The Floor Is Actually White
per Sudhama Ranganathan
16 abr 2012
People can be labeled all kinds of things during a single lifetime, and those labels may or may not help them depending on the person and the situation. Cumulatively labels make up one's reputation which is essentially like a resume of one's past deeds – past deeds remembered. As one goes through their life they collect labels, some that are there because they actually earned them and others certain people outside of themselves stuck on them. People can't fight off all unfair or untrue labels and many do fade as time goes on and we grow up and get older.
A young person may have been labeled chubby, for example, yet over time lost weight and just by looking at them it is obvious to anyone they are are no longer the same physically. After a while that label can fade and people see them as something else, whether that thinness is good or bad. That is what is wonderful about life, it is always changing causing potentialities to arise and fall. Whatever the present, there is always the future and possibility for reorganization, rewriting and morphing all over into something else. That's life's beauty.
Bringing about changes to one's own reputation can be easy. As life goes on one grows what was once your reputation becomes old news, and the new person you are is what people see, think about and discuss. For most folks it's just that simple, we work hard in life to do things and get things we want, and in doing so our reputation and the labels people see when they look at us, morph.
For some other people however, the process is not simple. They need to put in extra effort with regards to their reputation because of something they have done or because of something that was done to them.
Neither is necessarily more difficult, it depends on the person.
For me I learned my reputation was something I would have to address later in life. It was due to something I did or that was done to me, depending on where the truth lies about my past which is something still being unearthed. I became a convicted felon because of a crime in which I was involved during 1990 in my home country America. I was seventeen at the time and a minor, but I was charged as an adult essentially to set an example for others by branding me for the rest of my life – no matter how much I might change from the boy I was at seventeen.
My crime was being around during some of the planning, doing some preparations for and keeping lookout during a violent student protest. Three students, myself included, were the main people involved with certain others keeping look out and one other that drove a car. We made the unfortunate choice to vandalize the president of a university's unoccupied office by setting fire to it. The focus of the protests was getting the university to divest from holdings in companies linked to the South African government, which at the time was one of the most brutally oppressive governments in the world. There were also the lesser interests of pushing for better civil rights for minority students and professors at the college.
In the end, after arrests were made by the police, I was the only person convicted by both the state where the crime occurred and by the federal government, even though I was a bit player. The main actor, the person that actually set the fire, Kofi Taha, was only pursued by the state. The feds surprisingly decided to quietly drop all the charges.
I couldn't understand the implications of being charged as an adult at the time and keeping it a permanent part of my record. I was too young and naïve. People said as long as I didn't get any other blemishes on my record I could go on with my life as many people convicted of felonies had – that there were certainly people that had done much worse. After all, it was only a student protest and I wasn't the one that actually committed the act of violence. As time went on and I older got, however, it seemed the crime actually followed me around, like a dark cloud. I had completely kept my nose clean, had no more charges against me, let alone convictions, I had stopped being involved in politics. My jobs consisted of things like construction, washing dishes, a prep cook, a house painter, landscaping, nursery work, a staff member at a facility for people with cognitive disabilities etc.
Yet the issue popped up at so many junctions. People told me I was being overly sensitive and that it would pass, but it never did. The more time went on the more isolated I had become as a result of the increasing frequency of my past rearing its head. I really didn't understand and it confused me.
I remember being at one job and doing fine. I got along with everyone and worked hard to do my job and fulfill my duties. I was also working odd jobs doing landscaping simultaneously to bring in extra money. I liked the job, I got along with the people, going out for drinks after work etc, and the job itself made me feel as though I had accomplished a good thing at the end of the day.
Yet after about a month or two, I came into work one day and suddenly everyone had this odd expression on their faces as if I contracted a life threatening, untreatable and highly contagious disease. I wasn't sure what was happening as things had been going great when one of my coworkers I had a great relationship with, said to me as she passed me “you're going to have problems the rest of your life.” I just tried to keep going as I usually had and ignore it. What she said was pretty much all that was said openly afterwards, but things were never the same and people treated me with a subtle hostility at the job from that point on until I moved on.
