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CCATP #641 – Robb Dunewood on Being a Black Man in America

Robb DunewoodThis week I decided to take a pause from tech and talk to Robb Dunewood of the SMR Podcast about what it’s like being a black man in America. This was of course inspired by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. I wanted to have Robb on to describe to us what the daily life is like for black men across this country. I’ve heard some of Robb’s stories before but I was floored at the relentlessness of how he and his fellow African Americans are treated as a matter of course.

It’s not an easy episode to listen to but probably the most important Chit Chat I’ve ever recorded. I hope you’ll open your minds and listen. If for some reason you can’t listen, the transcript of the audio is included below.

If you’d like to follow Robb online where he talks about tech and football and being an entrepreneur and gaming, you can find him @RobbDunewood on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you’d like to converse with him directly you can email him at [email protected]

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Audio Transcription from…

Many thanks to Heidi Proctor for urging me to create the transcript for the hearing impaired, but even more for doing the tough job of editing out any mistakes made. We left it very conversational with all the ums and ahs you normally hear, but the pure transcription errors have been removed. There are time stamps for each section so if anything isn’t clear you can jump to that time in the audio conversation for clarification.

Allison Sheridan 0:08
Well, it’s that time of the week it’s time for Chit Chat Across the Pond. This is episode number 641 for June 1, 2020, and I’m your host, Allison Sheridan. This week I’d like to welcome returning guest Robb Dunewood of the SMR podcast. How you doing today Robb?

Robb 0:21
I am doing absolutely wonderful. Allison, I appreciate you getting me back on the show again.

Allison Sheridan 0:26
All right, always always. So I want to set this up a little bit. Chit Chat Across the Pond is an interview show with people I find interesting, usually in and around tech, or at least tech-adjacent. But you know, I sometimes color a little bit outside of those lines, like the interviews I’ve done with Dr. Maryanne Garry about memory, and those are some of the most popular, but today I’m going to color way outside of the lines. I’ve asked Robb Dunewood come on the show to talk about what life is like as an African American man in America. I want to set this up a little bit. Robb is a professional in the computer science field. He’s well to do. He dresses better than any of my other friends. He wears real nice suits. He loves to wear super fancy watches and he drives a Cadillac Escalade. He’s also a – wait I didn’t get this right. Not a defensive linebacker. What is it you were?

Robb 1:14
Defensive lineman.

Allison Sheridan 1:15
Defensive lineman, okay.

Robb 1:17
Yeah, I was – I did play defensive tackle, defensive end.

Allison Sheridan 1:20
Okay, since I obviously don’t know the difference between those two. So anyway, he’s a big dude. But he’s currently down to a svelte six foot four and 305 pounds. He has brown skin and a ready and welcoming smile and a fabulous laugh. So I want you to picture him in your mind as we described the scenarios that we’re going to walk through here, and this conversation was of course inspired by the police-caused death of Mr. George Floyd. Now, this is a conversation that Robb and Chris and Rod have been having on the SMR podcast for a long time. They do tech stuff, but they also talks about social issues. And they’ve talked about what it’s like to be black and I wanted to bring some of this to my audience, so hopefully we can all gain more perspective. So with that set up, does that sound okay, Robb, you’re gonna be all black men in America.

Robb 2:10
Um, so it’s funny that you that you lead me in with that, because I read that and I’m like, Wow, that’s a lot of pressures, like 40 million of us.

Allison Sheridan 2:19
Well Bart speaks for all of Ireland. So I figure – and sometimes all of Europe! So…

Robb 2:23
Yeah, I would not dare try to speak for everyone. You know, African Americans are by no stretch of the imagination, a monolith in the way that we think and stuff like that. And I promise you, you could ask three other people, and you’re going to get three other opinions on the things we’re going to be talking about today. So what you’re going to get is what my life in America is like, and my gut tells me that there’s probably a lot of other folks that look like me that experienced similar things.

Allison Sheridan 2:56
Yeah. And I do think that that’s part of the important bit. I I’m being flippant a little bit talking, you know, speaking for all African American men, but the commonality of the stories that I’ve started to hear is what’s truly awful. You know, to be honest, it’s not that, Okay, this one guy had these weird experiences where you can say, Oh, well, it’s cuz he did this or because he looked like that. It’s because it’s happening to everybody. And I think that’s kind of the angle that I was thinking about this in and of course, making all kinds of assumptions about things I don’t know anything about. But let’s just start with something – a real simple question. How many times do you get pulled over by the police?

Robb 3:38
So with the pandemic, I haven’t been pulled over yet this year.

I’ve made it to July before when we weren’t in a pandemic. But you know, I have not been pulled over one time this year. Last time I got pulled over was October – November of last year. But I would say now that I’m in my late 40s, it’s two-three times a year. There was a let’s, let’s go…it’s not three every year, but it’s usually at least two or you know, or three. When I was younger in my 20s it was probably like every 90 days, it was like, okay, and you know, we’re into a new season, it must be time to get pulled over for absolutely no reason. I’ve actually got speeding tickets. I’ve been driving since 1988. I’ve gotten two speeding tickets.

Allison Sheridan 4:36
So all those other pull-overs were for nothing.

Robb 4:41
Things like making sure I knew where I was. Are you okay? Just just want to make sure this is your car, the car that I’m driving, you know, those types of things. But, yeah, you mentioned that I have a Cadillac Escalade. When I first got it, we were definitely in that three to four times a year range of getting pulled over.

Allison Sheridan 5:07
If you’d been driving some beater car you think you wouldn’t have been pulled over as much? Like, okay, that’s appropriate for his race. He should be driving this terrible car instead of a good car.

