12/05/14 2:27pm
12/05/2014 2:27 PM

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

You wouldn’t want to see your teenage nephew’s life derailed. You’ve watched him grow up. You know he’s a smart kid with a ton of potential; he’s just run into some trouble at home lately.

At this point, an arrest for, say, buying a case of beer with a fake ID — technically a felony — could ruin his chances of getting into college.

Now imagine you’re a cop and that kid behind the wheel of the car you just stopped reminds you of your nephew — or son, or younger cousin. Maybe you try to do right by him.

I’ve benefited several times from what I’ve long called the “nephew” effect. Many of my friends have, too. We were often together when police would stop us back in the 1990s, whether it was for using a fake ID or some other stupid thing teenagers do.

There was one time we got pulled over, still under age, in a remote area upstate (don’t ask) and were questioned by two officers who found bottles of booze in our trunk. They scared us a bit, sure, but we weren’t arrested. We weren’t even ticketed. In fact — though maybe this might not have been the best call — they let us keep the booze.

I’ve often thought about these times in my youth and how fortunate I was. But at some point, I realized, I probably would have been arrested — I might even have a criminal record today — if I were black.

It appears I’m not alone in my thoughts.

After a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, a profound conversation started in the social media world, specifically on Twitter. The site erupted with people using the hashtag #crimingwhilewhite to highlight posts about their own personal experiences as white people committing crimes and how their experiences with the cops differed from those of so many black people in the United States.

Here are some examples:

 

 

I also chimed in on Twitter, calling the leniency shown toward white people the “you remind me of my nephew” effect.

It’s just easier to understand and sympathize with someone who looks like you and your family members — maybe even resembles you as a young person. I think it’s fair to say that, growing up,most white cops didn’t have many black teenagers at their family parties or barbecues, so their experiences with them might be mostly negative.

Racism, conscious or unconscious, doesn’t end with policing. I know this firsthand from watching hours upon hours of arraignment proceedings in courtrooms throughout the region, mostly when I was a writer with the Daily News. In Suffolk County Criminal Court especially, the racism on display became a sort of sad running joke among the reporters as we observed black suspects being treated differently from white ones.

And the differences were stark.

“Speak up!” the judges barked at the scared black teenagers.

The white kids were often spoken to like wayward, well, nephews.

For example: “I really hope I don’t have to see you again here, Charles.”

In my experience, everyday white privilege has much more to do with human nature — and the occasional Police Benevolent Association card — than with money or powerful connections, though I don’t doubt the latter play a huge role in higher profile cases.

But here’s the thing: The type of common sense approach to policing that I experienced as a youth was not just better for me; it’s better for all of society. So long as no one’s getting hurt, keeping as many people as possible out of the criminal justice system is an overall benefit. Whether you share my opinions or not, I’d like to think I’m a productive member of society today. Same for my friends. My one buddy is a police sergeant. Another is a dedicated youth hockey coach. Two others each found success in the financial world.

Many young black kids don’t get the same breaks early in life that white kids do (or worse) and there’s no doubt that a few arrests as a young person can interfere with living productive, fulfilling lives as adults. Black or white, once you’re arrested or convicted of a crime, it’s hard to get any leniency during subsequent traffic stops.

From slavery to terrorism to Jim Crow to discrimination in banking and real estate, inequitable policing remains today a very effective form of repression, even if it’s not deliberate.

If the rest of us can begin to acknowledge this problem now, it will only make for a better, safer society moving forward.

As Neal Taflinger wrote on Twitter as @NealTaflinger last Thursday:

“#CrimingWhileWhite is like introducing yourself at AA. Self-awareness is a huge hurdle, but it’s just the first step.”

Michael White, editorMichael White is the editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, or email him at mwhite@timesereview.com.

10/25/14 8:00am
10/25/2014 8:00 AM
An Ebola education session was held on Oct.21 in New York City. (Credit: Flickr/GovernorAndrewCuomo)

An Ebola education session was held on Oct.21 in New York City. (Credit: Flickr/GovernorAndrewCuomo)

You know what they say about Ebola, right?

Yeah, me neither.

Probably because — despite way too much noise about it on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, TV news and the like — I’ve pretty much tuned out anything Ebola-related.

Somehow, I’m still alive. (more…)

09/07/14 8:00am
09/07/2014 8:00 AM
A yard in the making. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

A yard in the making. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

When I started with the News-Review about a year ago, one of the newer concepts I had to get used to was writing a regular column.

