McKinney, Texas, much like much of what is referred to as “North Dallas,” is a municipality that enjoys the separation of colors and classes. The area is three-quarters White and about 10% Black. Housing options range from modesty to extravagance. A website dedicated to some of its neighborhoods, in particular Craig Ranch, reveals itself to be a status symbol: gated, luxurious, upscale. (Ironically, the site looks like it cost $50 to build.)
Craig Ranch also became the latest example of the problem with American policing on Friday, as residents called the police following a fight between a teenager who attended an end-of-school pool party and a female parent. Once officers arrived at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool, teens scattered. There, patrol supervisor Cpl. Eric Casebolt not only slammed a 15-year-old to the ground by her hair and forcibly restrained her, he pulled his gun on two male teens trying to defuse the situation.
The McKinney police department placed initial blame on those teens at the party before a 7-minute video surfaced refuting those claims. The incident went viral Sunday with Casebolt being placed on administrative leave. The young woman who hosted the party says that the problem began when a White resident began making racist comments to partygoers and then physically assaulted her when she responded.
There’s precedent for how places like McKinney treat those who don’t necessarily "belong" in a certain area, pool parties or even on roadways. A friend of mine who lives in Dallas was stopped following a wedding in McKinney a year ago. The officer pulled her and her female passenger over for what was believed to be failure to signal. The officer detained my friend, questioning why were they in the city to begin with, offering more contention to their story than anything else. However, no warning was issued to the two women or a ticket. These stories are common for those of us who have had reason to visit or move to suburban areas that were largely developed as an alternative to suffering the indignity of living amongst people of color.
McKinney, isn’t simply fearful of outright change, they fear the minor ripples that inclusion brings. At The Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum points out the efforts to keep certain people out of the area:
"In 2009, McKinney was forced to settle a lawsuit alleging that it was blocking the development of affordable housing suitable for tenants with Section 8 vouchers in the more affluent western portion of the city. East of Highway 75, according to the lawsuit, McKinney is 49 percent white; to its west, McKinney is 86 percent white. The plaintiffs alleged that the city and its housing authority were “willing to negotiate for and provide low-income housing units in east McKinney, but not west McKinney, which amounts to illegal racial steering.”"
The sight of Black children in a pool area was too much for residents to bear, despite the fact that the teens were invited by a Black resident of Craig Ranch. Most gated community will issue its visitors guest passes and those who attended the party said that the majority of the teens indeed had them. It didn’t stop Casebolt on the scene from appearing like Barney Fife with larger equipment, his fellow officers walling him off after he pulled his gun on two teenagers. His actions will no doubt result in lawsuits and headaches for the McKinney Police Department. Yet, the larger, more complex questions should be lobbed at those who live in the neighborhood.
Why is the immediate reaction to Black teens to tell them they don't belong? Why is it that an older White woman allegedly escalated things into violence, but Black children are the ones to suffer as a result? Why aren't our children allowed to be that–children?
Why create a sign thanking the police department for keeping the community safe when no teen posed a threat and the incident was ramped up by a resident for no reason other than bigotry? Why relish in the policing that condones pulling a child by her hair in broad daylight and slamming her to the ground? Why should you smile and be proud that one parent offered his own kind of neighborhood watch by not admonishing the police for escalating an incident?
The region itself has a troubling recent history with aggressive force by police against people of color. In March 2013, Clinton Allen, an African-American male who was unarmed was shot 7 times and killed by Dallas police officer Clark Staller. Staller was not indicted. In 2014, Jason Harrison, a schizophrenic African-American male holding a screwdriver was shot 5 times and killed by two Dallas County police officers, one of whom was wearing a body camera during the incident. Those two officers were not indicted. Harrison, whose mother called the police regularly to calm Harrison down, later filled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.The most infamous incident involving aggressive force in the area occurred in 1973. Santos Rodriguez, 12, along with his 13-year-old brother was accused of stealing $8 from a gas station vending machine. Officer Darrell Cain decided that Russian Roulette would be a justified measure in order to get the boys to confess. Cain eventually shot and killed Rodriguez in the back of his squad car. The officer was convicted of murder and only served two and a half years of a five-year sentence.
What the McKinney incident should remind us is that our mere existence in certain outposts of “higher” status is a threat. That a swimming pool, something that has been the location of great discrimination and abuse (never forget those famous images of acid being poured in a full one to prevent Black kids from frolicking with White ones) is still a racial proving ground. Some of the residents of Craig Ranch told local media in Dallas that they feared for the safety of the officers – trained, armed men– and not the safety of kids clad in bikinis and shorts. To them, that sacred suburban land is one where we simply don't belong.
Like it always has been.