By Brian Beutler
I haven’t said or written much publicly about the shooting that nearly killed me in 2008. But a recent confluence of events — Trayvon Martin’s death, the Zimmerman trial and the public pronouncements of mostly privileged, mostly white people in the aftermath of the verdict — has left me feeling like I have something to share.
Most recently, actor-activist Kal Penn, once an avowed opponent of racial stereotyping in law enforcement (based in part on his own experience getting patted down at airports), changed his views after he was held up at gunpoint in Washington, D.C. (Penn published a brief explanation late last week, and apparently reconsidered his view over the weekend.)
Racial profiling for thee but not for me. That’s how it looks, at least. It’s probably more complicated than that. I don’t know. I asked Penn on Twitter to discuss the evolution of his views with me, but didn’t get a reply. Maybe he didn’t see the request. Either way, the offer still stands.
What I can say with some authority — whether this is what happened to Penn or not — is that being a victim of gun violence doesn’t have to turn you into a supporter of racial profiling.
My story is more than five years old now. It took place in Washington, D.C., on a typically warm July night. I was out late on a Tuesday with a friend whom I’ll call Matt, since that’s his name. We’d been drinking — probably too much for a weeknight, but not too much for a 25-year-old journalist.
A half-hour after last call, on our walk home up 16th Street northbound toward Mount Pleasant where we lived at the time, we impulsively decided to grab a late night snack at a 24-hour diner we used to frequent in Adams Morgan and hung a left up Euclid Street — a dimly lit one-way street with a violent history.
I’d been up and down Euclid hundreds of times over the years — midday and late at night; alone and with friends; drunk and sober; and just about every permutation thereof. Always without incident.