Posted on August 15, 2014. (Don’t mind July 19 date).
It was a typical July day in Asheville, North Carolina, USA. Tourists were milling around downtown, taking up all the sacred parking spaces on the street. A mountain band was playing, complete with banjo, spoon, and washboard. Kids splashed around in the “Splasheville” fountains in front of the salmon-colored marble, domed city hall. And the cherry on top? A bank robbery at an Asheville Savings Bank. But it’s not what you think! According to the sheriff’s department, this was not our “typical person committing this sort of crime?”
Phew. We’re safe. Continue business as usual.
Wait just a darn second.
WHAT did the sheriff’s department say?
Yes, you heard me paraphrase correctly. In response to a robbery at local bank Fairview, North Carolina (just outside of Asheville, NC), the police made a statement saying that the suspect was not a typical suspect committing such a crime. The exact quote?
“So we’re looking for someone who may not be a typical person committing such a crime,” said Jeff Eaton of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department.
My official screenshot of the article containing the quote can be found HERE (link), and the original article on WLOS (Asheville, North Carolina ABC News affiliate, can be found HERE (link) for your reading displeasure.
What image pops into your mind when you hear this quote? Better yet, what was the image in the minds of the PR staff of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s department? Well, I suppose the security footage from the bank might enlighten those of us who have been left bewildered by the statement in question.
The suspect turned out to be a twenty-two year old Caucasian woman seen in the image above. Not only were the police shocked that someone fitting this demographic could commit such a crime, but her neighbor in the apartment where she lived was, as well, per the article linked earlier (relink). What does this say about our society? When we only see certain demographics portrayed as “criminals” in our media, we are led to believe that only those races or genders commit crime. In this sad case, neighbors of the suspect and even the police force seemed to be surprised, despite the fact that she held up a bank an stole $9,000, while the entire robbery was caught on camera. The police, neighbors, and most likely many other citizens were baffled, despite there being evidence, that someone who looked as she did could commit such a crime.
If only the police or any citizen who was “surprised” had done their research instead of profiling (in this instance, to the suspect’s benefit) based on appearance, they might have realized that the suspect wasn’t so angelic or innocent after all, despite the police and media providing that portrayal. In reality, the suspect had a criminal history (link). Just two months earlier, she was arrested on drug trafficking charges – multiple counts, in fact – of opiates, ecstasy, and marijuana. Judging by that criminal history, there might, at the very least, be a reason to not be so surprised and bamboozled when she appeared on the radar again. However, throw into the mix that she had been charged with a DWI (relink again) that was still pending against her at the time of the robbery, and it is downright ridiculous that the authorities, and even close friends, acted so shocked that such a person could commit such a crime as robbery.
This is a time in the United States where one person from one race and gender can be shot dead (link) while complying with officers during an arrest on side of the country, while on the other side of the country, someone of a different race and gender with a criminal history is treated like an innocent child. When you can open the newspaper or turn on the local TV news and see someone who is “dark skinned,” “male,” or both being portrayed as the “criminals,” what you give is what you get. If the media and police forces preach these completely false ideas that only certain people are capable of committing crime, while others are angels, how can they expect people to not riot in the streets or protest when someone gets profiled, yet still complies with the police, only to be killed by those who are sworn to protect and serve the public, like we, as a nation, have witnessed in the past week in Ferguson, Missouri (link); Los Angeles (relink); and anywhere else where the stories have gone untold.
Put the stories of unarmed citizens being killed by police beside this one that I highlighted from North Carolina and ask yourself, “why are the innocent people dead and the guilty person alive,” all because of some pigmentation and perhaps a difference in gender? It’s a topsy-turvy world we live in these days. The media will only tell us the parts of the stories that they can profit from, and some police forces seem to only protect those who look like themselves. They are not the ones who are going to fix the backwards situation we have been affronted with – that task is left to us. We’re failing thus far: this is the wake up call.
* In memory of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, and those who have been victims of police brutality *