Courtesy of my friend Margaret Martin, a fine opinion piece by Don Samuels. Samuels, a Democrat, is on the Minneapolis City Council. Like Margaret, I'm sure there are a number of issues where Samuels and I would not be on the same page. This time, however, Samuels gets a big round of applause from me.
"Now," I said, "consider this. Here I am, a 63-year-old black male of this largely black community. I see two young black men breaking the law and pull over to caution them, and I am cussed out, threatened, intimidated and chumped. I did not call 911, I didn't have a gun, and I was simply interacting with you as an older man to younger men. Now, two hours later, here we are with you saying "yes, sir" to everything I say. But the reason I am earning your respect is not my age or the respect I gave you but the respect you have for two white cops with guns. What has become of our community?"
He paused, "Sir ... I didn't mean to intimidate..."
"Hold it right there," I said, "that is precisely the problem. You didn't mean to intimidate. Two young, fit 20-year-olds are telling a 63-year-old they are going to f' him up. But you didn't mean to intimidate? Do you have a girlfriend"?
"Well, you will, and I know what will happen. You will get angry and punch the wall or pick up a weapon. She will be smaller than you and will be scared to death, but you won't consider it intimidation. You will have a kid and get angry, kicking his toys and yelling curses. But you won't mean to intimidate anybody. You'll just go around leaving people traumatized and damaged. Well, let me tell you, you do intimidate. I was intimidated; you are going around the community scaring people. You are scary!"
He flinched. "I'm sorry, sir. You saved me from my first felony."
"Okay, so here we are, two white cops and an old dude, and there you are, the scary guy, and we all agree we are going to give you a break."
I went to my car and brought him back one of my special large business cards. "This is for you and one for your friend. There are resources here for school, housing, jobs and other supports. I made them up for guys who hang out on the corners and piss on buildings."
He smiled his first smile of the night and said thanks.
"Now look at the cover," I said. "Do you see that? Don Samuels, City Council Member. That's me. Here we are at the end of a long adventure, and this is the first time I have told you who I am. Do you see now who you were threatening on the street? You were punking the chair of the Public Safety Committee. The police department reports to me! You have no idea who you are abusing."
I gave him a hug and said, "Now, one more thing." I put my iPhone in camera mode and handed it to him. "Take a picture of your two heroes and me."
These young men are fortunate that the man they attempted to harrass was Mr. Samuels.