by John Grooms
If youre looking for trouble, youve come to the right place. They were sung by Elvis Presley, but I say its time those immortal words became the new motto for Uptown! Charlotte. Maybe Center City Partners, the professional boosters of everything Uptown!, can adopt the motto it could help them smooth over the unfortunate fact that all hell breaks loose about every other time large numbers of people get together Uptown! The script undergoes some minor changes with each event, but the basics stay the same: Lots of people show up; some of them are too brazen about showing their asses; cops in full riot regalia harass people; and now and then, someone gets hurt, as happened Sunday morning when a young man was shot and killed by another young man near the Transit Center.
Reactions after violent Uptown! melees generally work from identical scripts, too. First, local media are so twisted into politically correct knots, their stories avoid mentioning a couple of basic things that happen each time trouble comes along: Namely, its usually young black men who cause the most problems, and the riot cops (or whatever their official designation is these days) too often are so jacked up that they act like assholes to all and sundry, harassing people for not looking like a banker, and moving people along although theyre engaged in legitimate activity such as waiting at a bus stop or watching a musical act. You would think that acknowledging those two obvious, simple facts aggressive young black guys and aggressively ill-tempered cops would be part of reporters duties, but not here ... not here on the banks of DeNial.
Second, white racists go to town on various websites and radio shows, blaming all the blacks for every societal problem under the sun, and issuing coded threats that next time, those thugs just better watch out.
Third, city officials downplay the whole thing, although this time, this has proven difficult since someone was, you know, shot to death and everything.
Fourth, old-line African American organizations such as the time-warp dwellers in the local NAACP (which was royally and justly skewered in the Observer today by Qcitymetro.com editor Glenn Burkins) complain that its unfair for young black men to shoulder the blame for causing problems. In actuality, the only people saying that all young black men are to blame as opposed to the specific young black men involved in the fracas are racist whites who couldnt give a flying damn what the NAACP has to say.
Fifth, someone publicly worries about what the latest riot/disturbance/murder/whatever will do to Charlottes image. Dont worry, though. These people are shallow, sick and cannot be stopped, but theyre not violent.
And sixth, I think about a police officer Ive had occasion to get to know, and who is part of the riot gear gang. This is just a personal observation, but during conversations with Officer X, who is white, Ive been dismayed by his attitude toward young blacks even being Uptown!, much less hanging out with their friends like anyone else. He also believes its OK to arrest members of Uptown! crowds to prevent them from becoming violent; the guy sees himself as Mr. RoughTough Crimefighter and talks about prepping for Uptown! crowd duty as if hes itching for trouble. Now its possible that Officer X is the only riot cop in Charlotte who has these opinions, just as its possible that I will win the lottery this week. But both of those things are doubtful.