Robb 5:18
Um, it probably depends on where you are. But you know, apparently and I’m being flippant and you know, when I say this, there’s a real interest as to why someone like me is driving around in an $80-90,000 car because I get asked that an awful lot.

Allison Sheridan 5:35
So I was talking to Chris Ashley about this yesterday and he described getting a new car and it was a Mazda 626 or something like that when he was in his 20s but it was a brand new car and he was really excited. But he said he got pulled over four times that year. Because he was in a nice new car. You know, it wasn’t a $90,000 car but it was a new car.

Robb 6:01
Yeah, that’s not shocking to me. That is… you know, in the other thing too, Chris, like myself is a awfully large human being as well, not as large as he used to be. But he is, you know, he’s an awfully large human being. So I don’t know if we are just more menacing to police when we’re doing absolutely nothing that they should be worried about. But it is not an exaggeration.

When, you know, we say we get pulled over this often, it’s like I’ve told people this before, 10-12 years ago, you just BSing, it’s like you’re exaggerating. And you don’t really want to, you kn ow, get into arguments with people about why would I make something like that up? So you just don’t really have the conversation

I remember, one time I got pulled over and this was, you know, this was probably two three years ago. And the reason was because one of my daughter’s friends left her backpack. Um, you know, in her house, she had a assignment that she needed for school. Her mother wasn’t able to take it to her because her mother was already on the road to a meeting. So she called me and asked if I could just go by pick it up and drop it off to her. No problem. So she gave me the code to her garage . So I drive into, you know, this nice community, you drive into a nice community. But once again, I’m in a 80 something thousand dollar car and pull up and go in and before I can get out of the neighborhood, I’m being stopped by the police. They want to make sure I knew where I was going. Did I have any did I have any questions? What was I doing in a neighborhood like because I don’t live in it. I’m adjacent to it’s like one neighborhood over. Because that was because I wasn’t just the police. I was somebody called the police on me to make sure that I was not breaking into somebody’s house that I literally went up and typed the code into the garage door to open up and get in.

Allison Sheridan 8:05
Just what – and you were putting something in there or taking something out?

Robb 8:11
No, so I’m going to the garage.

Allison Sheridan 8:13
Here I am trying to think why should you? No, no, that’s the wrong question. You have every right to be there.

Robb 8:18
No, I just pulled in the driveway, went, typed in the garage code, went in the house, got the backpack, came out the house, put the garage back down, got in my car, drove out. Within 90 seconds I was pulled over. And like I said, that was the last time where I was… they all piss me off. But I was like really mad at that point, because that wasn’t just the police profiling me that was someone else profiling that that was that was someone that was a neighbor, who’s this black guy in a space that they shouldn’t be in.

Allison Sheridan 8:50
Right, right. And that they knew that the cops would come that quickly.

Robb 8:54
Mm hmm. just so happens that the sheriff, one of their depot stations was literally in the neighborhood. So it took them no time to get to me.

Allison Sheridan 9:06
How do you not be angry all the time?

Robb 9:12
Um, so, I’ve had conversations with people before where we’ve talked about, like, you know, you hear this thing called ‘the talk’. And ‘the talk’, at least in my experience, it’s not like you know, when I was 13, and I’m coming of age, my dad sat me down and taught me about stuff. It was a constant just state of being from the time I was born. Until the time that it started happening to me, I know I’ve never said this on air. The first time I had a gun, pointed at my head by a police officer. I was 11 years old.

Allison Sheridan 9:46

Robb 9:47
Now when I was 11, I probably I was bigger than many grown men at 11 years old. You know, I’m a big tall guy. But yeah, it’s my myself, my mother and my newborn sister. You know, are in the car and we got pulled over because they were looking for someone. And I will never forget my mother pleading with the officer. He’s just a baby. He just turned 11 years old. He’s not who you’re looking for. And…

Allison Sheridan 10:16
What was the circumstance? I mean, I don’t understand – you guys, were you walking, driving?

Robb 10:22
Oh we’re in a car,

Allison Sheridan 10:23
You’re in the car, and they pulled the car over and took you out?

Robb 10:27
Police were looking for someone. And the description was – like I say, I don’t mean to sound flippant about this. But I have actually, I’ve actually heard of description ‘an African American man between ages of 15 and 30, between five-seven and six-four.’ That’s probably 90% of us.

Allison Sheridan 10:46
Yeah, yeah.

Robb 10:48
It’s probably more been more like 95%. So, you know, there was no reason for my mom and I to have been pulled over. It was just when there’s black people, let’s pull them over and check them out. And because I am a large person, and you know, because it was dark. You know, when they were, you know, ‘who do you have the a car?’ Just my children. And then they look at me ‘who’s that?’ And you know, the gun comes out, because she didn’t acknowledge that ‘Oh, my 11 year old child looks like he’s 20 because of his size.’ And it literally wasn’t until they have the flashlight in my face. And they realize, Oh, he really is just a kid. But I will never forget this. The officer said, ‘well, you all look alike to me.’

Allison Sheridan 11:34
Ohhh. So that, like you said, You didn’t have to have the talk. You were living it at 11 years old.

Robb 11:41
Um, that was the first time that I actually had a gun pointed at my head

Allison Sheridan 11:47
The first time. So you’ve had guns pointed at your head again.

Robb 11:52
I have and we talked about this on the show last week. You know Chris, and I. I will never forget this either. I was 22 and was driving – got pulled over. I can’t even really remember what the reason was for because I didn’t get a ticket or a warning or anything. You know, they ended up letting me go. But I got pulled over, they asked to see my driver’s license. And because the officer asked me for my driver’s license, I went to my back pocket to reach for my driver’s license. Next thing I know his gun, his partner’s gun and another – and I’m not even sure when the the second car came up, you know, when this happened. I had three guns pointed at my head because I was doing what they asked me to do. That was probably the last time I’ve ever driven with my wallet in my pocket.