It was typical - the same at about every job. Things would be going fine for a while, and then suddenly similar things would happen. I just ignored the coincidences. It felt as though someone with knowledge of my past was not only leaking what I did, but making it out to be worse than its was. But how could that be? I was doing nothing and this was America and we don't do that here. Right?
I ignored it and let it roll off of my back. I stopped thinking about it and kept it moving. It wasn't worth getting caught up in drama.
Things changed when I was attending the University of Connecticut. It had been thirteen years since I was a teenager of seventeen and became involved in the crime I had, but it came up very soon after I started taking classes within the program I intended to get my degree in. Again I ignored it, but as usual it wouldn't let up.
I won't go into all the details here (though if you are interested you can read about it at www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com) I will just say it progressively intensified and the harassment spread from the one professor that started it to certain of my classmates. It did make life difficult as there were only twenty one people allowed into the program I was in. Nonetheless, I made up my mind to graduate no matter what.
In my first semester senior year, however, I had enough with the behavior. It had gone well beyond what I had tolerated over the years and I felt it was about time I said something. I knew proving it would be difficult. I decided to mention it to a fellow classmate, who had at times acknowledged he saw it too. After trying in vain to convince me to change my mind about seeing redress, he made a startling admission.
He admitted to me that he was an undercover law enforcement personnel and had been on campus for eight years. He said if I went public with what happened his work on campus may be exposed. He thought it would endear himself to me and gain my respect and trust enough at least to purchase my silence. He was wrong.
Here was a person that not only participated in the harassment, but planned some of it. Now he was essentially admitting to me he was a dirty cop. I knew things about what he had done on campus like allowing underage kids to drink at parties he threw. He did worse like talking about trying to get his fraternity brother's underage sisters to come to parties to get them drunk and sleep with them. He would actually brag about it.
So this dirty cop was supposed to be winning me over by acknowledging he was a cop and had been involved in not only harassing me, but spreading lies based on what I had done as a teenager. One such example was the lie perpetuated I was a terrorist. I was not nor had I ever been. This lie was compounded by people saying I was a Muslim. I was a Buddhist and had been for years and had never been a Muslim, not that there's anything wrong with being Muslim. Same stuff just like at the other places. It was subtle and done when I wasn't around, but now I had confirmation that it wasn't just paranoia or an over active imagination. It was real.
After graduation – which I managed to accomplish – I decided to go public with what had really happened when I was a teenager and with who I was now. I started a website and began writing articles about what happened and my thoughts on harassment. Just living life and doing all the right things was not enough and for some reason my past was being stubborn. Also people that were supposed to be changing their minds with me and were supposed to support reform themselves were causing trouble and were fairly recalcitrant about seeing change and changing with it.
The crime I was involved in thirteen years prior while a teenager, was at a university I was not attending. In fact I was still in high school at the time. The students from the college in which the protest took place were not the only people I hung out with on that campus. I had other friends there. One such person warned me right after the incident happened that Kofi Taha was a fed. The incident was fairly high profile at the time, and he suspected as did other people Taha and myself were involved. He also suggested I stay away from Taha. I took his advice, though I wasn't of the belief at the time Taha was law enforcement, and told Taha I was through and wanted nothing more to do with his political stuff.
I now have some evidence what I was told about Kofi Taha may be true, though it is circumstantial, and there's more about that on my website, but without solid proof I can't say 100%. It is a possibility. That much I can say.
If it is true, it means the crime itself, the majority of the actual planning and talking me into going along, all were a set up. Set up by law enforcement no less. I shouldn't have gone along sure, but how backwards can you get?
They are supposed to find criminals, not create them out of whole cloth.
It has been said I have a checkered past due to my involvement in that crime. Though throughout the years it has really felt more like I was standing on a white floor and someone else I could not see was coloring every other white tile black, creating them by painting them on where they hadn't existed before.
As I go through the process of searching for answers to my past and why these things are happening one thing is clear, the more I scratch the black tiles under my feet, the more I see white tiles that have been quickly and sloppily colored in. It's a weak veil forged by Sharpies and it's being blended away more and more everyday.
One thing I can say is I'm more and more happy the more I get my side of the story out there.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.
This work is in the public domain