I’m a lawyer, but I’m still terrified by the police.

About two years ago, I experienced police intimidation firsthand. Prior to that date, I had only been pulled over by a cop once and didn’t actually get a ticket because he didn’t have his speed gun out to know how fast I was going. (#Blessed.) I had been in the car once before when my husband got a speeding ticket, but it happened in Macon, Georgia, a city with a significant black population, and the cop was black too. These things make a difference. The cop was brusque, but not threatening.

This time was different. We were road tripping our way back from Austin, Texas for a friend’s birthday. We had reached the area between Austin and Houston where the highway dwindles down to two lanes on each side, and we passed more cows and horses than other cars. Gerald was speeding, and so we weren’t surprised when we got pulled over by the state trooper. But the events that unfolded will haunt me forever.
ST: “License and registration, please.”
G: “Sure, officer. I need to get them out of my glove compartment, is that okay?”
ST: “I don’t know why you’re asking me.”
G: “I just want to make sure you know what I’m doing, officer.” (gets out license and registration) “May I ask why I’m getting pulled over?”
ST: “Sir, get out of the car.”
G: “Sure, I just want to know why I’m being pulled over.”
At this point, things escalated. The cop went from zero to raging maniac instantaneously, he was yelling so loudly and intensely that he was damn near frothing at the mouth. “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR RIGHT GODDAMN NOW!” Gerald opened the door and before he could get one foot on the ground, the cop put him in a bear hug and hauled him out onto the ground. “YOU’RE RESISTING ARREST! STOP RESISTING!” In a flash, he had handcuffed Gerald, frog marched him to the squad car and slammed him face down onto its hood.
All I could do was scream silently, inside.
At this point, the state trooper’s buddy had pulled up to the scene. He put Gerald in the back of the squad car and the “arresting” officer (I put that in quotes because you’ll notice the conspicuous absence of Miranda rights recitation) came back to talk to me. Now that he had established dominance he was calm, confident, in charge of himself again. He grinned at me jovially, putting all his pearly whites on display and smacking on a piece of chewing gum like it was the only sustenance given to a starving man.
He turned on his good ol’ boy charm, asking me how I was doing, if I was in trouble, if Gerald was on drugs and that was why Gerald was so “agitated”. “If he would just act reasonably like you, this could have all been avoided,” he declared. The words stung, given the fact that at no point had Gerald raised his voice or pulled a punch–he merely had the audacity to exercise his Constitutional rights and ask the officer why he was being detained. Meanwhile, my so called reasonableness was me doing my best impression of a docile house slave in attempt to get us both out of the situation alive and uninjured. After some time of back and forth–it felt like an eternity, but the clock showed just 45 minutes–they let Gerald go and wrote a ticket for speeding, something which could have been done without ever having him out of the car.
I’ll be the first to admit that this account is an approximation of what happened. I was so afraid for my husband’s life that I couldn’t think straight. You can argue all you want about how we should have handled the situation. But there’s the law, and then there’s real life. When you’re on an unpopulated road in the middle of nowhere, facing down a power tripping cop with a gun, you do what you have to do to survive. In that moment, I was more concerned about not watching my husband bleed out on the side of the road than I was recording the incident and getting the officer’s name and badge number. So once again, the bad apple gets away with it. But I wake up next to my husband, whole and well, every day so I have no regrets about how I handled the situation.
The coda to this story is a conversation I had a few weeks ago at the hair salon. Much like barbershops, beauty salons are a place for all types of conversations. One of the other clients in the shop that day was a black, female police officer. She was talking about her job and of course that led the dialogue back to police brutality. I shared a brief version of the story above and was met with unbridled skepticism. She interrogated me about the details, damn near accused me of lying, and told me that we should have just complied without questioning because “Miranda rights are just what they show on television. Nobody really does it in real life.”
I understand that being a police officer is a hard job. They deal with people in crisis situations and people are rarely happy to see you–at best, you arrived just in time to stop something horrible from happening to them. Usually, the police show up after something terrible has occurred, or to tell people that they’re doing something wrong. But it’s also a job that they knowingly chose. And because police officers literally hold the power of life and death, it’s their responsibility to be better than the average person. More empathetic. More thoughtful. More careful. A barista who’s having a bad day can’t do anything worse than screw up your coffee order. A cop who’s having a bad day can kill you. Yes, they put their lives on the line. But it’s a hazard of the profession that they chose. Given these unique circumstances of the job, I don’t feel bad for cops who complain about their public image problem. They’re worried about popularity. We civilians are afraid for our lives.
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Be Pro, Not Anti

I started to title this post “Nobody Cares What You Hate”, then decided to scrap it because it would completely negate my point. I still think it’s catchy though.

