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September 15, 1981 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-09-15

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a0

OPINION

Page 4

a0

Wednesday, September 16, 1981

The Michigan Doily

The Michia.n.D.il

r

°.

A

Bawling behind bars in Baltimore

.At 9 a.m. Friday, as ordered by the note left
by the police, I called Sgt. Buford Viars. (You
remember from yesterday's episode that Sgt.
Viars and several of his cronies from the
Baltimore city police department had searched
my house after a neighbor noticed some
peculiar flora growing on our back fire escape.

Howard
Witt

k the process of their search of my room, they
found an itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny gob of 2%-
Year-old hashish I had forgotten about).
> "Just come on down to the station some time
"this morning," Sgt. Viars said very.paternally.
: We'll process your arrest and you'll be let out
n an hour; it's no big deal. In three weeks
You'll have a trial and the judge'll probably
rgive you a year of unsupervised probation.
They then expunge your arrest record. Hap-
,pens all the time."
HE ADDED that I had nothing to worry
about. .
--Whew! So maybe this whole thing wouldn't
be so bad after all.
Going to Jail Pointer #6: Never believe the
police.
I picked out my best tan suit-surely that
would show the police I was no criminal-and
headed out the door, looking forward to the rest
;a

of the day. My parents were flying in from
Chicago-at 4:30 p.m. to visit me for the
weekend, and I couldn't wait to see them.
(If this were a movie, you would now hear an
ominous "Danh Danh Daaaaam!" in the soun-
dtrack.)
At 10 a.m., I got to the police station and was
cordially but firmly escorted to a basement of-
fice filled with men in blue.
"Hey, Witt, we gonna read about this arrest
in the papers tomorrow?" the men in blue chor-
tled.
OH GOD. Two days earlier, I had written a
story for the Baltimore newspaper where I
worked about some police in a nearby city who
were staging a work slowdown. And I thought
only my mother read bylines.
"No slowdown here, buddy," one of them
laughed. "We're haulin' in those criminals left
and right."
Pointer #7: Never write a story about
cops two days before you are going to be
arrested.
After taking down all the pertinent infor-
mation, Sgt:Viars led me to the holding cells.
"You'll only be here two hours or so, while we
check for any prior arrests," Sgt. Viars
assured me.
"But you said on the phone. . ." He was
walking away.
"Take off your necktie, belt, and shoelaces
and empty your pockets," a new officer was
ordering.
THEN IT WAS time to get fingerprinted.
They use thick printer's ink-very black and
very permanent-and give you one small paper
towel to wipe your hands with.
Wondering how I would clean my other nine

fingers, I glanced into a few cells to see how the
other felons had done it. They had simply wiped
their hands on their jeans or t-shirts.
Pointer #8: Never wear a tan suit to jail.
Quicker than you can say "Smile!" I was in#
front of a huge canera, with my name and very
own arrest number hanging around my neck on
a little board.
I was going to ask if I could look in a mirror
first, but decided against it. Better I should ap-
pear tousled and ruffian in the post offices of
America.
I USED MY one phone call to tell the
secretary in the newsroom that I would be in a
little later that day. I didn't exactly want to ex-
plain the situation over the phone to my editor:
"Oh, hi there, Mr. Keller. I'm in jail, but Adon't
worry, it's only for possession of drugs."
Pointer #9: Never use your one phone call
to tell a secretary you'll be in a little late.
Then it was rumble, slam, and I was locked
in my cell. A mere three yards square, it con-
tained a crusty toilet (no seat), a crusty sink
(no hot water), and a crusty bench (lots of
splinters)..
No toilet paper-you had to yell "Turnkey"
(that's what they call the officer in charge of
the jail) if you needed any, and if the turnkey
was feeling particularly generous, he might
amble over and give you a few sheets.
THE STEEL WALLS, where the paint was
not rusting away, were that sick shade of men-
tal-hospital green. No sophisticated Graduate
Library-style graffiti here-just, a desperate
"God Help Me" scratched into the ceiling.

