Have you ever seen the movie Broke Down Palace, or the series Locked Up Abroad? I remember seeing Broke Down Palace in my adolescence, news stories of Michael P Fay, the US citizen who got caned in Singapore, and it pretty much scared me straight. I knew I wouldn’t even THINK of breathing illegally while in a foreign country.
Being a black American my relationship with the American justice system is tricky. They’re supposed to serve and protect. I do feel my instinct would be to call 911 when I’m in danger, that’s been drilled into my since I was a kid, but simultaneously, as a black kid occupying white spaces, it was a responsibility for my parents to tell me the dangers that law enforcement can pose to black and brown bodies and how to act accordingly. Every black 90s sitcom had a “teaching moment” with this. Remember when Will got pulled over driving Uncle Phil’s car in Bel-Air? Now, there are no need for sitcom teaching moments with the 24 hr news cycles and social media. The formation of Black Lives Matter, the precarious position of black and brown bodies with the institution of the justice system is now palpable. And we can take it all the way to the initial formation of the units to catch runaway slaves… but I digress.
I’ve also been going through a LOT of my Thailand videos for you and remembered the time in the Bangkok when I had the airport police called on me. You’ll see it in the story, but it was a strange dynamic, a dynamic you often face traveling while black where you have to do almost a quick assessment: “yes, this woman is calling airport police, or is she weaponizing. Is it being weaponized against me as a foreigner, or as a black American?” It was interesting because being black in the US and the fraught relationship with law enforcement, I had more confidence looking at a Thai military officer and stating what happened confidently and within my rights BECAUSE I was an American citizen. Sometimes it’s just nice to be American… not hyphenated, black-American, West Indian American, etc. But just good ole American and make that privilege work for you. There were also some politics of the waitress taking my order and the scrooge looking auntie pressing the issue. She looked miserly and mean and at a certain point I could tell the pain of the waitresses face as she looked at me apologizing. Broke Down Palace NO THANK YOU!
Have you ever had the police called on you? Where were you? Did you think, “this could go left pretty quickly?”
Let me know and check out my YouTube video where I briefly go over the situation, while strolling hours later in sunny Chiang Rai!