Anyway, the internet has basically become a free for all when it comes to people’s opinions. And whether it’s due to a natural cognitive bias, or just the fact that people are more likely to share negative feelings in order to get them off their chest and feel better, negative opinions run rampant. A glance at any social media outlet will show you that entire friendships have been formed on the basis of mutual hate. We are all Silky Johnson. Nothing but hateration and holleration in this dance soiree.

What set me off was the return of Game of Thrones, which has basically become nerd football season. The show’s popularity has now seeped into the mainstream, but it’s one of those shows you either love or hate. And as the fanbase has grown, so have the voices of the detractors. Every Sunday, without fail, I would see posts on my newsfeed about how annoyed the GoT-avoiders were by our obsession with Westeros. Then there were another dozen or so people whining, “Am I the ONLY person who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones? [eye roll emoji]”.  Now we’re heading into actual football season which has prompted the predictable memes declaring that anyone who doesn’t like sports should just sit down and shut up until February.

Okay . . . . . . . . . . . . .

WHY ARE Y’ALL LIKE THIS?

 

I know snark is practically a currency now, but why must everything anybody likes (or doesn’t like) be shitted on? We have an objectively incompetent president, global warming has contributed to two devastating hurricanes in the past month, and apparently N@zi$ are making a comeback. If you’re going to complain, there are better things to complain about than the fact that people like Beyonce.*

These are hard times, and everyone has struggles no matter what brave face they put forth to the world. You can’t control a crazy boss, or freeloading coworkers, needy kids or a sometimes thoughtless significant other. And talking about the things that are really bothering you can feel too personal, too vulnerable. Complaining about insignificant things vents off a little pressure, and there’s usually a chorus of friends who hate the same thing cheering you on. Another culprit is isolation. When I was younger, I only had a handful of classmates who enjoyed reading books as much as I did, and most of them wouldn’t publicly admit to it. So my way of empowering myself was to define myself as the anti-cool kid. I was special, but in a way nobody understood. Once I got to college and met like minded friends who were nerdy and confident, I started shedding some of those tendencies.

Sometimes, though, our complaints stem from pure jealousy. We often look down on people who are relentlessly positive on social media and accuse them of not being real. But how much of that is people pretending not to have problems at all, versus choosing to focus on the positive? There’s not reason to be envious. Happiness is not finite. The fact that someone is (or appears to be) living their best life does not make the likelihood of me being happy any less. There is so much bad out there that I enjoy a laughing baby video, a photo of someone’s freshly planted garden, or hearing about a law school classmate’s victory at trial. I need those moments of levity to get me through.

So let me know your thoughts. What do you love that other people love to hate on? What’s something that’s making you happy this week? Let’s sprinkle some good vibes up in here!

 

How to Lose an Employee

Every other week there’s an article about how Millennial employees are all lazy, entitled brats. Well, the truth is that sometimes the problem is a little higher up the food chain. Below are the best practices for running off anyone in your organization who wants to see it succeed…