On the whole, the place kind of reminded me
of Markley.
Across from me, Ilearned as the day wore
on, was a man accused of stabbing his wife.
Down a few cells was a pimp. Next door, a man
who borrowed a television set from Sears.
Maybe it was more like South Quad.
Tick. Tick. Tick. In jail, time stretches to in-
finity. 11 o'clock. 12 o'clock. 1. 2. 3. You occupy
your time by counting the bolts in your cell. The
hairs on your arm. The hairs on your other
arm.
IT WAS GETTING late, and I was getting
nervous. Mommy and Daddy (you. regress,
quickly in jail) would be expecting me at the
airport. I had to call and let someone know
where I was. Surely, when I explained my
dilemma, the police would let me make just one
more call.
Pointer #10: No they won't.
"Turnkey! Turnkey!" I called out. No an-
swer: "Hey, Turnkey! Some toilet paper over
here!" Nice try, but no good.
4:15 p.m. The plane was getting clearance to
land. I started pleading, begging. 4:25. The
wheels were touching down. I was reasoning,
explaining, crying. 4:30. They were entering
the terminal. I tried a threat.
"Hey, Turnkey! Do you know who I am? Do
you? I'm Howard Witt. Yeah, that's right. The
Howard Witt. I'd sure hate to have to plaster
your name all over the front page of
tomorrow's paper."
ONE POLICEMAN on the entire force who
doesn't read bylines, and this has to be him.
I was frantic. No one in the world knew where
I was. My parents would be worried sick. What
if they had a heart attack? What if they jumped

in a rent-a-car and crashed going 100 mph?
What if ... ?
I decided that I had only one avenue open to
me. I had to get out of my cell and get to a
phone, and the only way to do it would be to in-
jure myself, so they would have to take me to a
hospital.
Looking about my cell, I spied my wat-
ch-the one personal item they had let me
keep. It had a metal band. Let's see ... I could
twist if off and... and.. . and slice open my
arm with the jagged edge!
No, not a great idea-that band cost me $40.
I THOUGHT some more. What about my
pants? I could take them off, tie them around
my neck, and hang myself from the bars.
No-it was a new suit, and I'd never get the
wrinkles out.
Well, I could grab hold of the bars and smash
my head against them. Yes, that was it!-I'd
just grab right on and powwiee! Theyd have to
take me to the hospital.
But that sure might hurt a lot.
Then, just when I was about to (ugh!) drown
myself in the crusty toilet, my cell door rum-
bled open. It was 6 p.m. They were letting me'0
out.
And did I find my parents? Were they upset?
Did I have to pay $300 for a lawyer? Did I get
off with probation?
To make a long story short, yes, yes, yes, yes.
And the moral of this whole sordid story? My
final pointer?
Pointer #11: Don't go to Baltimore.
Witt's column normally appears every
Tuesday.

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCII, No. 6:

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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Editorials represent a majority0

opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

By Robert Lence

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Auto test change fails
WTOMOBILE safety branch with the tests. Some cars arguably
Le Department of Transporta- have been undeserving of their
unced Monday that it would designation-either good or bad. But
r report whether new cars for the most part, these designations
r"fail" annual crash tests. In have served as a good general guide
he decision, the department for consumers in purchasing theirw
red the best interests of con- automobiles.
whom the safety branch is Unfortunately most major auto
to protect..companies will most likely laud this
a consumer decidestopur- decision- if the problems of a car are
fnumeor sheandfactsdconcer- not so obvious to the consumer, more
umbde r.nde fa cthe car's cars can be sold. And, of course, it is
model. In the past, tunlikely the Reagan administration;
safety cold be easily deter- will do much to go against the interests
the pass or fail designation. of big business.
e new plan, however, the con-
ill be faced with figures and Hopefully, most consumers will take
ich must be calculated and the time to examine the facts and
d to get a general idea of the figures to provide themselves with the
the automobile. protection the government now refuses
Lly, some problems do exist to offer.

