Joyce Carol Oates recalls a racial profiling incident from the 1990’s in light of more recent and tragic events in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere, and relates it to her novel The Sacrifice.
“How naive it seems to me now to have imagined that I might have been a more helpful witness to what was obviously, in retrospect, a flagrant example of police profiling. At the time, I did not even have a cell phone that could record anything; it was a very minimal phone, indeed. And I have to confess, what I felt when the trooper yelled at me was sheer visceral fear, dread — there was no way, there is no way, that a lone individual can stand up to law enforcement officers who are not only armed but, usually, physically domineering. Out on the Jersey Turnpike, in the dark, as traffic rushes past, no one can assert his or her rights to the police without inviting immediate retaliation.”
Speaking of her novel:
The specter of white racism hovers over the lives of these individuals — “fictitious” but, to the novelist, achingly real. It is a way of bearing witness if only at a remove, through the shared sympathies of fiction.