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  1. Be unclear about your expectations.  Whenever possible, give out work assignments with competing priorities and no additional guidance. Sink or swim!
  2. Emphasize form over function. Reward low performing employees who milk the clock by coming early, staying late, and getting little to nothing done. Chastise anyone who leaves less than an hour after closing time, even if they’re high performers.
  3. Delegate, but don’t train. Why should managers do any work as long as there is a lower ranked employee around? Pile on the to-dos, but don’t show them how to actually do their job. They’ll figure it out and if they don’t– fire them!
  4. Never admit that management could be improved. If anything goes wrong, it’s always the underling’s fault. Deny any knowledge of a crisis. Always throw your employees under the bus, that’s what they’re there for after all.
  5. Minimize feedback. Don’t take the time to meet with your employees unless something is wrong. Never give them a chance to correct the problem early. Much better to ambush them with a 10 page dossier of shortcomings so that it can really sink in.
  6. Overwork and underpay. Pay the minimum acceptable wage for every position and don’t pay benefits. Who needs full medical and dental with Obamacare? Employee bonuses should never be expected. A new car for the CEO gives peons something to strive toward–it’s practically motivational.

What Not To Wear

My social media feeds have been lit up this week over an issue that combines my hometown, fashion, and talking about professionalism–three of my favorite things! So let’s get to it.

An Atlanta teacher went viral after pictures of her posing in the classroom set off a huge debate about whether her outfits were professional. After pictures from her Instagram profile started to circulate on Twitter, the story was soon picked up by media outlets such as The Root and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (which wins the award for best headline, lol). The outfits in question are shown below.

To me, it’s not even a question. While she’s dressed appropriately (i.e., all pertinent body parts are covered) 2 out of 3 of these are definitely not okay. Tight, clingy spandex dresses are not professional attire, across the board. Each of these outfits is tight all over. Yes, she has a beautiful, curvy figure and there’s no hiding that. However, she can work around it. The first pictures is a good example–the tights and cardigan mean no skin is showing and there is something to cover her hips and bust. In the second picture, which I’ll assume is a casual Friday/jeans day, she should have worn a longer, looser shirt or boot cut pants which would balance out her hips and legs. However, there’s no saving that pink dress in the third picture. If you can wear it at the club, DON’T WEAR IT TO WORK. Forever 21 body con dresses are not professional attire!

I’m curvy and also plus size, so I know the struggle. If you have curves, they will always show but you can work around it. Buy shirts a size up so they don’t cling, wear a-line or pleated skirts and boot cut or wide leg pants. If everything is fitted, wear a longline blazer or cardigan.he key is balance. Tight all over is for weekends and after work. You don’t have to wear a potato sack, but in a work setting you can either be fitted on top or fitted on the bottom–not both. You can have bare legs or bare arms or cleavage–just one, not all three. Those are just the rules.

I saw a lot of arguments about how this was body shaming and objectification of women and reeks of rape culture. I hear that, and agree that women’s bodies are always sexualized whereas men’s bodies are not. That’s an unfortunate double standard. But in this case, I don’t think it’s that deep. Rightly or wrongly, certain jobs require us to dress certain ways in order to be taken seriously. If I show up for a hearing in khakis, a polo shirt, and Converse sneakers, the judge is very likely to send me home to change. Is it appropriate (i.e., all body parts covered)? Absolutely. Is it professional and reflective of the role I am playing? Absolutely not. Courtroom and law firm dress code are formal. Nobody wants to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to someone who can’t be bothered to put on a suit.

Like lawyer, and also doctors, teachers have to more than just apply for their job. They must have at least a Bachelor’s degree; pass a state licensing exam; and take continuing education courses to keep their license current. Why so much work? For one, we have specialized knowledge outside of what can be taught on the job. Secondly and most importantly, I think, we take care of the things that people value most: their health; their freedom and property; and their children. Because of that the standard for professionalism is higher and we are expected to conduct ourselves accordingly. In a perfect world, it would be all about competence and people could wear whatever they wanted to work. But that is not the world we live in. Her outfits were cute. She wasn’t wildly inapporpriate. But that doesn’t mean she was professional.

On a final note-for goodness sake, teachers, STOP TAKING SELFIES AT WORK. At least do it in the bathroom or the parking lot or some place that’s not obviously a classroom. These pictures were more than likely taken after dismissal when the kids were out. But when people see a picture of a teacher in a club dress with an alphabet rug on the floor, they’re usually going to assume that she was neglecting her job because the outfit is already sending cues that she doesn’t take it seriously (even if  Additionally I think a large part of the uproar is that she was doing outfit of the day pictures in the classroom– making it seem as if she potentially was neglecting her job. It’s just not a good look.