Allison Sheridan 12:37
I’m speechless. I just can’t even imagine – they just asked you to get it. How did they think you were going to get your wallet other than getting it? I mean, where do men usually keep their wallets – in their back pockets right?

Robb 12:54
I’m not gonna say most black men, many black men do not – that is something that you are – I remember when I told that to my dad. And his first thought was ‘What have I told you about keeping your wallet in your pocket’, because that was something that I was taught not to do. So I don’t want to say most black men but I know that many black men do not do – you know, Chris, Rod, they don’t do it. And you know, you know, Chris and Robb knew each other as kids. I didn’t meet them until we we’re all way grown. But you know, this is something that a lot black men just don’t do, because that could cause you know, an issue and we’ve now seen videos of police officers asking a black man for his identification, you comply and get shot. In literally the video I’m thinking of this happening at a gas station. And the guy asked me, Why did you shoot me? Well, you were reaching for something like you told me to get my wallet – he’s literally having a conversation with the officer who just shot him. But that is not an uncommon story – it’s just one that happened to be caught on video.

Allison Sheridan 14:06
I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this is is, you know, seeing George Floyd murdered on video made it inescapably a fact. Right? It made it where you couldn’t say anything to excuse what happened. But the fact that you guys live with this all the time, that you have a fear of having your wallet in your back pocket. I mean, that’s… I, as a woman, my biggest fear is I wouldn’t walk down a dark street at night by myself, and I always thought, well, I’ve got it tough. I don’t expect to be shot when I’m doing what a police officer tells me to do. I mean, I just can’t even imagine that.

Robb 14:54
Yeah, so as I said, there was no individual talk. It was just an awareness of situation. You have to know, my father, my grandparents, my uncles. You know, my grandfathers used to say my uncles, they all – you have to know where you are. And for me, like, I don’t want to say especially, but like I said, I’m six-four defensive tackle. I’m bigger than almost every police officer I’m ever going to encounter. Um, so they already in their mind, if I have to wrestle with this guy, it’s not necessarily going to go well for me. So let me make sure I’m prepared.

Allison Sheridan 15:38
Okay but I actually think you’re making excuses here.

Robb 15:42
No, I’m not making excuses. I’m telling you. I’m trying to get into their head into into what they’re thinking…

Allison Sheridan 15:46
Right. That’s valid if you stood up. But you’re sitting in your car driving down the road. I don’t know that you’re six-four. I don’t know you’re big. I know you’re a guy in normal life with dark skin, right. That’s all I know, right?

Robb 16:00
You know I’m black.

Allison Sheridan 16:01
I mean, I could, I could definitely see if you stood up. Oh, you’re big. But this is not bad, right? It’s before they even know that you should be noticing how big you are.

Robb 16:16
It’s like, I try to figure out you try to rationalize it just so that you can like live and exist. Okay, well, this was the reason. And then, you know, the blow up last week is just because like, man, it’s like, you know, three in three months. You know, when you start off with, you know,

Allison Sheridan 16:35
What’s the woman’s name who was killed in her in her own bed?

Robb 16:38
In Louisville sleeping in her own bed, it’s like, you know,

Allison Sheridan 16:41
Shot 8 times

Robb 16:43
Yeah. 8 times. They had a no-knock warrant bust in the door. Her boyfriend legally has a firearm, to use the firearm for times when people bust in your door. And so, you know, what are you expecting? And you know, they initially charged him with attempted murder and clearly, those charges now have been dropped, but it’s like, you know, there used to be memes that went around about, you know, things that black people couldn’t do is like, Oh, you can’t barbecue in the park anymore. You can’t sell water on your stoop anymore. You know, you can’t sleep in your own bed anymore.

Allison Sheridan 17:18
Ariana Taylor, that was her name.

Robb 17:20
right. These things are not, you know, in a vacuum. These are things that happen all the time. What is happening now is that you are seeing them in video, and with audio with high fidelity.

Allison Sheridan 17:35
Right, so you know what’s being said.

Robb 17:37
So like I said, My word of the year is cognitive dissonance because a lot of folks are now struggling with this. And it usually goes two ways – it’s like, oh, maybe there is an issue. Or Oh, and this is sadly more times than not what happens. Well, what was he doing? You know, there’s something that you have to put into your mind to make you feel better about the situation you just saw – well he was doing something. George Floyd, he must have been doing something that he got killed you know, execution-style on the street with some type of knee death grip, you know, he did something to, to force that to happen. And then you know, you’re reminded about – in an article I talked about this, like Dylann Roof, he murdered nine people in a church. And the guy was taken to Burger King because he was hungry before he was taken to the police station to get booked.

Allison Sheridan 18:27
Are you serious?

Robb 18:29
Oh, yeah.

George Floyd passed a bad $20 bill. And he gets killed on the street. You know, it’s, it’s just it’s frustrating.

Allison Sheridan 18:42
So let me ask you we’ve been focusing on black men. Do the women in your life your African American wife, sisters, daughters, cousins, do they experience this?

Robb 18:56
Oh. Yeah.

Allison Sheridan 18:57
So they get pulled over all the time, too?

Robb 18:59
Yeah. And it’s like, you know, the I think of Sandra Bland, you know, who was mysteriously died somehow, you know, in the jail when she got locked up and I think this is a few years back, but, you know, I don’t I don’t necessarily know that, you know, African American women are being killed on video to the same extent. But yeah, they, they, yes, they have issues. I think it’s a it’s, I don’t want to say uniquely men, but it’s mostly men that are actually being killed. But yes, you still have issues with African American women who have, you know, potential issues with the police.

