Jason at Bookslut points to a very disturbing story rocking the American poetry world/justice system: Ravi Shankar, a colleague from my days in the States and editor of the fantastic online lit journal Drunken Boat out of New York (not to be confused with another journal of similar name out of New Mexico), was arrested recently in New York City while on his way back from a poetry reading in Chelsea. The charge? Being a “sand-nigger”. And there are people here (North America) who will look you in the eye and tell you from the bottom of their hearts that endemic racism is no longer a social problem and that these cops were just doing their job. Read his horrifying account here.
My ordeal began with a party at a Chelsea gallery for the arts journal that I edit. Brilliant performances led to a boisterous dinner and then it was out to my car for the drive home to Connecticut and my wife and daughter. Turning onto Sixth Avenue from 34th Street, I found myself assailed by flashing red and blue. An amplified voice commanded me to pull over.
The officer approached, flashlight fixed in my face, and ordered me onto the sidewalk. “Is there a problem?” I asked. Three other cops surrounded me. I started to explain what I was doing in the city â€” a poet returning from a literary event.
The lead cop shouted, “Just do what I say!”
And so I obediently did the field-sobriety dance: touched nose with pinky and stood on one foot, tightrope-walked the crack in the sidewalk, blew into the Breathalyzer.
The officer conferred with his partners, then approached with a grin, hand extended as if to shake mine. “Good news,” he said, “you passed the Breathalyzer.” Then, with perfect comic timing: “The bad news is, there’s a warrant out for your arrest.” The extended hand reached for my wrist, twisting it behind my back.
Arrest? For what? The officers spun into motion. The back door of the police van slid open, a hand pushed my head down and shoved me in. The officer turned to his partner. “Always a good day when you can bag a sand nigger.”