The Effects of Racial Profiling and Whipping Your Geek Out
Living in the Atlanta Metro area means that often our ‘local‘ news ends up being ‘national‘ news. After all, we’ve got Newt, Bishop Long, Creflo Dollar, Charles Stanley and other infamous leaders of the religious right living on our doorstep. Several years back, a Christian terrorist named Eric Rudolph, set off a bomb in downtown Atlanta during the Olympics.
The terrorist attacks on September 11th left numerous scars on our nation, one of them being the general distrust of many people who bear a resemblance of being Middle Eastern. There is widespread bigotry and distrust of them, especially in areas that have been the target of terrorist attacks, the origin of terrorist attacks or even locations that were the scenes of mass murders that had nothing at all to do with terrorism. So, let me tell you as story.
A Geek Walks Into A Movie Theater…
Meet Daniel Tudela, Geek and nerd extraordinaire. You should know that those words are not pejoratives. I have a geeky, nerdy side to me that would probably surprise many of you. Although I’ve been a writer for decades, my academic background is in computer science and computer theory. You wouldn’t believe the places I’ve whipped out my geek.
Daniel Tudela not only whips out his geek, he wears it. It’s part of his style. It’s also what got him arrested. In a WSBTV news report, journalist Kerry Kavanaugh reports on a story with a sub-headline telling us that a man strapped with wires caused a big scare at a local mall.
Mr. Tudela was actually doing three things. One, he was wearing a bunch of cellphones, iPods and other devices, all hooked together through a series of other devices that allowed him to use all of it in a wonderful conglomeration of nerdgeek awesome. Two, he decided to go to the movies. Three, he’s not really all that ‘white’ looking. Here’s a picture of Daniel:
The local constabulary said that Tudela was ‘strapped with wires and electronic devices.‘ Notice the word ‘strapped.’ Not ‘wearing‘ electronic devices that were wired together, but ‘strapped with wires…’ They added in the fact that these ‘devices‘ were ‘hanging from his body.’
The actual incident happened on September 13th, as Tudela was heading toward the movie theater. This wasn’t too long after the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and, well, Tudela kinda sorta looks a little like a terrorist, right? (That was sarcasm, folks). Even local cop, Corporal Ed Ritter of the Gwinnett County Police Department chimed in with his opinion that,
“One would put together, and reasonably assume, that he is here to commit some type of heinous crime, deadly crime.”
The cops showed up in full force, and, according to the report, were prepared ‘to confront’ Tudela – a man who was about to have a pretty bad day because he’s a nerd and the US citizenry has a hair-trigger for anyone who looks like they might be a terrorist. Like Middle Eastern nerds. The story says that the officers quickly determined that what Tudela was ‘wearing’ weren’t a threat, although there are no details about how this assertion was made.
Remember our Police Corporal, Ed Ritter? Well, he had some more comments about Tudela and his collection of geekwear. Let these comments serve as a reminder to any of you who have the propensity to dangle a device or three from your body, particularly if those devices have wires attached to them. Oh, and if you’re not white.
“In the day of age that we’re in today, with terrorist activity, and dressing like one, one would assume that you are one”
Reporting The Crime…
In case you were wondering, a local shopper reported the crime. Her comments can be heard in the video at the bottom of the story. To save time, I’ll just include them here,
“He walked into the store. Wires strapped onto him and they’re just really strange…”
The reporter went to Tudela’s house, because his privacy wasn’t invaded enough, to find someone to talk to about this. A friend answered the door, telling the reporter it was no big deal, and she really didn’t understand why the police were making it such an issue. Apparently, Tudela is known around town for his eccentricity, which is usually a character trait present in most nerds.
Tudela has an attorney, now, who released a statement to the WSBTV that said, in part,
“This was an unfortunate arrest that was completely unwarranted. Family, neighbors and friends who know Mr. Tudela are expressing their concern and outrage over how such charges could be brought against someone who is kind, gentle and would never pose a risk of harm to anyone.”
Why does this guy need an attorney if the police ‘quickly’ asserted that the items on Tudela’s person were not a threat? I’ll tell you why. He got arrested, and not right away, either. It took two weeks for the cops to do it. The charge?
‘Having a hoax device”
Pardon me, but what the actual fuck does that even mean? I searched through all of Gwinnett County’s laws on Municode and couldn’t find anything called ‘Having a hoax device.‘ Nothing, nada, zip. Yes, it’s a misdemeanor and will probably get thrown out of court, but now Tudela has an arrest record, and is in the system on a terrorist related charge. Good luck getting through airport security without being taken to a small room and being subjected to a very personal examination involving rubber gloves.
Yes, I get it. There’s an “If you see it, report it” campaign going on, and there’s a part of me that understands the reason for it. There are fucked up people in the world doing bad things on a regular basis. I also understand when people say, ‘who the hell would do that in light of all the horrific acts of violence being committed by radical Islamic fundamentalists and ‘What kind of a person would wear all that stuff and go out in public, being all dark-skinned and bearded like that, and not expect to get arrested?
Well, I’ll tell you who. A nerd. A geek. I’ve done it, and you can ask anyone who knew me growing up about the stuff I’d wire together that would probably get me arrested and thrown into an interrogation room in Cuba if I made them today. And they were harmless toys, too. We are geeks and nerds, and many of us are dark-skinned, and a lot of us have beards. And we’ve been doing it for as long as there’s been shit to wire together. You can’t imagine the nerdgasms we had when technology allowed the miniaturization of things so we could stop carrying our nerdventions in suitcases and duffel bags and actually start wearing it.
Now, because of a bunch of fundamentalist Islamic assholes have decided that they are going to hold hostage the entire planet in fear of getting blown to pieces over whatever twisted theological commands they have stuck in their deluded minds that they believe come from their god/prophet, geeks and nerds are getting accosted, searched and even arrested for, well, being themselves.
The whole thing sucks, and regardless of what anyone might think, this is just another example of religious bigotry, racial profiling and victim-blaming. If you see it any other way, please enlighten me.
Special note to the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and any other agency who got a red flag notice due to my Google image search of an appropriate picture of a bomb vest for my opening image, I wasn’t shopping. Really. It was just an image search. You can relax…