And I think I can’t remember if you and I have talked about this before on air, but I’ve said this before, that, you know, I would imagine that a lot of parents, a lot of white parents, you teach your kids that, you know, if there’s something going on, you see the police you call the police and you call them over. That doesn’t happen in my house. I have never once told my daughters to ever if they felt unsafe to run over to a police officer, because to me that’s not safe to me that is that could actually put you in more harm than dealing with whatever it was you were dealing with before. It’s like, if you see a fireman, if you see a white woman, if you see someone else, but no, don’t invite the police officer into whatever it is you’re dealing with right now, because that could be detrimental to your well being.

Allison Sheridan 20:25
I, again, cannot even imagine that world that you wouldn’t call the police. I remember an African American employee of mine saying that around the time of the OJ Simpson debacle. I don’t know what – the murder that happened. And he said that – he said that he would never call the police and I don’t think I really believed him back then. I thought ‘you’re just weird’. You know, it’s a single data point here, but it’s it’s impossible to ignore this as being single data points.

Robb 20:59
So let’s say somebody breaks into your house, and they steal so much that you actually have to file a police report, in order for insurance to kick in, that’s when it’s acceptable, but you’re not dialing 911 for that you dial in a regular number and you want someone who is not coming to a hot incident.

Now, I don’t want to – you know, Allison, I need to tell you this, that my experience with the police even for an African American, maybe like, I just, I just don’t trust them at all. You know, I’ve said this on multiple occasions, if you are a police officer, and I don’t know you, outside of you being a police officer, I am in no way trying to deal with you at all ever. That is not the right way to be, but it’s kept me alive for 48 years. So that’s kind of how I am and you know, and like I said, I don’t want to pass that on, you know, to my children, and you know, into my grandchildren when I have them. But you know, but that’s my situation.

But as far as just dealing with the police on purpose – that doesn’t exist in my community. Like I said, if you need to file a report in order for the insurance to kick in, like if you didn’t just get, you know, robbed, somebody’s like really took a lot of stuff. They stole a car or something like that. You’ve got no choice but to deal with them. But you know, window gets broken, somebody breaks into your car and gets some stuff. It’s like, I’m just calling the insurance company. I’m not even dealing with a police report, because I don’t want to deal with the police.

Allison Sheridan 22:29
Yeah, I like what you’re saying about acknowledging how you feel and what your reaction to it is – not being able to change that and yet also not wanting to pass that on. Like, I know, the way I’m feeling is inappropriate, but I haven’t ever been able to change that. But I still don’t want to pass that on.

So you live in Ohio, right?

Robb 22:51
I do.

Allison Sheridan 22:52
On CNN today, John Kasich, who was governor of Ohio, I think, at one time and Nina Turner who I think is a representative. I’m not sure.

Robb 23:03
She used to be a state representative. And I believe that she was a co-chair or Chair of Bernie Sanders campaign or something like that.

Allison Sheridan 23:12
Okay, well, they were on – Yeah, he’s a republican. She’s a democrat – but they were on CNN and they were talking about after one of these murders and forgive me that I don’t remember which one it was in Ohio, where they got together and got a taskforce set up together to go out into the community and find out what the what the pain was, and then a second task force to try to start fixing things. I don’t know how long ago that was, but do you remember that? Do you feel that anything changed?

Robb 23:44
I remember hearing something about that. No, I don’t feel anything’s changed. Sadly, I don’t believe that. Maybe the officer that had the knee on the neck, he, you know, the temperature has changed in America, he might actually get a conviction. I can’t imagine that the other three, they’re, you know, they may be charged, but I have no confidence that they’re going to be convicted of anything. And that’s the problem. It’s like, you know, you’ve got to convince 12 people that what they were doing was wrong. And I just don’t have that that kind of faith in America. People are going to actually look at that and think that it was wrong. So um, you know, I made a comment about Amy was her name Amy Cooper, the incident in…

Allison Sheridan 24:48
Central Park – tell the incident because I hadn’t didn’t actually know about it. Okay,

Robb 24:52
so, okay, so yeah, so um, you know, white woman, named Amy Cooper was in Central Park. In the I think it is called the Bramble which is like a bird watching area where they have strict dog-on-leash rules. There is a another gentleman who’s last name happened to be Cooper as well, African American who sees that her dog is you know, you know kind of running rampant in the park and he simply just asked her to put her dog on a leash. She goes ballistic at him when he asked her to do what the law mandates in this particular Park and she goes and says that I’m going to call the police and tell them that a black man is threatening me in Central Park and then proceeds to do so not once not twice, but three times.

Allison Sheridan 25:42
That’s threatening lethal force essentially isn’t i?t

Robb 25:46
And so what she is doing and you know, we’ve talked about like Barbecue Becky and you know, all these you know, different names for for you know, for the white woman that are calling the police on black people for just existing in America, but this one was different. This one was, she wasn’t afraid. She was trying to put fear into the gentleman that asked her to put the dog on the leash. And then proceeded to call the police, you know, on him and, you know, and put this report out. Now, he didn’t stick around for it nor what I have. But, you know, the internet is undefeated in this kind of thing. They figured out who she was, and she has been, you know, dismissed from her job and, and she’s, you know, she’s apologizing and she’s, you know, she’s not racist.

That gets me. I’m just like, if you murder somebody, are you not a murderer? You know, if you do racist things, or you’re not a racist, so, I learned this a long time ago, I stopped calling people racist, saying, you know, you’re a racist, because this is what you know, calling a racist will do. It’s going to shut down any conversation if there is any, because generally, when you call someone that, that’s all they can hear, all they’re going to do is fight you on why they’re not a racist and they won’t hear what you’re saying. So when I’ve been in these conversations where I wanted to call someone a racist, I wouldn’t say that you are a racist.

