Over this past weekend I made a trip up to Michigan State with my friend to visit his brothers and their friends. We needed a brief change of scenery from the gray skies of Ann Arbor and the Wisconsin/State game is definitely providing that for us. The Michigan State campus is beautiful. This wasn’t my first time traveling to East Lansing, so I knew how fun the weekend was about to be. The social scene at Michigan State has always been great every time I had made a trip up here. The sporting events and the parties that follow are never dull. Shortly after we arrived at State, we got ready for a night on the town. Even though it wasn’t game day, the nightlife was still vibrantly crowded with bar crawlers, neon-clad rave attendees, and partygoers alike. We decided to do the logical thing and bar hop around the campus. We noticed that since there were so many people in the streets, Lansing had bulked up on their police force for the night. There were even officers mounted on horses patrolling the streets, which was a bit pretentious for my taste, but I digress. The officers’ presence really didn’t phase anyone, however. It was me, my friend, his brothers, and a couple other friends with us. We went to a couple bars, but soon got tired of the same old scene over and over-enter a crowded bar, buy an absurdly expensive beer, and repeat. By the time we were over the bars, we weren’t even tipsy, but more so tired and hungry. I felt I needed to wake up a bit, so my friend and I decided to walk a couple blocks down to the 7-Eleven to grab a couple energy drinks. We were to meet up with the rest of the group at a restaurant adjacent to a couple of the bars we had gone to. My friend and I were gone for about 15 minutes. The rest of our group was heading to the restaurant when they ran into a couple of people they knew. While talking with them, a couple horse-mounted police officers approached the group, telling them to go home. One of our friends in the group, who I’ll refer to as V, was thrown off by the officers’ presence among them, believing it was a racially-fueled confrontation. I was actually the only non-black guy in our group, but as I stated before, I was out at 7-Eleven. Sometimes, such accusations regarding discrimination/racism have no basis to work off of, but V had a good reason to be inquisitive. They weren’t drunk and belligerent, and were conspicuous in their demeanor, they were just talking to some friends on the sidewalk. V’s inquisitive nature led to him telling the cops flat out that their confrontation was solely based on racism. V didn’t assault or touch any officer, he was only vocalizing himself, but this didn’t stop the officers from handcuffing V on the spot. V turned to one of our group members to tell him the number to his aunt’s home, who lived a couple miles away, so that she knew the situation. Without warning, V was tackled to the ground by a couple of the officers, with other officers coming to assist their fellow lawmen. V’s glasses were knocked off his face and landed on the concrete. One of our other group members bent down to pick up V’s glasses, but the officers wouldn’t even let him do that for V. V was then sent to the police station to be detained for the night. By the time my friend and I got back to the rest of the group, V was already on his way to the police station. There were several other bystanders who witnessed the ordeal, only to agree with the fact that such an act was totally uncalled for. Michigan State has been in the spotlight recently due to a few racially-driven events such as “racist messages being scrawled on doors; outright physical acts of racial intimidation; and the initial incident of a black doll being hung from a beaded noose in a chemistry lab shortly after the school year began in early September” (Smith 1). Now I am not saying that the incident involving V’s arrest was racially-driven, since it wasn’t explicitly racist, but it does make one wonder why police would solely approach a group of black people who were soberly talking to each other while there are drunken white girls stumbling about the streets. In fact, that very same night, I witnessed a drunken white girl stumbling down the street shoeless in front of a bar. Two white police officers walked by, looked at her, and kept walking. It might also be good to mention that this very same drunk girl , a mere 45 seconds after the cops passed her, began attempting (a big emphasis on ‘attempting’) to hit a black guy walking down the street and yelling explicitly racial slurs toward him. Social interactions such as these bring up a bunch of questions about racial perceptions in our society today. Was V’s arrest racially driven? If there was a black girl stumbling down the street shoeless, would those two white police officers react the same way as they did with the white girl? How rampant is racism today anyways? Have we really changed since the days of Jim Crow Laws, or are society’s perceptions of minorities still the same, but are able to lay under the radar better than it had before?
Smith, Jay Scott. “Michigan State University rocked by racial intimidation.” thegrio.com. NBCUniversal, 06 Oct 2011. Web. 22 Oct 2011. <http://www.thegrio.com/education-1/michigan-state-university-rocked-by-racial-intimidation.php?page=1>.