Making the rounds this week is a story about a Texas grandfather that was stopped by police while walking with his granddaughter. The kicker, which is no surprise thanks to my tell-all title and image, is that the granddaughter was black – the grandfather was white. As always, the devil’s in the details.
Scott Henson, who runs a Texas-legal-commentary website called “Grits for Breakfast,” took his granddaughter Ty to the city’s rec center for some roller skating on the night of Friday, February 10. When it was time to go home, Henson asked Ty if she’d like to walk home since it was only a couple of blocks away. She loved the idea and they started off, letting Henson’s wife take the car home.
That’s when a “brown-suited deputy constable” called out for the duo to stop. As the deputy got closer, she yelled for Henson to take his hand out of his pocket and step away from Ty. The deputy then said that someone had reported a possible kidnapping, where a white man was chasing a black girl. The deputy asked Ty if she knew the man and Ty of course answered that it was her grandfather. She had to answer three times before the deputy understood her, at which point, Ty ran back to her grandfather and hugged his leg. The deputy let them go.
Just as Henson crossed a street with Ty, six police cars screeched in – and police all jumped out of their cars with their tasers drawn, asking once again that Henson step away from Ty. “I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly,” Henson wrote on his website. “Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren’t there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars.”
Henson counted 9 or 10 police cars at this point, and someone took down Henson’s phone number so they could call and verify that he was indeed Ty’s grandfather. Henson got agitated that no one was calling, but instead, lecturing him on how the officers were doing their job. In the meantime, the original deputy had shown up and by Henson’s account, looked as if “she understood she was in the wrong.”
A supervisor showed up, the police did their song and dance, and Henson was released. On the way home, Ty said that she was questioned by police about what they’d been doing that night, all the names of people in her family, and whether Henson or anyone else had “done anything to her.” Ty was frustrated because the police asked the same questions over and over, seemingly hoping for a different answer.
Now, you can read the rest at Henson’s site in the sauce, but the key here is that Henson and Ty never received apologies. We can all understand, as they tried to drill into Henson’s head the whole time, that a reported kidnapping is serious business, and that cops have to protect the public (evidently at any cost), but there’s no reason that the police had to terrify a child by pointing tasers at her grandfather.
Is this a racial issue? Sure. There’s definite truth to the idea that we look twice at a white grandfather with a black granddaughter. The best of us don’t think twice, but unfortunately, a lot do. Now, would this have been any different if the Henson were black as well (and the kidnapping were called in as such)? Would it be the same if Ty were white (and again, the kidnapping were called in as such)? We might not ever know. Henson admits he lives in a rough neighborhood. Would it be the same in a less rough neighborhood? A rich neighborhood?
There are a lot of variables at play here – but the core problem was acting like cop drama heroes in front of a five year old. Comfort the kid – she just saw her grandfather aggressively cuffed as she was whisked away into the back of a police car. Apologize – don’t just explain as someone is cuffed that they’re just doing their job – because then you’ve got to explain why you’re doing your job incorrectly.
BTW, this isn’t the first time this issue’s happened to Henson. This either answers some of the variable questions or adds more, depending on how argumentative you are.
“I hated for a five-year old to be subjected to such an experience,” concludes Henson. “I’d like her to view police as people she can trust instead of threats to her and her family, but it’s possible I live in the wrong neighborhood for that.”
Most people don’t understand what kind of magnitude this hits you with because they never have to explain themselves the way Henson did.
So, on behalf of a shitty society that judges when they shouldn’t and doesn’t judge when they need to, Scott Henson, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you were assumed guilty until proven innocent. I’m sorry that Ty wasn’t treated correctly and now has to live with it, wondering why people don’t believe her grandfather could be white.
What do you think about Henson’s run-in?