“Nice!” I thought. “Columns are great. I can take a look at something, make it hilarious and/or insightful, and I can have a grand old time writing, just like I imagined when I got into journalism years ago.”

Get a fresh cup of coffee as the sun rises … or a cold beer as the sun is going down (or maybe whiskey — was that what Breslin drank?) … and a magic column miraculously comes forth, right?

Not so much.

Writing a column is much harder than it seems. What I find funny, zany or generally worth knowing doesn’t necessarily translate to something you might care about, be able to learn something from or is worth your time to read.

With that in mind, I figured I’d run through a few column ideas that I’ve dropped in the past year. You be the judge on whether or not they’d translate well to a full 800 words.

My obsession with fantasy sports: I’ve been playing fantasy sports since I was probably 13 years old. It was actually the first thing I ever wrote about for my college newspaper. And I’d say in the past five years the whole phenomenon has really taken off — to the point where ESPN devotes hour-long segments to fantasy sports.

But my wife is quick to remind me that, by its very definition, my fantasy baseball and football teams are not real. Still, the prizes I’ve won have been real! My name is actually engraved on our trophies, which provide me a real sense of accomplishment over my college buddies. And I’ve already won first place in the regular season of my baseball league. If I win this week, I’m in the finals.

Fantasy sports raise an interesting concept though. Historically, most people root for teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, you name it. That kind of gets flipped on its head when I decide to pass on Mike Napoli because I don’t think there’s any way he’ll repeat what he did last season. And he hasn’t. Good for me, bad for my beloved Red Sox.

What it’s like being a redhead: I’m not a minority in the politically correct sense of the word and it’s not like I know what it’s like not to be a redhead. But it’s different. It has to be, right?

Redheads have an innate respect for one another based just on the fact that they share the same hair color. I don’t think that can be said about any other hair color — natural hair color, that is (although Larry David might argue bald people share a similar bond).

I like the beach, but I had to spend most of my honeymoon under a tree on the beach , otherwise I would have come home looking like a lobster. And at home, I generally won’t go to the beach for kicks unless it’s past 5 o’clock generally. Why fight nature?

My experience as a first-time homeowner: For the past 15 months, I’ve been in a constant battle with the house and yard my wife and I bought last May in Wading River. And it really has been a battle …

I’ve been attacked by a nest of yellow jackets, had half my body covered in poison ivy and sworn at myself — actually, it’s my tools — more times than I can count.

A yard that was neglected for at least the past 20 years still looks like nobody takes care of it — and it will look that way for some time to come, just because of the amount of work to be done. Retro bathroom tiles — we’re talking pink and sea green — make you think you’re stepping onto the set of “The Wonder Years.” And until last week, when we finally had a new retaining wall and steps put in, crumbling front stairs offered guests an agility test as they approached the front door.

And call me crazy, but I love it. Watching the progress we’ve made since we moved in has been very rewarding. I just hope the real estate market doesn’t crash again when we ever sell our home and I can make at least a little bit of cash off the investments we’ve been making.

Those people you see on the side of the road occasionally who draw a Hitler moustache on the president and think he should be impeached: Think President Obama should be impeached? No problem, think away. But you lost me at the comparison with Adolf Hitler. I hesitate to give them the space in this or any column, just because comparing the president with the man responsible for the Holocaust deserves a word that goes beyond “ignorant.”

I’ve considered talking to them and trying to find out what really goes on in minds like that. But then I think about it, and I’m not so sure I want to know.

So those are few of the outtakes, if you will. Maybe if the well runs dry one of these weeks you’ll see a full-sized version of one of them. But I’m talking, really dry. Like a redhead’s skin after a full day at the beach.

Joseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of the News-Review, and is curious what you think about his columns that didn’t make the full cut. Let him know at jpinciaro@timesreview.com

08/10/14 8:00am
08/10/2014 8:00 AM
Chris Ujkic won his eighth straight men's singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Chris Ujkic won his eighth straight men’s singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament this summer. (Credit: Garret Meade)

All things must pass
All things must pass away.
George Harrison

It is with profound regret that I announce the demise of the Bob Wall Memorial Summer Tennis Tournament. It has been a staple of North Fork summers for more than 35 years now, but time and the grayification (that’s not a real word, is it?) of our community have finally taken their toll.  (more…)