to fear than a black man walking down the street in Spring Valley?

    I also loved the implication that someone the police department in DC is hard on blacks. I guess Mr. Bouie forget who dominates local politics in DC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  29. Janis Gore says:

    @superdestroyer: My lord, you all a bore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Jim Henley says:

    SHORTER: Hi, my name is @superdestroyer and I fracking hate black people! Just fracking hate ‘em! GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Jim Henley says:

    You know you else is afraid, walking down certain streets in Anacostia, besides white people? Black people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. superdestroyer says:

    @Jim Henley:

    Every black writer seems to want to write about being black. And eventually they will write about walking down the street, being profiled, and how racist the police are. Why can’t blacks write about how much the crime rate is in the black neighborhood, that blacks have a culture of “no snitching,” and that whites have to think about where they are as much as blacks or Hispanics. However, I think that a black would feel safer living in Spring Valley than a white living in Anacostia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  33. bill says:

    @James Joyner: at some point they must realize it’s their own damn fault.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  34. mantis says:

    I see the Klan is trying to take over the thread. Let’s not let them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. Jim Henley says:

    Shorter @superdestroyer: “I AM A SQUID! MARVEL AT MY AMAZING CLOUD OF INK!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. bill says:

    @mantis: well there are a lot of democrats in here!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. An Interested Party says:

    well there are a lot of democrats in here!

    Sorry, sweetie, but all the bed sheet wearers ditched the Democratic Party when its leaders decided to stand up for civil rights for black people…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0