The other day, my husband and I ventured out to a big trade show at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Since driving in that area is a royal pain and parking is way too expensive, we decided to take public transit.
We went out to the far reaches of Pasadena and parked (for free) at the end of the Gold Line light rail system, and rode the Gold Line in to Union Station and went on to the Convention Center from there. But that’s not the part that connects to this blog.
As we were riding along on the Gold Line, it stopped at one of the stations and didn’t immediately close the doors and start up again. Instead, a sheriff’s deputy came aboard, looked up and down our train car, and went out again. Shortly thereafter the train operator got out of his booth and followed the deputy down the platform. A minute or so later, the two returned to our car by the middle door and accosted a young man sitting behind us, asking him if he had caused trouble at a previous station.
The lady sitting across from him immediately spoke up and insisted that no, that was not the man. It appeared she’d been the one who made a complaint about someone acting strangely at a previous stop. And yet, when she repeated her description of the person she’d reported, it was immediately apparent that the “suspect” looked nothing whatsoever like the young man the deputy and engineer had questioned. The man she described was averaige sized, had spiky hair and was wearing a bright colored t-shirt. The young man on the train was fairly tall, had a shaved head and was wearing a white t-shirt.
Both, however, had gang-style tattoos.
So instead of paying attention to any of the rest of the description, the two men had focused only on the fact that this young man had conspicuous tattoos. So they figured he might be the one who’d caused the trouble.
What is it about being tattooed that trumps everything else? Why do people make assumptions based on the color of one’s ink rather than the content of one’s character? Granted, gang style tattoos send an unmistakable message that the person behind the ink may or may not match. But should they be the first thing a law enforcement officer fixes on? Or should they come into play only if the person’s description matches that of the suspect first?
People have made assumptions about me, based on my tattoos, which is why they’re usually covered. At least my age and gender give me a bit of protection. What can we do to make life better for others not so well protected?
photo credit: Photog*Phillip