I would say the thing that you did do to me struck me as a racist act. Like when you call me the N word, I’m not saying you’re a racist, I just think that I was a racist thing that you did, because there may be conversation it can still be had after that as compared to it just being shut down because I am now you know, accusing you of being something that you don’t feel that you are. But it’s just it’s funny to me. It’s like, you know, the thing that you always hear after these incidents of people doing ridiculously racist things is, well, I’m not a racist, and I don’t feel that way in my heart. And it’s like, well, you know, what, why are you doing those things on the street?

Allison Sheridan 27:42
Yeah. Why are you doing it if you don’t feel it that way?

Robb 27:44
But yet, you know, Amy Cooper, she particularly bothered me because, you know, it was even more heinous than the people calling the police on somebody who was sitting in Starbucks, drinking coffee waiting on someone. It’s more heinous than the woman in the park who was like ‘you shouldn’t be grilling here’, because those were in essence disputes. I believe that I am right and I’m going to call the law on you because you’re doing something that is illegal and I’m going to report you. That’s not what she was doing what she was hoping for was she was hoping for a George Floyd incident. And it just so happens that that happened later that day just didn’t happen to the person she wanted to happen to.

Allison Sheridan 28:25
Oh was that the same day?

Robb 28:26
That was the same day. Yeah, these are both last last Monday both on Memorial Day.

Allison Sheridan 28:32
Oh wow.

Robb 28:37
You’ve asked about you know, what is it like to be a you know, a black man in America like that. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be you know, all black man but like, for me things that I think about. I’m not necessarily trying to put myself in a situation where I am with a white woman that I don’t know alone when it’s dark. Just you just never know what’s going to happen from that. I’m not necessarily trying to… it’s late at night we’re on elevator, you know, I used to, live in a big city in Columbus is a big city but didn’t have really tall buildings. I lived in a big city with tall buildings. And, you know, I will make it a point to where I’m just gonna let you get on the elevator by yourself. I’ll catch the next one. Because you just never know.

Because here’s what I do know, no matter what the truth is. The police are gonna believe the truth is whatever the white woman said, that’s what I you know, that that’s been my experience. That’s what I’ve learned, you know, just in my time on this planet. So I try to remove myself from those situations, and those are the kind of things that I have taught, you know, to my children. More so to my nephews, because I have, young men in my life that I care a lot about and it’s like these are things that you you have to be aware of. You cannot put yourself in this situation.

So I hear folks say things like, wow, that’s got to be so much weight. It’s like got it, you know, it’s, you know, how do you live like that? It’s, it’s never not been this way. This is just, this is just what it is. It’s like, you know what it’s like, if we were to go to, you know, to like a third world country and see how some of the folks live over there was just you know that you know how impoverished they are, like, how do people live like that? Well, that’s that’s what their normal is so you know, they adapt and you know, I’m not saying that it’s nice and they like it but it’s you know, it’s what they do they get by that you know, that they get by the way they get by for me…

Allison Sheridan 30:35
I have a great analogy for that: My brother Grant only has one eye – lost his eye when he was four years old. And I remember when I was a little kid asking him What’s it like to not see out of your eye? And he said, What’s it like to not see out of your elbow? You know, it’s just you never could see out of your elbow that that that other reality hadn’t existed for him.

Robb 30:53
Right. So yeah, that’s what it is

Allison Sheridan 30:56
Back to Ohio. And and talk about what they tried to do. You know, we’ve got the the protests and I don’t even want to talk about the violence part at all. But the peaceful protests that are going on I’m trying to picture if they were successful at causing change, what what could that change look like? I mean, how would we measure whether we’ve we’ve turned a corner finally on this? I mean, do we just keep a tally of – hey! fewer young black men were killed this year than last year? Whoo.

Robb 31:29
Yeah, it’s – I honestly, I don’t know. You always want to hear that there’s going to be a brighter side that, you know, this is this is how things are going to be better. And, you know, when Chris and I were talking last week, you know, I said that, you know, I don’t think that things are worse because some people are saying that worse, you know, you know, we have the worst race relations now than we’ve ever had. And I just remember you know, my grandfather was born in 1906. His grandfather was born in 1855. My grandfather’s grandfather was owned by a white person. It ain’t that bad for me. I’m not owned by, you know, by someone.

Allison Sheridan 32:07
So do you think we’re making incremental improvement then? I mean, maybe it’s incredibly slow growth, but…

Robb 32:18
Are things better now? Because laws have been put into place that allow me to do things that my let’s say that my parents and grandparents couldn’t do you know, when they were my you know my age and younger? Yes, there are, you know, like, for example, you know, all my grandparents now are passed away. My wife’s grandmother’s still living, she is going to be 97 this year. She can vote. But for a significant portion of her life, she could not vote legally she was not allowed to vote. Those kinds of things.

Allison Sheridan 32:51
Don’t forget women got the vote way later than you did. just sayin’. She had to wait even longer to vote.

Robb 33:01
Though she, you know she she can vote now when there was a time in her adult life when she legally couldn’t vote. Um, so are things better? It’s like yes you can’t you can’t just blatantly discriminate against people based on race anymore. You can implicitly do it and you know what it happens all the time. But you can’t you know, I mean there were times when you couldn’t get an apartment because you’re black you can’t live here. Those things are better Are our relationships with the police better now then we know they are they are what they are. In my world, the police can pretty much execute you on the street and generally face no repercussions for doing so.

Allison Sheridan 33:50
Not even on the street – in your bed.