,. ,}
,,,. ,l c7 M cN<Y
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+ j

Although the Reagan ad-
ministration appears largely to
have neutralized black political
opposition on domestic issues, a
major storm is brewing on the
foreign policy front.
To black Americans who know
the legacy of racial injustice in
their own country, South African
apartheid evokes the same kind
of deep-seated emotion that
memory of the Holocaust;
triggers in American Jews. Thus,
the recent U.S. veto of the United
Nations Security Council
resolution condemningaSouth
Africa's raid on Angola may well
do what the administration's con-
servative economic and social
policies have not: galvanize
black America.
WASHINGTON'S conciliatory
approach to Pretoria already has
provoked a formidable
organizing effbrt in black com-
munities, much of it centered in
churches.
But black concern on this sub-'
ject hardly is limited to Sundays
or church-goers. A 1980 Black En-
terprise poll of its largely middle-
class readership showed that
more than 90 percent felt they
should participate in the struggle
against apartheid. When Tran-,
sAfrica, a Washington, D.C.,-
based black lobby on foreign
policy issues, gave a $100-a-plate
dinner last spring, 1,200 people
showed up. TransAfrica support
committees now are being set up
in most major cities.
Many of these black
organizations havesbegun to
forge links with traditional white
liberal anti-apartheid groups.
WHILE MOST black
Americans view the situation in
southern Africa as a last attempt
to retain white supremacy, ad-
ministration conservatives view
it differently. For them; it is less
a matter of racial injustice and
conflict than it is of East-West
confrontation.
In the Hoover Institution book,

Reagan stance
on apartheid
may bolster
black groups
By Joel Dreyfuss

argue,, "South Africa is not
nearly as oppressive as
numerous African dictatorships
with whom the United States en-
joys correct relationships."
Duignan, who has been men-
tioned as a candidate for U.S.
ambassador to South Africa,
goes on to suggest that black
South Africans are better off than
citizens of other African coun-
tries.
THIS INTERPRETATION of
the facts is politically convenient,
but South Africa-with its rigid
racial separations, jobs reserved
exclusively for whites, com-
puterized passbook systems,
denial of political and
educational rights to blacks,
banning orders, and family
separations forced by the
homeland system-would easily
qualify as a totalitarian state un-
der U.N. Ambassador Jeane
Kirkpatrick's own standards.
Moreover, white South Africa's
ability to control 20 million black
people is vastly increased by its
advanced technological
development. Few African dic-
tators have the infrastructure to
exercise the kind of control Sodth
Africa has over its hhlek

nations. For example, the infant
mortality rate of blacks in rural
South Africa is 240 per 1,000,
compared to 12 for white South
Africans and 64 for urban South
African blacks. The infant mor-
tality rate is 160 per 1,600 in Zaire
and 200 per 1,000 in Niger.
IN THE PRESENT hostile
racial climate at home, the links
between such statistics and U.S.
domestic politics is sobering: If
America still can justify racial
repression abroad, it again can
justify racialrepression here.
In any case, black Americans
and other minority groups have
long been struggling with the
legacy of a dual economy created
by racial segregation in this
country, an economy which is
quite similar to that now in
existence in South Africa. -
The arguments about "lower
standards" posed by defenders of
apartheid sound to U.S. blacks
much like those made- by op-
,ponents of affirmative action in
America. And South Africa's in-
creased repression of blacks
during the very period of its
greatest economic growth raises
serious questions about the
potential effects of suDine-side

inability to engage whites in a
constructive debate about oppor-
tunity and racism, have made it
difficult for the traditional black
leadership to organize around
domestic problems.
Economic insecurity has
reduced the generosity of white
America and threatens to make
blacks scapegoats for many of
the nation's problems.
But South Africa is a powerful
moral issue, and its moral dimen-
tions offer some surprising
possibilities for coalition, among
them traditionally conservative
Roman Catholics who themselves
are angered by the ad-
ministration's moral insen-
sitivity in Central America.s-
THE IMPACT of other ethnic
groups in America on U.S.
foreign policy has long been ac-
cepted as a factor in the foreign
policy process. For example,
Jewish and pro-Israel
organizations are almost expec-
ted to lobby hard against the sale
of AWACs to Saudi Arabia-while
a common perception of blacks is
a large, poor, powerless group
that has no business in foreign
policy. Indeed, a large part of the
black population in sinking
evermore deeply into despair.
But an equally large middle
class has been created in the last
decade.'There presently may be
more middle-class blacks than
middle-class Jews in this coun-
try. And in the 1960 election, more
black votes were cast than
Jewish votes. Why should they
not influence foreign policy?
Blacks also earn $141 billion
per year in wages in the United
States. -The recent $30 million
agreement between Jesse
Jackson's' Operation PUSH and
the Coca Cola Co., increasingly
large donations by black frater-
nal groups to the United Negro
College Fund, and the $100,000
raised at the TransAfrica dinner
all are aigns of growing
sophistication and financial clout
in thehir rmmimnit

0

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