The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Forest Whitaker: Victimized by The Fabric of Oppression



ROUSTED: Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker was stopped and patted down at a Morningside Heights deli when an employee wrongly suspected him of shoplifting.
Pacific Coast News
ROUSTED: Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker was 
 stopped and patted down at a Morningside Heights deli when 
an employee wrongly suspected him of shoplifting.

 Warzer Jaff;
Do you recognize this guy?  He reminds me of an Academy Award winner actor, who appears in a few movies and theatrical performances from time to time. It is probably safe to assume he is a multi-millionaire. While petty shoplifting is a crime of convenience well outside of crime that harms people (either physically, socially, or monetarily), there are shoplifters who pilfer to satisfaction a psychological need, and others who do so for the simple thrill. 

Forrest Whitaker was probably not dress as he appears he last Friday when accosted and detained for suspicion of shoplifting.   We do not know if others have been detained by employees who work at the deli, we have to assume at least one employee must have watched Whitaker's every move upon entering the deli.

Click for larger view the click chart
Have you ever felt you was being watched by a retail store employee?  Have ever heard of profiling, mostly perpetrated by police officers?  Would it surprise you to know most liberal cities in the nation, which happen to have large African-American populations, are fertile fields of profiling. (see chart above)

GAWKER published an entertaining yet poignant piece about the employee detention.  A link related a a patron's perspective on the incident is both telling, and tragic.

No matter the level of accomplishment in our "exceptional" nation, some people suffer under the engulfing umbrella of The Fabric of Oppression
FEB 17, 2013 10:52 AM 
Forest Whitaker Accused of Shoplifting, 
Frisked at Upper West Side Deli
 Molly Fitzpatrick Oscar winner Forest Whitaker was wrongly accused of shoplifting and subjected to a humiliating pat down at a Morningside Heights deli on Friday morning.  
If West Side Story were written today, "Officer Krupke" would contain at least a verse and a half about stop-and-frisk, the NYPD's favorite pastime. But in this case, no cops were called—Whitaker was publicly frisked by a Milano Deli employee, in what seems to be an instance of blatant discrimination.  
Is it possible that the man had just Netflixed The Last King of Scotland and thought the brilliant actor was, in fact, the reprehensible Idi Amin himself? On second thought—nope, just blatant discrimination. Gothamist spoke with a regular deli patron who was present for the incident with Whitaker. She claims to have witnessed previous negative treatment of black customers by the store's employees, as well having heard staff spout "racist crap."  
Classy as always, Whitaker (who came into the store to buy a yogurt—any forensic scientist worth his weight in old-timey fingerprint powder knows that yogurt and crime do not mix) agreed to the employee's request not to involve the authorities out of fear of losing his job. Good luck with that one, buddy.
[Image via Getty]
Whitaker as a member of a minority group is by default suspicious, at least from the perspective of one deli employee. The actors situation is all too common and has deep, deep roots. Those roots are far deeper than pure bias or bigotry (or even racism). He was victimized (albeit it temporarily) by the deeper gamut of oppression.

The Fabric of Oppression
The fabric of oppression is a "systematic phenomenon that creates some groups that are dominant or privileged by it and other groups that are targeted or oppressed by it" (24). Much like the culture of power, it is plausible to be in the dominant group and benefit, but not be aware or behave in a manner that is mean, prejudiced or hateful. In the same way, "one can be part of a targeted group without ever experiencing a hateful act" (24). Another key aspect that although one may belong in a dominant group does not guarantee wealth, power and success, but greatly improves the chances. On the other hand, being part of a targeted group, does not literally translate to failure, but once again increases the chance for it. 
A key aspect of the fabric of oppression is that there is institutionalized oppression. This institutional oppression, which can be legal, illegal or self-perpetuating, is different from internalized oppression. This type of oppression occurs "when an individual takes the external misinformation, stereotypes and negative images" (26). 

It does not matter that Whitaker is an accomplished actor (artist). It does not matter that he via the scope of his financial means, was not shoplifting. What matters was his race and an apparent accepted norm in that deli the black male, is a suspect upon entering the establishment. 

The Fabric of Oppression is much deeper and systemic phenomena in the United States, than one isolated case of false detention.  However, Whitaker and other 'famous' celebrities of color discover that race permeates every aspect of life in America.  It is without doubt the culture of the New York deli is a perfect example of pervasive oppression.

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