Robb 33:52
Your you know, your you know, your life is ultimately in their hands and you know, and the frustrating part is that What do you do? What do I as an African American man do? When I, you know, if I if I react, they definitely are going to kill me. And like I said, I use the example of you know, what if I’m standing there in the crowd, and George Floyd is, you know, my friend, my brother, my uncle, you know, or whatever, do I do I, you know, do I? There’s no question in my mind that if I was to rush to a police officer, unless I was shot before I got to him that I could have gotten to him and knocked him off with him that there’s no question that that’s, you know, could happen.

Allison Sheridan 34:34
You have the skill set and…

Robb 34:35
I have the skillset and the size to be able to do that. But what I don’t have

Allison Sheridan 34:39
you dead before or after you hit the ground

Robb 34:41
I don’t, you know, I may not make it if I’m hit with bullets before I get there. And, you know, it’s, that’s, that’s what happened, you know, you know, what do you do in my world, the police can kill you and there’s nothing you can do to keep them from doing that. It’s just, you know, How are they feeling?

Allison Sheridan 35:01
Even with cameras on? I mean, it had to be obvious that every person there was filming that, right? I mean, that guy just didn’t care.

Robb 35:10
We saw Eric Garner get choked to death on the streets of New York. Was that five or six years ago? Cameras are on it. You see it happen. You hear him telling officers, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. They killed him on the street. While videotape is running. They didn’t even charge any of those officers, nor the guy who did it. And he was he was just fired. Five years after it happened. He lost his job. But he was never charged.

He was never you know, you clearly if you’re not charged with anything, you’re not going to be convicted of anything. But he killed a man on the street, and nothing happened. Nothing. Yeah. He lost his job five years later.

So when I look at what’s happening to George Floyd right now and you know, I don’t condone any of the violence that is happening right now, you know by protesters – really if you’re if you’re a protester and you’re violent but you’re not protesting you are, you know you’re rioting or you’re looting. I don’t condone any of that, but I absolutely understand it.

Because you know, at some point, you know, what is it going to take for you to hear me? You know, what do I have to do is like, you know, what if if, if you killing, you know, my brother on the street in broad daylight with not one but multiple cameras catching this? Well, not only is George Floyd telling people that I you know, don’t kill me I will, you know, I can’t breathe, but other people are yelling at the officers to do it. If you can do that and get away with it, then what is it going to take for me to you know, make you hear me when I tell you that I’m not going for this anymore?

And that’s, you know, I think that that’s where a lot of us is just it’s not just this one incident. It’s like all the incidents like this that happened and all the ones that you never hear about, because normally what happens, you’ll hear that an African American man was killed by the police. While resisting arrest, there’s no video, and you got four officers that are telling you, yeah, he was us really resistant, he was fighting us. And you know, and we had to use our self defense tactics while he was you know, handcuffed, prone on the ground, and three of us have our knees in his back, shoulders and neck to take him out.

And most people, I don’t want to say most people, many people would just rationalize that oh, well, he was resisting arrest. Like somehow resisting arrest is the thing that gets you a murder sentence or you know, or a death warrant. You know, on the street in my community that you know, it can – resisting arrest can get you shot, because you don’t have to be resisting and can be shot.

I was looking at, you know, some old footage of a gentleman who was a a social worker who worked in a group home for you know, folks with a mental, you know, mental disabilities. And he had one of his patients who I believe they said had the, the, you know, he basically was working on about a two to three year old level. And he had a toy truck that he was playing with it, you know, you basically got out of the group home was, you know, in the street – this man went to pick him up, somebody called and said that they saw a man, you know, with a gun, and they thought that they were going to you know, he was trying to shoot someone.

The social worker is laying in the street with his hands in the air, yelling at the police. He’s not armed. I’m not armed. He’s mentally retarded. Please don’t shoot us. A police officer shoots him in the leg right after he says this. That officer wasn’t convicted of shooting this man in the street. It’s like how can you shoot somebody that is clearly telling you not to be shot, and he’s like, Well, I didn’t know I thought he was being I thought he was being, you know, threatened with a gun, and he shot the wrong person.

And it’s just like, you know, those those kind of stories, they just they don’t give me any. You know, one of the things I said in my rant last week was, you know, I, I am rational enough to know that all police are not bad. Most police probably aren’t bad. But what kind of statistics? What kind of math are they doing in these police departments where they seemingly put all the bad police together?

Allison Sheridan 39:35
Right, right. Like these four who happened to be together?

Robb 39:38
Yeah. How do you get these four, you know, um, you know, Shelvin I believe his name is – Shovin? He’s had 18 complaints.

Allison Sheridan 39:45
Yeah. I wanted to bring that up.

Robb 39:48
18 complaints. But how did you just happen to pair up three other folks who, you know, I don’t know if they had complaints or what. But they they clearly were indifferent to him killing somebody on the street. How do you How do you get to that? That’s where…

Allison Sheridan 40:03
Is it any sign of progress that the four of them got fired? Whereas Eric Garner’s murder – You know, the police officer didn’t get fired until five years later.

Robb 40:14
Um, is it progress that they got fired? And you actually have police that are coming out and saying this is wrong? Yes. That that is progress. That is different.

Allison Sheridan 40:24
I’m looking for a thread of hope…

Robb 40:25
Yeah, I have. I have I’ve heard many people say that this one seems somehow different than before, because normally police are going to and especially the police union, will come out and support their officers no matter what they did, and that that does not appear to be the case. So is it different? Yeah. Do I care that that’s different? No, because it didn’t – the outcome is still the same. This dude is dead because police officers thought they could get away with it. And we don’t know they still may. Can you imagine just this think of it. Chris, myself and Rod, kneel on somebody until they die. And only the one who had the knee on the neck is the one that gets charged. Can you imagine a world where that happens?