Get mad when it counts

There are a lot of valid reasons for black people to be angry: Police brutality. Disproportionate unemployment. The school to prison pipeline. That being said, I’ve seen a lot of outrage over trivial issues. Sure, human beings are both frivolous and profound. But there is so much anguish wasted on the  WRONG DAMN THINGS! For example: the current vitriol leveled at rap artist Iggy Azalea.

I like her music. It’s catchy and has that southern twang I’m used to from my favorite rapper T.I. However, I can be objective and acknowledge that Iggy’s no great MC. She’s not in the same class as Lil Kim, Outkast, or Biggie. But neither is Migos, Future or 2 Chainz, and I don’t hear anyone hollering for them to pay homage to the socio-political history of hip-hop.* I’m a history major, so I understand that it feels like white people only ever take from black culture without giving back- because that’s largely true. It happened with jazz and it happened with rock n roll; this is not new. The difference is that nobody who hasn’t been living under a rock would think that white people invented hip-hop. It took 30 years for the world to even receive a white rapper that would be taken seriously, and Eminem was judged by a much higher standard than any black rapper at the time. The man raps in iambic pentameter and it wasn’t until his third album that he really became mainstream and fully accepted into the hip-hop community. Black people may be a minority in this country, but we are the leading exporters of cool. The side effect of that is swagger jacking- imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? We should really be impressed that hip-hop is so powerful that it made a 16 year old white girl leave her country to chase a dream.

I say all this to say that if we’re going to start drawing lines about what real hip-hop is and isn’t, we need to start at home first. Example: Nicki Minaj. The girl can spit. She’s a lyrical beast. But she relies heavily on her sexuality to sell records (like Iggy) and often eschews hard core rap for poppier records that reach a Top 40 demographic (also like Iggy). I like her music, but Nicki is basically the Lady Gaga of rap: a massively talented woman who doesn’t exercise her full potential for fear that it won’t be marketable. I can’t entirely blame her though. The marketplace is flooded with subpar rap music. The fall of CDs, record labels, and traditional artist development means that music is fully democratized, for better and for worse. Soulja Boy got rich and famous off of a song he made in his bedroom, that never would have gotten past a label A&R rep. Future sounds like he’s singing into a water bottle. Juicy J’s flow sounds like ratchet nursery rhymes. I can’t understand what the hell Young Thug or The Migos are saying. 2 Chainz seems to exclusively make songs best heard in a strip club. Yet, the latter three can be heard all over the radio. But nobody is pointing at them and saying it’s a rap apocalypse, or that they don’t know enough about hip-hop history. If rap is “our thing”, then shouldn’t black artists be held to the highest standard? Shouldn’t we be boycotting all the artists who glorify sex, drugs, and female debasement before we start assuming that the lone white, female rap artist is single-handedly destroying the genre?

Personally, I don’t think rap has to be all one thing. Much like there are different subcategories of jazz, the same thing goes for rap. Some of it is political. Some of it is inspirational. Some of it is just good to dance to at the club, or blast in your car. There are lowbrow and highbrow elements to every artistic medium, and that’s okay. You wanna be mad at something? Don’t get mad because white people are saying “on fleek”. Be mad because the black girl who invented it didn’t think to trademark it, and now some white people are making money off it. Don’t be mad at Iggy, be mad that her sworn nemesis Azealia Banks twitter beefed herself right out of a record deal. Don’t be mad that Macklemore won the Grammy instead of Kendrick. Be mad the BET Awards are a joke, the Soul Train Awards haven’t cracked the mainstream, and black America still thinks the height of artistic merit should be determined by the whims of a panel of old white men who probably didn’t listen to the album.

There’s plenty to get mad at. Get mad where it counts.

 

*Speaking of which, when was the last time hip-hop was really relevant for being a political movement? Aside from the handful of rappers like Kendrick, Macklemore, Lupe Fiasco,  Common and The Roots who are known for socially conscious tracks- and a few others like Wale who participated in the Ferguson protests- hip-hop is mostly prized for its cool factor and being a party starter.