Monday, May 24, 2010

I Got Profiled Twice Today, But Please Don't Boycott Massachusetts

Today has just been one of those days.

First, I got called for jury duty. I'm all for civic responsibility but they want me to show up at 8am at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse in Woburn. And where is that? I've never been there. They say they'll send a map and directions 10 days before my scheduled date. Great, a scavenger hunt.

Goggle maps says my best bet is drive from Cambridge to Arlington, catch Route 3, drive through Winchester and Woburn to Route 128, go east for a couple of exits, then I guess I'm supposed to find the place. I can cut out Route 128 if I find the right turn off Route 3 for Pond Street. Estimated time: 20-22 minutes. Better make it 30 minutes so I'm leaving the house at 7:30am. That's just wonderful.

And then to add insult to injury, there is the demographic information section of the juror confirmation form (didn't I answer these questions on the census?).

They want to know if I am:

__ Black/African American
__ Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
__ Asian
__ White
__ American Indian/Alaskan Native
__ Other (specify)

Then they want to know if I am Hispanic/Latino:

__ Yes
__ No

The instructions are insistent: "You are required by law to complete this section whether or not you serve. Providing this information helps ensure that the jury pool reflects the the diversity of all of our citizens." Well at least if I am convicted, there will be a pool. Better pack my swim trunks.

Do the easy question first, I always say. I took Latin in college so I checked Yes to Question 2. Question 1 is a difficult one, so I have to go by process of elimination. I wonder if Barack Obama is a Native Hawaiian, as he was born there. And I know Sarah Palin is not an American Indian or Alaskan Native, although everyone else in her family is. Does Vancouver Island, British Columbia count as a Pacific Island? I wasn't born in the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Alaska, India, or Asia. I know the Whites, they lived down the street when I was growing up, but we are not related. I would check other, but don't want to give a specimen. So that leaves Black/African American and at least I'm American, so I check that one.

The back of the form has even more on the importance of the demographic survey:

"The integrity of our jury system is critically important to our courts and our society. One means of ensuring this integrity is to closely monitor whether the pools of jurors that are summoned represent the community at large as closely as possible. A juror is never identified by his or her response to the demographic information survey, and this information is not used in any way to determine what happens to a person as he or she passes through the jury system."

It is not apparently important to monitor whether I'm male or female, my age, my ethnicity, whether I'm catholic, protestant, Jewish, Muslim or some other religion, and all the other things that make us unique as individuals.

Well, if that's not enough for one day, I'm out mowing my yard and a woman comes out and introduces herself as my new neighbor. I didn't think much about that at the time, but later I got to thinking how it was possible for her to pick me out of all the other Latinos mowing yards in the neighborhood. She didn't introduce herself to any of the 4 or 5 other Latino men doing yard work within a close radius. What made her pick me out?

I got pretty steamed up about that. It was a hot, humid day to be out mowing. And I considered calling the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. But they would probably want to ask me a bunch of demographic questions. And getting profiled twice in one day is enough.

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