Allison Sheridan 41:14
Yeah, yeah – er no, not at all. I mean, they’re they’re saying that that’s still open. But like you say, I’m fairly certain you would have been arrested on the spot.

Robb 41:25
Last time I checked. What is necessary to arrest someone is suspicion that they’ve done something illegal. That’s that’s what this you know, you know what it takes reason, you have to have reasonable suspicion.

Allison Sheridan 41:42
Seems like reasonable suspicion, but I mean, you know, you’d be dead by the time you got there. They pulling a gun on you when you’re 11 years old for sitting and being in a car.

Robb 41:53
That was the first time. There have been many since.

Allison Sheridan 41:58
Really, you’ve had a gun pulled on you?

Robb 42:01
Yeah, like I told you about the time I was 22. That was three. This is this is something that you know, so police officer, you know, if they pull you over, they, they generally want to walk up to you on the side. What I have been told is that usually, if they’re just coming to write you a ticket or give you a warning or something like that, they don’t even take the snap off of their sidearm, let alone have their hand on it. In my world, I have no memory. It’s like, I’m not necessarily looking at what each officer is doing in real time. I’m trying to call my wife and say, Hey, I just got pulled over. Make sure you know that I’ve got the phone on – she hears – that I get to tell her I love you because I don’t know how this is going to go.

Allison Sheridan 42:43
That’s right, you said that’s what you do. The first thing you do is call her right and tell her you love her?

Robb 42:49
first thing I do. And I’m getting pulled over and she’ll she’ll stop whatever she’s doing and sit there and just listen. You know, to make sure everything’s okay and then you know. Every time in my situation I have clearly I’ve been released. I’ve not had, you know, any issues to where I’ve been detained longer than you know, you know, well, that’s not true. I have been detained once for a few hours, because I met a description.

Allison Sheridan 43:15
Because you’re black and male and between 15 and 30 and between five-five and six foot. But without that was one time in my you know, in my life that actually, you know, have been detained, you know, two times in my life like, you know, they say, you know that, you know, when you hear ‘stop and frisk’, you only think New York, I think they just perfected it there. But that’s not only place that that happens.

It was official policy.

Robb 43:38
It was official policy there. But, you know, I’ve had that happen to me, particularly when I was in college on multiple occasions. And on two of those occasions. You know, I called it getting mugged you I think you corrected me and said no, you were robbed because the money that was on me before the encounter was no longer on me after the encounter.

Allison Sheridan 43:58
And who robbed you?

Robb 44:01
Police officer.

Allison Sheridan 44:03

Robb 44:04
I can even tell you their names and badge numbers. I’m not going to do that. But I could tell you they’re seared into my memory.

Allison Sheridan 44:10
Wow. So yeah, I just corrected you – unless it was under assault or threat of violence.

Robb 44:17
Oh, there’s a gun pointed at you.

Allison Sheridan 44:18
Okay, nevermind, you were mugged. So they took your your, your wallet in order to get your identification. But when you got your wallet back, it was empty?

Robb 44:26
One of them wasn’t as bad as the other because I had like $41 and 22 cents. And he left me with the dollar 22 he just took the 2 $20s the other one actually took the $63 that I had on me.

Allison Sheridan 44:40
He didn’t leave you the $3

Robb 44:42
He rationalized that I was only using that to go buy weed. What was I doing in that neighborhood?

Allison Sheridan 44:47
Did he say that?

Robb 44:48
Oh yeah.

Allison Sheridan 44:49
Oh, he told you he was taking the money.

Robb 44:52

Allison Sheridan 44:57

Robb 44:57
So So what do you do?

Allison Sheridan 44:59
It’s like you live in a different planet from me.

Robb 45:01
Do you go and file a report? No, because now you’re dealing with the police it’s is my word against theirs.

Allison Sheridan 45:06
Right, right, right.

Robb 45:07
There’s no body cams.

Allison Sheridan 45:08
Well, even if you had a body cam, I don’t think they’d believe you.

Robb 45:12
Um, you know, w ell, I do. I know many people who have told me and I have no reason not to believe them because I know them personally, that you know, police have planted evidence on them. Um, you know, and it’s like, you know, you know, body cams are relatively a new thing. This was happening to me back in, you know, in the late 80s, early 90s. So you don’t you don’t want those kind of problems. It was just it was just $40 it was just $63. Is $63 worth having to go deal with the police and have to deal with that dude again and see me again?

Allison Sheridan 45:47
No chance – Yeah. Do you think the body cameras are gonna – can that help bring positive change? Are people more accountable?

Robb 45:54
If they turn them on!

Allison Sheridan 45:56
Oh, yeah. Oh, which murder was it that they didn’t have ’em on?

Robb 46:01
Louisville – so in Louisville, um, last week or I guess it was actually – yes this last week. Um, over the weekend. There is a barbecue guy. I’m sorry I can’t think of his name right now but I guess he got caught in the crossfire between police and protesters. All the all the protesters just say we don’t know who you know we’re shooting at the police. The police are just firing off bullets into you know into the crowd and he was hit and killed. Those police officers don’t have their body cams turned on and there was a…

Allison Sheridan 46:37
David McAtee is that his name? David McAtee.

Robb 46:42
I’m sorry I’m not looking right now. I cannot tell you his name. I just know he was he was known as the barbecue man. And he was he was literally feeding protesters and was killed but I do believe that the officers did not have their body cams turned on. So I know that like the I guess the chief of police in Louisville has now you know, saying that you must have these things turned on.

Allison Sheridan 47:05
He was fired. The police chief in in Louisville was fired after they didn’t have their body cameras on. I mean, that’s good. I guess?

