When is it the “race card?” Recently a two-bit actress, Danièle Watts, who had a minor role in the move Django Unchained had an encounter with the police, who were responding to a phone call that an interracial couple was having sex in public. Upon arrival, the police asked the woman for her ID and she refused to give it.

There is audio of the encounter in which the black woman is claiming to be on the phone with her dad and also lets the cop know she is an actress. As she refused to give her ID, she is eventually handcuffed, and the photos all over the Internet have her standing there making the “ugly cry.” She also goes on social media and professes that she was mistaken for a prostitute because she was making out with her boyfriend who is white. Days later, additional pictures are posted on TMZ that show what the people who made the call saw and why they felt it necessary to report Watts’ activity. 

In a nutshell, the pictures show the passenger door open, the woman straddling the man, facing him, and the man holding onto the open sunroof. Well you don’t need to get up close to know that was more than a passionate kiss between lovers. Ms. Watts has subsequently been getting a lot of flak because of her poor behavior — both before the police arrived and subsequent to their arrival. And when she brought up race, it became very obvious, even from the beginning, that there had to more to the situation than met the eye. 

Thankfully, the same social media that she used to protest her treatment has now turned against her because she was wrong. When the police are called to check on a complaint, the person has to show ID. She could have had the encounter over in 15 seconds, but she needed her 15 minutes of fame. 

Another very serious case is the driver in South Carolina whom the police asked for his driver’s license. The cop already had his gun on the man and when the man quickly reaches into the car and turns back, the cop begins to fire. He even fired when the man’s hands were up in the air. Fortunately, the young man lived. Was it race that made the cop shoot or the quickness with which he reached into his car? 

The first time I saw the tape and he turned so quickly, I thought, “What the hell is he up to?” In that split second, the cop begins to fire his gun and the guy asks him why he shot as he was only getting his license. However the cop kept shooting once the man’s arms were in the air, and that makes it, for me, a genuine case of being more about race than fear.

The cop has already been fired and is sitting in jail. Yet the truth is that, for the police, traffic stops and domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous. True, someone who moved as quickly as that man did could have turned back around with a gun in hand. But he was following the cop’s instruction to “Show me your license!” Part of the problem is with the cop. He’s excited and has his gun aimed at the man. So any movement on the man’s part can make the cop even more nervous. 

No scenario that I looked at was going to change this interaction. The cop was trigger happy and even if the man had moved slowly, the same thing could have happened. In this regard, the only way to look at it is with the “race factor.” 

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