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.

11/26/14 4:30pm
11/26/2014 4:30 PM
Thanksgiving night 2012 at Target in Riverhead. (Credit: Grant Parpan, file)

Thanksgiving night 2012 at Target in Riverhead. (Credit: Grant Parpan, file)

“We are offering our shoppers options so that family and friends can choose to come together Thanksgiving evening after they have enjoyed their celebrations,” announced Steve Tanger, president and CEO of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc.

Tanger Outlets stores in Riverhead and elsewhere in the U.S. will open at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Thanksgiving, for what the Tanger company is calling “Moonlight Madness.” In his statement about the earlier-than-ever hours for the outlet centers, Mr. Tanger went on to call shopping on Thanksgiving “a new family tradition.”

I place shopping — and with that, working — on Thanksgiving right up there with some other new American family traditions, including:

• needing two incomes to pursue home ownership,

• contributing to a 401(k) instead of receiving a pension and

• blowing entire paychecks on gasoline and home heating oil.

Catch the theme here?

(more…)

09/13/14 7:00am
09/13/2014 7:00 AM

Women have made huge inroads over decades in many fields long — and unfairly — considered the exclusive territory of men. Print and broadcast journalism, of course, come immediately to mind. It’s also hard to imagine a time when all bartenders were men; it’s been well over a hundred years since the infamous 1892 crackdown in St. Louis that targeted “saloon keepers who employ women as attendants.”

(more…)

08/03/14 6:00am
08/03/2014 6:00 AM
Bagworm larva are typically small and black. (Credit: Creative Commons/Benimoto)

Bagworm larva are typically small and black. (Credit: Creative Commons/Benimoto)

I blamed Hurricane Sandy.

So I couldn’t allow myself to be too upset. Many people lost their homes — or their lives. All I lost was an arborvitae. My once lush green shrub was still standing erect, but it was fried and brown. It looked like a piece of corn that had been dried out for use in a huge Thanksgiving centerpiece.  (more…)

07/19/14 8:00am
07/19/2014 8:00 AM
Migrant farmworkers at a North Fork vineyard. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Migrant farmworkers at a North Fork vineyard. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

It was a sunny August afternoon last year when we at the paper got word of police activity — a possible drug bust — in Mattituck. It turned out a 2-year-old boy had fallen from a second story window, dropping through open Bilco doors and landing in a basement below. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and, miraculously, escaped any major injuries.

Who wouldn’t say Aug. 27, 2013, was a good day for our area?

Well, plenty of people, apparently.

You see, the boy’s name was Javier Cruz. (more…)

06/22/14 10:00am
06/22/2014 10:00 AM

Cutchogue 7-Eleven reopens

Petitions. Picket signs. Whistles and horns. Your local Democratic party leader comparing it to Walmart, which has “destroyed America.”

Petitions. Picket signs. Whistles and horns. Your local Democratic party leader comparing it to Walmart, which has “destroyed America.”

Dozens of letters to the editor.

That’s how you protest a 7-Eleven. At least, that’s how they did it in Mattituck in 2009.

The folks in Flanders, however, have taken another tack to try and stop a local “Sevs” from opening. They’ve waited until after construction started to raise concerns publicly, despite News-Review coverage of the store’s coming dating back to December, when plans for a 7-Eleven at Flanders Road and Cypress Avenue were filed. (more…)

06/14/14 8:00am
06/14/2014 8:00 AM
An adult deer tick, which are known to carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis. (Credit: Daniel Gilrein)

An adult deer tick, which are known to carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis. (Credit: Daniel Gilrein)

“Thank God my wife is such a pain in the a–.”

That was how my brother Chris kicked off our phone conversation Monday, days after our mom had informed me he had been suffering from a 102-degree fever, yet still refusing to see a doctor.  (more…)

06/07/14 8:00am
06/07/2014 8:00 AM
The namesake Great Rock at the 10th hole of the course in Wading River. (Courtesy photo)

The namesake Great Rock at the 10th hole of the course in Wading River. (Courtesy photo)

Last year was a tough one for golf courses in Riverhead Town. Three closed, including Long Island National, which was purchased in a bankruptcy sale. The other two were Calverton Links and Great Rock. While the courses might have all had their individual problems, it’s clear the bold predictions that were made more than a decade earlier for the town’s golf industry are falling way short. This was back when News-Review coverage of course openings carried headlines like these:

“Myrtle Beach North?”

“Scotland west?”

“National pride”

(more…)