Robb 47:16
Man, it’s good that they’re fired, but this man is dead. And they don’t have the video evidence to see what happened. So of course, you know, well, we don’t know who you know what bullet hit, you know, it could it could have been someone else. Well, we’ll eventually figure that out.

But like I say, you know, Allison, like I say. I don’t want to allow my experience to you know, paint, you know, all police – it’s just my experience that I have not had good experiences, you know, with the police. Had somebody tell me once like, well, you haven’t been killed. So clearly they weren’t that bad. It’s like that’s, that’s the measure? Yeah, that’s, that’s how we measured the experience.

Allison Sheridan 47:57
Well, I was I was gonna say – I just pulled up a chart thing called and it’s mapping number of deaths at the hands of the police and 1099 people were killed in 2019. If you’re African American, you were three times more likely to be shot by a police officer than if you were white. So the number of people actually shot and killed by police is not a huge number. But even if you could say, Well, hey, it’s not a big number 100% of you are scared of it all the time. Every day you go out of the house, you’re thinking about it. You know, that’s terrorism, right? Is that the definition of terrorism, you do things to a few people that make you afraid for everybody?

Robb 48:47
You could call it that, all I know is that I never want to deal with the police for any reason ever. One of my best friend’s – his mother is a – actually his sister – is a former police officer. His mother in law is a police officer. I love his mother in law to death. I just saw her yesterday.

But if I don’t know you, and this is not a black or a white or Hispanic thing, it is a ‘you have a uniform and a badge’ thing on if I don’t know you, and you have that uniform on, I personally am not trying to deal with you under any circumstance. And you know, I’ve said this before, I don’t want my daughters to be like this. I do not want to pass this down. But if you are a police officer, and you asked me a question, the only response you’re getting from me is ‘am I being detained?’ Because if you tell me no, I’m walking away from you. I’m not dealing with you on any level.

Now clearly this is not the case if you’re pulling me over in the car. I have no choice but to deal with you. But you know, I’m not dealing with a bleak, you know, ‘did you see what happened?’ – ‘No. Am I being detained?’ I don’t even tell you ‘no’ if I saw anything, it’s like, ‘Am I being detained?’ If the answer to that question is no, I am walking away from you – probably the first six or seven steps, I’m walking backwards facing you because I just don’t trust you that much. That is that is my experience with the police.

Like I said, I’m not going to talk for all African Americans and definitely not all African American men. That is my experience. And I think that I can say that is Chris Ashley’s experienced as well.

Allison Sheridan 50:39
Yeah. So I don’t really know how to close this out. I guess I can only say that I hope that the awareness that’s being spread right now that maybe there will be people who can make positive change in the police departments. Maybe there would be – maybe we can talk in a decade, and you’ll say, yeah, it’s not as bad as it was.

Robb 51:05
This is how things get better. Um, there aren’t things that African Americans solely can do to make this better. We can’t just keep marching. We can’t just keep having protests. We can’t just keep doing this. It’s going to take, you know, white folks is going to take you know, you know, my white peers out here that are seeing this, to number one, believe it when we are telling you what is happening.

Are there are there you know, black criminals? Yes, there are. But you can’t just assume that what you see on television and portrayal of black people on TV is how everybody is. You know, we’ve talked about this when you’ve been on the show, Chris, Rod and I from SMR Podcast, we are all kind of unicorns where we’re all executives in you know, big giant software companies. You don’t see that every day. But you see it a lot more than you might think.

It’s like, you know, it’s everyone you know, it is it is not The Wire. Everyone is not living like The Wire if you’ve ever seen that show it is the best shows ever. But it’s like, you know, all people are not living like it is like they’re in Baltimore, in the 90s. That that is that is not how life is for most black people. But, you know, for a lot of black people, the way that the police deal with us, it is just different than how they deal with you.

And what we want is just to not be treated different. You know, what I want is that if I you know, am accused of passing a bad $20 bill, I want you to if you need to arrest me, arrest me, maybe take me to Burger King, give me something to eat before you take down and book me. That’s what I want. What I don’t want is that you think that I passed a bad $20 bill and I somehow end up dead on the street because you’ve asphyxiated me basically you executed me on the street. You lynched me on the street in front of people because – It’s happened so many times and really nothing has come of it that you think that you’re going to get away with it as well.

Until that changes., you know, people like me aren’t going to feel any different. And it can’t just be people like me saying it has to be people like you saying it. And I think that, you know, what you’re doing by having me on the show to talk about this has gone a long way to that because you might have someone in your audience who’s saying, Well, you know, I’ve heard Robb before. I’ve never heard him say this, though. Maybe I need to listen to what he’s saying. And you know, maybe what, maybe that guy wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe the police were doing something wrong.

Allison Sheridan 53:32
Yeah, I hope so. It’s just a tiny little tiny little step we’re taking here, but if enough people are doing it, we should mention, I’ll be mentioning my show as well. But Tom Merritt took a day off from broadcasting the news and played for DTNS just some African Americans talking like what we’re doing here and some of the quotes were Robb and Chris talking on the SMR Podcast, I appreciate you coming on. I’m sure this isn’t easy to talk about. And I appreciate you sharing your experiences and thanks!

Robb 54:11
So I appreciate you having me on. But I just want to tell you something – What you just said, this is not easy to talk about. Allison, it actually is really easy for me to talk about – what is not easy as for a lot of people, a lot of white people in particularly to hear it because it’s like, this is my every day. This particular incident really got to me and upset me.

But you know, this is not hard to talk about. It’s just it’s hard to talk about the people who aren’t willing to listen.

Transcribed by…

1 thought on “CCATP #641 – Robb Dunewood on Being a Black Man in America

  1. Troy Shimkus - June 3, 2020

    Thank you both is all I can think to say.

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