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"Do You Suspect the Suspect is Negro?": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On injustice for Black individuals.

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man001005. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Call it laziness but I take every opportunity to make my job easier. Actually, I'm convinced that everyone should do the same and when they act to minimize whatever stresses or headaches or burdens there might be then it becomes somewhat easier to tend to those things one does not have control of.
I'll give you a few examples of how it works and have worked for me over the years. Men I was a child, in the summers, I would sometimes pick berries to sell to people who wanted them but who either did not have the time to pick their own, refused to pick their own or believed that picking berries was beneath them. Now berry picking, like anything else, could be easy or it could be rough. I took pride in my product even though I was just a kid. I would sell no berry that was bruised or squished so in the picking process, just like that fellow Juan Valdez down in Colombia with his coffee beans, I picked my berries one at a time and I never picked a berry before its time.
In order to give the berries my undivided attention, I had to first rid myself of local pests—snakes.. Now I could have just picked berries and killed snakes as I came upon them but that would have made an erstwhile easy job difficult. Mat I did in fact do was to seek out the snakes in the area and kill them all and be through with it. That way, I would have relieved myself of a problem and could get on with my job—picking berries.
When I was a bit older and making a living playing pool, there were also inherent problems. I shot a pretty good stick and could beat most because I had the skill to "run the table." Money was pretty scarce back in those days and while everyone who played the game for money well expected to win, many seemed to have been of the mind that while it was ok for them to win others' few bucks, it was not the same if you won theirs'. Sometimes, after winning three or four games straight, such a poor loser would start a fight. No problem. I would just wrack a cue-stick around their skull, bash them with a beer bottle and just
stump on them a few times. I never used my hands in such fracases because my hands were my ticket to ride. The problem with these little episodes is that they intefered with the cash flow and would take my mind off of what I was there for—to get the cash, pocket it and leave. Now there might be five or six or so who would be willing to risk a dollar a game for three or four games to see if they could get their hands in my pockets before I got mine in theirs'. But the incessant interruptions of a fight every two or three players caused the process to take more time than necessary, I came up with an idea of which put an end to it all. I would select somebody out of the house crowd who seemed to be the baddest in the place and I would just walk over to him and bust him in the face with a cue ball or something. I would beat the fear of god into everybody else by that little demonstration and when I was satisfied that I had made my point I would ask: "Mo wants to play the devil?" None of the losers would be interested in fighting and would just lose and go on about their business and I would collect the "george" and go.
A few years ago, while in a southern California city, an earthquake occurred. People were running helter, skelter all over the place. Screaming, fainting, getting injured or killed by falling debris, being swallowed up by gaping gashes which opened up in the. earth and all sorts of assorted disasters. Not me. I knew that there were not many things that could happen to one in an earthquake if one kept one's head. If nothing else, I can keep my wits about me. I walked over to a site where a building had collapsed and just stood there and watched the ground. The way I figured, the two worse things that could happen was to have a building topple on top of me or to be swallowed up in a bottomless pit and be crushed like an accordion. Positioning myself where I did, I eleminated fifty percent of my problem. I no longer had a need to look frantically up and down, up and down like a verticle tennis match and pray for luck. Luck is ok, but you have to remember that half of it is bad luck. The quake ended, the aftershocks subsided and I blazed a new trail out of the valley and never looked in that
direction again.
Why have I told you these stories—some true and some merely conjurations? Well, I'll tell you. It has to do with police work. Now, whether you like policemen or not, the fact of the matter is it is serious, dangerous work. It is that even under the best of conditions. Most, who are reasonable, will admit to this truism. Our personal fellings about the profession is not too important in this essay nor are the possible bad experiences we might have had with those people in blue.
Anything can happen at anytime. There is always tension, stress, anxiety and when a car rolls, the worse possible scenario roust flash through the mind and the spring winds up and, quite often, no telling what will happen next.
How to minimize all this? That is the question. Even under ideal circumstances there is an extreme of apprehension. When those circumstances are magnified everything becomes worse. The idea is to minimize the opportunity for maximizing the problem. One problem that anyone who has been in this country for more than a week and who has observed what is taking place around him is that which exists with the police establishment and the black community.
There have been far too many negative experiences for an immediate relationship of brotherly love to exist between the two groups. We get arrested more frequently, serve stiffer penalities, are followed around, observed and put in the position more often than any others. We don't think policemen like us and, who knows, we might be right. Then again, we might be wrong. It is not every policeman who is this way—just some—actually only a few, Who has the responsibility to set things straight? Us? Not on your life. It is theirs' even though we're paying the price while we wait for it to happen. Who benefits? Everybody does but they do more. They do more because they are working at it twelve hours a day while we only have to deal with it when they knock on the door, pull us over or follow us around or make us all lie on the floor.
Now we're told that in their in-house reports that we're referred to as negroes. We're told that when speaking to us in person that we're called black but, in effect, when we're not around, we're negroes. Feature that. That creates the spectre that we could also be called other things in our absence. Next, some reporter does a person on the street interview with several people who seem to range in age between zero and twenty times that and they say, "I don't mind being called a negro," "It don't bother me," "I don't pay any attention to it," and so on. They didn't ask any of those type of individuals who would have told them the truth. What is the truth? Some prefer negro and others prefer colored and others Afro-American and others prefer black. Only those in the latter group will create a problem if called otherwise—"Don't call me no negro man. Do I look like a negro to you" I'm a black man, you got that? Don't call me no negro if you don't want me to call you "honky" or "redneck" or "o'fay" or "peckerwood" understand. I'm a black man." That's when all heck breaks loose. "A man's sense of himself is the most important thing that he has" and that applies to policemen and to black people. How to avoid conflict? How to make the job easier? How to minimize the tension, anxiety and stress? Easy. Don't use the word negro because the person who will accept that, while not being receptive of the word black, is less likely to "squeeze one off" on you if called black. There are dark-skinned people from India, Mexico, the Pacific Islands and other places who are not negro. In short, every negro isn't black and every black person isn't negro.